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“Jimber-Jaw” and More

    First I want to thank George McWhorter for his services over the past year and a half. He’s done a fine job and given future ERB-APA Official Editors a hard act to follow. And, of course, I want to welcome John Martin as our new O.E. I’m looking forward to seeing what he has in store for us. With this election, ERB-APA has passed a significate milestone; for the first time in our history we’ve had more than a single candidate vying for office. That bodes very well for the future of this organization.
    Only random notes this time:
    I recently reread “The Resurrection of Jimber-Jaw,” and was delighted to find that it held up quite well, and is every bit as good as I remembered. It’s unfortunate that the general reader in the United States (and the rest of the world, too, I suppose) has been denied access to this fine example of ERB’s storytelling genius for all these years. No paperback edition of the story has ever been published. I found quite charming the conversational tone ERB used in this work (and in much of his fiction of the late thirties and early forties); there’s a nice tang to it, despite the obscurity of some of the topical references and the now-dated slang, and the story reads quite smoothly.
    I can’t help wondering, though, just how much of “Jimber-Jaw” was actually written by Edgar Rice Burroughs and how much by Argosy’s re-writing team. “Jimber-Jaw” was published in Argosy right around the time that magazine was heavily revising virtually everything by ERB that it published. We know from Porges that ERB’s original version was entitled “Elmer,” which is what he named his defrosted cave man, and that Burroughs was incensed to find the character called Jimber-Jaw when the story appeared in print. (It's hard to fault the editor for that change, though; “Jimber-Jaw” is a much more intriguing name and title than “Elmer”!) But how much else in the story was altered? Most of the tale reads like genuine Burroughs of that period, and I’d be surprised if very much was changed. I suspect the magazine may have done a bit of polishing, but little else. Still, I’d like to see ERB’s original--or a detailed comparison of the two versions--to satisfy my curiosity. Is this little masterpiece 99% Burroughs, or only 90%?*

    I also recently reread the opening two or three chapters of The Monster Men (and expect to get back to the book eventually), and found it a good bit slower going than “Jimber-Jaw.” The style is certainly not ERB at his best--creaky would be putting it charitably--but what struck me most forcefully this time was Professor Maxon’s daughter. I’d forgotten what a spunky lass she was. When pirates try to board her father’s ship, she hauls a heavy ammunition belt over to a tripod machine gun, feeds it in, and opens fire. This girl doesn’t mess around. In the action scenes, at least, Burroughs’ magic never falters.

    After watching the various silent Tarzan movies I’ve been reviewing in these pages, I yet again viewed Elmo Lincoln’s Tarzan of the Apes (from a copy new to me), with pretty much the same reaction as before. This version was released by Hollywood Film Enterprises, seems to be shown at the right speed, and ran only forty-three minutes. The print is reasonably clear, and the best thing about it is the soundtrack; I recognized some of the music and sound effects as having originated in the first or second MGM Weissmuller features.
    The role of Binns (who helps Tarzan learn to read) must have inspired Hugh Hudson to include that odd shipwreck survivor in Greystoke. As a matter of fact, I’d be willing to wager that Hudson studied this silent carefully in preparation for making his own version of the story. The first appearance of Elmo Lincoln, in the middle of a thunderstorm, is still quite impressive, and I was intrigued to find that the first (albeit soundless) victory cry of the bull ape ever captured on film was performed not by Elmo Lincoln, but by Gordon Griffith.

    The currently circulating tape of The Lion Man runs about 50 minutes; the copy I viewed was murky in places and the sound track (which features “Ride of the Valkyries”!) is noisy. I’m not sure if the film is complete; though the story is easy enough to follow, there could well be missing footage. The plot has little to do with ERB’s Lad and the Lion, on which it was ostensibly based, and even less to do with lions--a single scene with two or three adults roaring at each other, and one small cub. The plot has been relocated in Arabia and centers around an English child stranded in the desert and raised by a sort of Arabic guru; the boy becomes a nearly legendary one-man desert police force and is in love with the daughter of an Arab sheik. It’s no more than an interesting curiosity, but I’m certainly glad to have had the opportunity to view it.

    On August 19th, a Golden Age of Radio benefit show was produced in New Orleans at Le Petite Theatre du Vieux Carre and broadcast simultaneously over WRBH radio (a station at the far left of the FM dial that offers programming for the blind and print-handicapped). Produced and directed by John Barber, the stage performance reenacted the days of live radio and gave the audience the opportunity to watch as three radio broadcasts of the 1950s were performed before the microphones. Each half-hour radio play was from the original scripts: Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, The Aldridge Family, and Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle. (Tarzan, of course, was a recorded feature, and never broadcast live; Sergeant Preston, too, I believe. Nevertheless, a fun idea . . . )
    The acting got a bit hammy at times, but was generally well done, and the entire affair was high-spirited and entertaining. I found the Tarzan episode (“The Siren of Omdur Mara”) both interesting and disappointing. The script begins promisingly, but degenerates, and the actors overdid their roles. Doug Rye portrayed the ape-man, Ed Kearney was the villain, and Wayne Daigrepont contributed Tarzan’s cry. Still, this recreation demonstrates the enduring appeal of ERB’s character, even over the radio airwaves of the late 1980s.

    --September 18, 1989

*"Elmer," ERB's original version of "The Resurrection of Jimber-Jaw," will be published in Forgotten Tales of Love and Murder. <back>

 
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