In commemoration of the show's 50th Anniversary Edgar Rice Burroughs' character was played by several different actors over the years not to mention a series that has it's origin going back to Johnny Weissmuller, Lex Barker, Gordon Scott, Jock Mahoney,and Mike Henry. Producer Sy Weintraub(who took over the "Tarzan" franchise in the mid-1950's after Sol. L. Lesser) was trying to bring "Tarzan" to television as early as 1958,but the project never got off the ground. By the early-1960's the "Tarzan" films were still theatrical releases,but it wasn't until the mid-1960's when the franchise went into a new medium. Gordon Scott was replaced by Jock Mahoney who abandoned the role in 1963 who lost out to football player turned actor Mike Henry. Henry made three theatrical "Tarzan" films between 1966-1968 and was originally cast for the television version of the series,but declined after some bad experiences while shooting the 1967 theatrical picture "Tarzan and the Great River". In a desperate search,the producers along with Sy Weintraub finally was able to bring "Tarzan" to television as a weekly series by casting Ron Ely in the title role. Ron Ely who was 28-years old when he got the part of playing the 14th "Tarzan" on television while Mike Henry still played him in the movies. Ron Ely had a strong resume of several films and television series to his credit including the films "South Pacific", "The Fiend That Walked The West", "The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker",not to mention "The Night of the Grizzly", and in the TV-series "How to Marry a Millionaire" from 1957-1959. Ron Ely was cast in another series "The Aquanauts" that lasted one season from 1960-1961.
The television version based on Edgar Rice Burroughs character retained many of the trappings of the classic movie series including Cheeta The Chimp and a boy sidekick(Manuel Padilla,Jr.) leaving the character Jane on the cutting room floor. Under the production of Sy Weintraub who also served as executive producer under his production company Banner Productions and Starring Ron Ely as "Tarzan" made its television premiere in prime-time on NBC's Friday Night schedule on September 9,1966 for 57 episodes and two seasons,filmed on location in parts of Central America and Mexico in full color until April 5,1968. After NBC canceled the series in 1968,"Tarzan" enjoy a resurgence in summer repeats for CBS airing from May 22, 1969 until August 30, 1969. "Tarzan" the television series on Friday nights faced strong competition during its two seasons on the air opposite "The Wild Wild West" and "The Green Hornet" in Season 1 and in its Second and final Season opposite "Off The See The Wizard","Hondo" and the wildly popular "The Wild Wild West". Several episodes of the "Tarzan" television series were two part episodes that were strung together and actually shown in theaters as feature length films that were released under Banner Productions and National General Pictures. The "Tarzan" television series produced 57 episodes all in color with 32 episodes in Season 1 and 25 episodes in Season 2. Actors that had recurring appearances on this series were Maurice Evans, Julie Harris, along with Chips Rafferty and Woody Strode appear in numerous episodes.
Even though this series was attacked by critics,"Tarzan" was indeed a series that was action-packed throughout with breathtaking excitement and high adventure each week. Basically throughout production, Ron Ely did all of his own stunts and took it seriously. But yet check out the big name directors that were associated with this series from William Witney, Robert Day, Barry Shear, Anton Leader, Robert L. Friend, Charles S. Dubin, William Wiard, R.G. Springsteen and Hollingsworth Morse along with Paul Stanley,James Komack, Alan Crosland, Jr. and even Ron Ely himself directed an episode. Big name writers ranging from Jackson Gillis, Richard and Esther Shapiro, Wells Root, Carey Wilber, Don Brinkley, Samuel Newman, John Hawkins and Lawrence Dobkin.
The guest star roster for this series consisted of James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, Don Mitchell, Don Marshall, Raymond St. Jacques, Brock Peters,Rosie Grier, Diana Sands, Rafer Johnson, Clarence Williams III, Hari Rhodes, to William Marshall, Bernie Hamilton, Lloyd Haynes, Yaphet Kotto, Nichelle Nichols, George Stanford-Brown, Diana Ross(and the Supremes),to James MacArthur, Jock Mahoney, Sam Jaffe, Michael Witney, Simon Oakland, Ethel Merman, George Kennedy, Sally Kellerman, Russ Tamblyn, John Dehner, Antoinette Bower, Fernando Lamas, Peter Whitney, Pat Conway, Michael Dunn, James Whitmore, Warren Stevens, Neville Brand, Morgan Woodward, Ted Cassidy, Barbara Luna, Judy Pace, Jan Merlin, Michael Ansara, to Ralph Meeker, Jeremy Slate, Leslie Parrish, Rockne Tarkington, Roscoe Lee Browne, and Helen Hayes.
The best "Tarzan" episodes out of this series from it's first season "The Pearls of Tanga","The Day The Earth Trembled", "The Ultimate Duel", "The Deadly Silence:Parts 1 & 2", "Faces of Death", "A Life For A Life", "The Perils of Charity Jones:Parts 1 & 2", "The Ultimatum", "A Pride of Assassins", "The Fire People", "Jungle Dragnet", "Village of Fire", "Man-Killer", "The Prisoner","The Mask of Rona",and "The Prodigal Puma". The best episodes out of this series from it's second and final season were "Tarzan's Jungle Rebellion", "Last of the Supermen", "Alex The Great", "The Convert", "Mountains of the Moon:Parts 1 & 2", "Jungle Ransom", "The Four O'Clock Army:Parts 1 & 2", "End of a Challenge", "Trek to Terror","Tiger,Tiger", "The Blue Stone of Heaven:Parts 1 & 2","Hotel Hurricane", "The Thief Catcher" and "The Muguma Curse"....
TV Guide reported in June of 1968 that the "Tarzan" television series had a 31 share and finished in the top 40 during the 1967-1968 season,but NBC felt its demographics made it unappealing(due to the show's violent content) and it was abruptly canceled after 2 seasons after NBC rejected a renewal for its third season. Popular demand brought it back in repeats as a summer replacement over at CBS in 1969(on Saturday nights as the summer replacement for CBS' The Jackie Gleason Show). For the 1968-1969 season, NBC replaced "Tarzan" after 2 seasons on Friday nights in prime-time with the Western adventure series "The High Chapparal".
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