Cast & Crew
Lord and Lady Greystoke, sent by the Queen of England on a diplomatic mission to South Africa, are abandoned in a remote jungle when the crew of their ship mutinies. Greystoke constructs a shelter in which the couple survives for a time, but Lady Greystoke dies a year after her son is born, and the earl is killed by wild apes. A female ape whose offspring was also killed that day adopts and rears the child. While Tarzan learns the ways of the jungle, his cousin, the new successor to Greystoke's title, is reared in England. At the age of twenty, Tarzan becomes king of the apes; his cousin, however, courts a barmaid, even though his mother had wished him to marry Jane Porter, an attractive and wealthy young American. When Binns, an old sailor, reveals that the rightful earl of Greystoke is alive, an expedition that includes Jane and her father is organized to find him. The party narrowly escapes death in the jungle several times, and after Tarzan rescues Jane from hostile tribesmen and a lion, she falls in love with the apeman.
Fred L. Wilson
Sally, The Chimpanzee
Prince Charles, The Chimpanzee
The original original choice to play Tarzan was a vaudeville actor and ukelele player Winslow Winston, but before the film started he enlisted and left for the battlefields of WW1.
Young men from the New Orleans Athletic Club played the ape parts.
In one scene a lion is supposed to crawl through the window of Tarzan's cabin to devour Jane. Tarzan grabs him and pulls him out. In fact the old and drugged lion turned on Elmo Lincoln who stabbed and killed him. "I stepped on him to beat my chest. As my foot pressed down on him, the remaining air in his lungs escaped with a loud whoosh. I was already shaken and you should have seen me jump!" The lion wound up as a lobby display when the picture opened on Broadway.
Lincoln's stunt double was Frank Merrill, who would later go on to play Tarzan in two films.
Production began with Stellan Windrow playing Tarzan. After five weeks of shooting, Windrow quit to enlist in the First World War. Footage of him swinging from vines remains in the final film.
The novel first appeared in All-Story Weekly, October 1912. It was also serialized in several newspapers. The rights to the book were purchased by National Film Corp. of America early in 1917, and William E. Wing was hired to write the scenario and assist in the proposed twelve reel production. Pre-production news items list Gilbert Warrenton as the head photographer and Ted Bevis as the technical director. Wing, Warrenton and Bevis were not credited when the film was released. National took over the Oz studios in Hollywood, and also used the E. & R. Jungle studio in Los Angeles where technical director Martin J. Doner shot scenes using lions from E. & R. and the David Horsely collections. Many of the jungle scenes were filmed in Louisiana and, as noted by New York Times, Brazil.
When the film opened at the Broadway Theatre in New York on January 27, 1918, it was ten reels in length, but it was later cut to eight reels. Modern sources credit Lois Weber and Fred Miller with the scenario. The sequel to the film, The Romance of Tarzan, was released in October 1918 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20).
Among the many films based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' novel or characters from the novel are: the 1932 M-G-M production Tarzan, the Ape Man, starring Johnny Weissmuller and directed by W. S. Van Dyke (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40); the 1959 M-G-M film Tarzan, the Ape Man, starring Dennis Miller and directed by Joseph M. Newman; and the 1984 Warner Bros. release Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, starring Christopher Lambert and directed by Hugh Hudson.