Tarzan of the Apes, Happy Anniversary! Premiered Sunday, January 27th, 1918 at the Broadway Theater in New York City, located at 41st Street and Broadway.

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This is an important date in the collective memory of U.S. cinema-goers , because on this date we saw an American fictional character, who was hugely popular, make the transition to celluloid. The movie Tarzan of the Apes was released just 5 years and 3 months after the original story, of the same name, was printed in All-Story Magazine in October of 1912, penned by the adventure-king, Edgar Rice Burroughs, with the novel being published in 1914 by A. C. McClurg.

This film adaptation of the Ape Man starred Elmo Lincoln as the elder Tarzan the jungle, Gordon Griffith as the wild-child and Enid Markey as Jane Porter; this was the film debut for actor Rex Ingram, with his work uncredited. Author Burroughs was not satisfied with the casting choice of Lincoln but the public could not get enough of it and him, carrying this film to a gross of more than 1-million dollars, making it one of the ten most successful of the Silent era. The New York Times gave a positive if not a glowing review to the actioner flick. In some sense this film is lost, for less than half (only 73 minutes of the original 180 minutes remain) of its running time is extant. Retaining the full title of the book yet only representing the first half of the story, a sequel,constituting the second half of the novel (The Romance of Tarzan, itself a lost film, with the same stars) was released in October of 1918.

Our desire for adventure, thrills, excitement, romance, horror, were on that day fulfilled and only served to heighten our passion for story-lines such as these. Thank you to Edgar Rice Burroughs for writing such an exceptional story, to the stars who interpreted the lead characters, thanks to director Scott Sidney (Alice Guy from France {first female director} turned down the offer to direct) and to the assistant director Charles Watt, to art director F.I. Wetherbee, set-designers Ted Bevis and Martin J. Doner, for costuming by E.M. Jahrhaus, thanks also to cinematographer Harry Vallejo, for the editing done by Isadore Bernstein, the stunts performed and coordinated by Frank Merrill (the vine-swinging scenes remain from Stellan Windrow who was originally cast as Tarzan, but was replaced by Lincoln when Windrow quite suddenly enlisted in the Navy at the beginning of the USA’s  participation in the First World War) and of course special thanks to William Parsons and the National Film Corporation of America for producing and plaudits to the distributor First National Exhibitors’ Circuit for releasing Tarzan of the Apes on this date in 1918.

Elmo Lincoln

Enid Markey

Gordon Griffith

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By C. S. Williams

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