1 9 6 6 – 1 9 6 9 (USA)
58 x 60 minute episodes
Ron Ely was muscularly convincing in this TV version of the classic Edgar Rice Burroughs yarn about the abandoned blue-blood English boy raised by apes (although the famous jungle yell had to be dubbed by former film Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller).
And there were enough jungle fights – with animals and men – to keep little noses glued to the screen.
Oddly, the ‘African’ natives had a curiously Latin American look, no doubt explained by the Mexican locations used for shooting the series.
A strong vein of sentiment in Ely’s interpretation was also evident, with Tarzan being the fatherly protector of Cheetah (the chimp) and Jai (the orphan). There was no Jane, a sexual connotation being deemed unsuitable.
Premiering on NBC in 1966, guest stars included Diana Ross and The Supremes, who played nuns in the episode ‘The Convert’.
More TV Tarzans followed in Ely’s bare footsteps. A cartoon, Tarzan: Lord of The Jungle (Filmation), appeared from 1976 to 1978, to be succeeded by another animated series, Tarzan and The Super 7 (Filmation) in 1978, and an environmental live-action Tarzan in 1991.
This latter version, which featured Wolf Larsen in the loin-clothed role, contained a cameo by Ely himself.
Ron Ely continued to act on television for many years, and in 1975 he portrayed another legendary hero, Doc Savage, on the big screen. Later he launched a new career as a writer of hardboiled detective novels.
Manuel Padilla, Jr. continued to play soulful-eyed Hispanic or Indian kids through his teens, in The Flying Nun, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and American Graffiti (1973). His last role was in Scarface (1983). He died in 2009.
Manuel Padilla Jr