While other kids read the detective and mystery collections of the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, I was always drawn to the romance and adventure of Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan.
Edgar Rice Burroughs was born on September 1, 1875 in Chicago, Illinois. His father was a Civil War veteran and businessman. Following in his father's military footsteps and after failing the entrance exam to West Point, Burroughs enlisted into the military at Fort Grant in Arizona. After being diagnosed with a heart problem, which made him ineligible to serve, he was discharged in 1897. He took on odd jobs including; being a cowboy, working at his father's battery factory, managing a mining company, and a position with the Oregon Short Line railroad. Burroughs had married his childhood sweetheart, Emma Hulbert, in 1900, and, in 1913, they had their third and last child. After seven years of low wages as a pencil-sharpener wholesaler, he began to write fiction. In 1912, his best known literary character, Tarzan, first appeared in Tarzan of the Apes, a magazine publication and in book form in 1914. Tarzan would appear in 25 sequels and many films including television and movies.
Tarzan is the son of a British lord and lady who are marooned on the coast of an African jungle. His father is killed by an ape named Kerchak. His mother dies and the infant Tarzan is raised by Kala, his adoptive ape mother. At age eighteen, Tarzan meets the love of his life, an American girl named Jane Porter, whom he later marries, leaves the jungle, goes to England, finds civilization not so great, returns to Africa and creates an estate that becomes the base for future adventures.
Wikipedia states, "Tarzan was a cultural sensation when introduced. Burroughs was determined to capitalize on Tarzan's popularity in every way possible. He planned to exploit Tarzan through several different media including a syndicated Tarzan comic strip, movies, and merchandise. Experts in the field advised against this course of action, stating that the different media would just end up competing against each other. Burroughs went ahead, however, and proved the experts wrong – the public wanted Tarzan in whatever fashion he was offered. Tarzan remains one of the most successful fictional characters to this day and is a cultural icon."
In the 1920's, Burroughs became a pilot and bought his own airplane. He divorced Emma in 1934 and married a former actress, Florence Gilbert Dearholt, a former wife of his friend and business partner, Ashton Dearholt, whom he had co-founded Burroughs-Tarzan Enterprises while filming The New Adventures of Tarzan. Burroughs adopted Dearholt's two children, but, would divorce Florence in 1942.
Burroughs was in Honolulu at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Though in his late sixties, he applied and received permission to become a war correspondent, becoming one of the oldest in World War II. When the war ended he move to Encino, California. And after many health issues, he died of a heart attack on March 19, 1950. He is buried in Tarzana, California, a neighborhood on the site of a former ranch owned by Burroughs. When he died, he was believed to be the writer who had made the most from films, earning over $2 million in royalties from 27 Tarzan films.
"Edgar Rice Burroughs never would have looked upon himself as a social mover and shaker with social obligations. But as it turns out – and I love to say it because it upsets everyone terribly – Burroughs is probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world. By giving romance and adventure to a whole generation of boys, Burroughs caused them to go out and decide to become special." - Ray Bradbury.