Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tarzan, Lord of the Silent Epics

A truly wonderful event finishes up today in Morgan City, Louisiana. Under the evocative title Tarzan: Lord of the Louisiana Jungle, film fans got to watch a rescued, shortened version of a 1918 silent feature and a brand new documentary tied to that restoration effort.

Tonight's screening of Tarzan of the Apes, with a new, live musical accompaniment, is the byproduct of several years work by Al Bohl and his documentary filmmaker daughter, Allison Bohl. They shot 70 hours of footage, from LA and Tarzana to New Orleans and Baton Rouge, in order to reconstruct the story of how the first-ever Tarzan flick was made.

Shot in the summer of 1917 in Morgan City, the film was a huge hit, grossing over $1 million at the box office. It was also one of the very first Hollywood films shot on location out-of-state.


The Bohls have more screenings lined up for their documentary, which may never have been but for a lucky eBay find. Per a recent interview given by Bohl sr. to Country Roads magazine:

On eBay, Al found a sixty-minute “digest version” of the original Tarzan movie starring Elmo Lincoln and Enid Markey. “A lot of the footage is just gone,” he says. “From reading the books, I realized that it was out of chronological order, so I put it back in correct order. We used quite a bit of the footage in our documentary...”
Once edited, Tarzan: King of the Louisiana Jungle went to Shreveport radio personality Kermit Poling, who composed music for it and for the 60-minute version of Tarzan of the Apes. Poling is also the narrator for the documentary.

Among the many fascinating factoids with regards to the filming of the 1918 silent is the fact that the dozen-plus apes and monkeys brought in for the shoot were left behjnd once the production wrapped. In celebration of that lore, the festival today hid a golden monkey statuette in Morgan City as part of a cash-reward scavenger hunt.

[Tarzan: Lord of the Louisiana Jungle]

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