TV's 'Tarzan' Star Notes Evolution of the Industry5 Apr, 2013 By: John Latchem
ANAHEIM, Calif. — When Ron Ely was starring in the 1966-68 “Tarzan” TV series, he never imagined that home video would expose the show to a new generation of fans nearly five decades later.
“It never occurred to me that anything lasted beyond a single viewing,” Ely said. “We didn’t think in terms of repeat showings and people studying it and breaking it down or even in slow motion and thinking, ‘My god, he really did that.’ You don’t think about that when you do it. But that’s what happens.”
Ely, who did many of his own stunts while filming the series’ 57 episodes, recounted a few harrowing experiences to attendees at WonderCon March 29 at the Anaheim Convention Center. Several involved broken bones, and more than a few involved wild animals.
“We were crazy,” Ely said. “They just kind of said, ‘OK, Ron. Go for it. Do it.’ I mean for the first six shows, people were buying into the fact that I was the character.”
At one point, Ely said, a man from his production team contacted him in his hotel at 3 a.m. about a leopard that had gotten loose on the set.
“He said ‘the cat is loose,’” Ely recounted. “I asked, ‘well, why are you here?” ‘Because the leopard is loose!”
Ely returned to set to help other crewmembers frantically searching for the leopard.
“I kind of saw a trail out,” Ely said. “More than 10 yards away, under a tree is this leopard, more afraid of being out in the open on his own with this chain around his neck. So I got the chain, and he came with me. I went leading this leopard back into the group. Now, had I known what that was going to do at that point I would have never done it. They believed everything. I didn’t dare fail from that point on. I couldn’t afford to fall in front of them. I had to be that character. So, at least they believed me.”
Tarzan: Season One Part One and Tarzan: Season One Part Two were released through the Warner Archives Collection manufacture-on-demand program in 2012. Season two is being remastered and should be ready for release later this year, according to George Feltenstein of the Warner Archives Podcast.
Ely, now 74, also starred in the 1975 film Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, one of the early Warner Archive releases in 2009, which Feltenstein said has been tremendously successful.
Ely recounted Doc Savage as a fun but troubled production that did not meet the expectations of its producer, George Pal, primarily due to budget cuts and editing that ignored the intent of how some scenes were shot. Still, Ely was glad the film found an audience and became a cult hit.
“There were several things about it that disappointed me, but there were several things that I delight in, that I thought were really fun and really good and really worthwhile,” Ely said.