August 15, 1969
John C. Burroughs
comments re Arthur Weiss Screenplay:
Tarzan of the Apes
I feel the screenplay as written is in places quite interesting, and
seems to carry good suspense.
1: I like the abundance of animal shots, especially the ape-Tarzan
sequences, and I feel since viewing the motion picture "2001, a Space Odyssey"
and seeing the ape sequences in that picture, that similar treatment of
apes in Tarzan of the Apes picture could be handled quite successfully.
This is important, especially in this 1st Tarzan of the Apes picture, and
probably more so in this 1st story of Tarzan than in succeeding pictures,
because it is in relationship to his early life with apes and other animals
that Tarzan's character was developed.
I think that more humor as well as pathos can be developed here in Tarzan's
relationship with his anthropoid companions.
While I find the screenplay as written seems to evolve well and with
suspense, I cannot find it as interesting or as mind-haunting as the original
classic story. Where one is dealing with such a classic that has remained
popular for so many years, it seems the better part of wisdom to me to
alter this classic as little as possible in order to make the transition
from the written word to the filmed scene. Of course, all material in a
written novel cannot be used, but I feel that great care should be exercised
in transferring to the screen all the elements that make the original novel
Tarzan of the Apes as originally conceived, exemplifies the well-known
statement accredited to Michaelangelo that "trifles make a masterpiece,
but a masterpiece is not trifle". So my succeeding remarks may seem to
deal in trifles, but it is my belief that around just such trifles Tarzan
of the Apes became a masterpiece of genius.
2: I keenly miss the sequence we find in the opening of the original
story in which Tarzan's parents were abandoned on the jungle shore of Africa
and was the reason for Tarzan's advent into the wild environment where
he was to eventually develope into one of the most fascinating characters
As much of Tarzan's character, as stressed throughout this first book
and other Tarzan stories, was the result of heredity, it would seem important
to devote a few more scenes showing Tarzan's father and brave but hopeless
encounter with the wild environment in which he was stranded with his young
wife. Not only was the father responsible for passing on the Greystoke
name and inherited characteristics to his son, but the father's foresight
in a host of little things constantly appeared to influence Tarzan in his
development into a man in the wild jungle -- the cabin the father built
with his own hands, the latch on the cabin door that kept the cabin contents
unmolested for so many years, the books that the father's foresight had
furnished for his young son, the diary that was later to prove Tarzan's
identity and claim to the Greystoke name, the hunting knife and the locket.
There was something hauntingly fascinating in the original story about
the three skeletons that remained locked in the little cabin for so many
years -- the bones of the mother in the bed, the father on the floor were
Kerchak had dropped him, and the little bones of the anthropoid ape in
the crib -- all of which were to remain present during Tarzan's self-education,
lying there beside him inside the cabin. These were the little bones of
Kala's 1st born that Jane Porter's father and his friend Philander were
later to study so closely and which near the end of the story Prof. Porter
ws to assert were the bones of an anthropoid ape.
3: Speaking of Prof. Porter and his friend Philander, it is my belief
that their characters in the original story, while perhaps a little too
broadly sketched, furnished an important comic relief. This would also
apply to another comic character, Esmeralda, Jane Porter's colored maid.
The screenplay does not devote enough scenes or time to the development
of the romantic interest between Jane Porter, the Baltimore belle, and
the wild Tarzan of the Apes. There is now not ample reason for an educated
intelligent young girl like Jane to leave the sanctuary of her civilized
environment and swing away through the trees with her new-found jungle
lover. This should be handled very carefully and made to appear plausible.
The charm of Tarzan and his adventures as originally written was credibility
-- while the story is evolving we feel it might really have happened. But
in the screenplay there is reference to animals behaving more like they
would in Walt Disney's "Bambi" than in the heart of Equatorial Africa.
Fore example, in the jungle stampede in Scene No. 137 on Page 48 following
the death of his foster mother, the whole jungle is suddenly caught up
in a surrealist stampeding flight, all the animals streaming after Tarzan,
joining the chase of Kala's killer. There are several other instances throughout
the screenplay where our "suspension in incredulity" is threatened by the
broadly drawn anthropomorphic actions by dumb animals.
In conclusion, let us examine the basic theme of the proposed Tarzan
screenplay: Tarzan, surfeited with observing man's cruelty to man, man's
predilection to murdering members of his own species, as well as killing
in general, decides to return to his jungle. This must be thought through
more carefully if it is going to be used as a basic theme. On page 135,
Scene No. 296, Jane says "No one seems to know why men kill each other."
Tarzan says "It is not so in my jungle." To which Jane replies "Animals
4: animals." Tarzan says "For food, yes; but the ape does not kill
the ape; and the lion does not kill the lion." The characters mentioned
this, but we see throughout the screenplay happenings to the contrary;
especially do we see the cruelty of Tarzan's tribe of apes toward each
other. The cruelty of Tarzan's foster father toward his foster mother,
the constant waiting of the young bull apes to kill and usurp the ruling
powers of the tribe's leader. And even Tarzan joins in the mayhem by killing
black men -- all in contradiction to his previous statement to Jane.
I think that the original plot of the novel should be kept which would
explain Jane Porter's presence in Africa along with her father; After finding
a considerable sum of buried treasure, the crew of Prof. Porter's ship
mutinies, steals the treasure and leaves the Professor and his daughter
on the African coast. Tarzan subsequently finds the treasure and returns
it to Jane's father, claiming none for himself.
John C. Burroughs
Eliminate Canler -- Jane's delemma of the heart is between Clayton and
Page 27: Why not fight Bolgani the gorilla as originally written?
Page 41: Better reason for origin of Tarzan's name. How about having Tarzan
phonetically construct the words "white-skin" of ape language by reading
in his dictionary how to form with the tongue the "T" sound, etc., etc.
Page 111: Darnell, the educated man, would have heard of Charles Darwin.
As dictated to and
typed by HB