Tarzan's Hidden Jungle
Cast & Crew
Peter Van Eyck
In the African jungle, white hunters Reeves and DeGroot bemoan their meager haul of wild animals and resort to shooting a baby elephant. Before they can claim their prey, however, wild man Tarzan rescues it and concocts a medicinal salve for its wound. After Tarzan prevents Reeves and DeGroot's native porters from taking the elephant, DeGroot talks Reeves into crossing the river into "taboo" Sukululand, where an abundance of wild animals is rumored to exist but where whites are reviled. Reeves soon comes across a huge elephant herd, but moments after felling a bull, he is captured by Sukulu warriors. In the Sukulu village, Reeves is sentenced to die for killing a sacred animal and thrown into a lion-filled pit. Later, in another part of the jungle, DeGroot reports to his boss, Burger, who has been hired by another American, Johnson, to procure a large number of hides, tusks and animal fat. With only ten days in which to fulfill his contract, Burger decides to venture into Sukululand to search for Reeves and hunt game. While driving toward the river, Burger and DeGroot come across Tarzan with the baby elephant and try to claim the animal, but Tarzan once again protects it. After Tarzan reveals that he is taking the elephant to a nearby medical clinic, Burger and DeGroot decide to follow him and persuade the doctor, Celliers, who is the only white man the Sukulus trust, to lead him and DeGroot into Sukululand. At the United Nations-backed clinic, meanwhile, Tarzan delivers the elephant to Celliers and his nurse, Jill Hardy, both of whom are impressed by his jungle salve. Sure that the salve will help a dying patient of his, Celliers asks Tarzan to make some more, and Tarzan heads off to find the ingredients. As Celliers is about to leave for a meeting with the Sukulus' witch doctor, DeGroot and Burger drive up to the clinic. Posing as documentary filmmakers hired by the United Nations, the hunters persuade Jill to talk to Celliers about taking them into Sukululand. Celliers at first refuses, but changes his mind when Jill protests that the film will benefit the clinic. After Celliers, DeGroot and Burger depart, Malenki, one of the hunters' porters, shows up and tries to steal the elephant. Jill stops him and, at gunpoint, demands to know who shot the animal. Malenki reveals that DeGroot and Burger are hunters, and Jill realizes that Celliers is in grave danger. Ignoring the concerns of her helper, Makuma, Jill drives off to find the doctor. Tarzan then returns with the salve and, as soon as he learns about Jill from Makuma, dashes into the jungle after her. Up ahead in the brush, Jill's car engine dies, and she proceeds on foot, thrashing her way through the dense vegetation. After being menaced by a lion and a leopard, Jill falls into some quicksand, but is rescued by Tarzan. In the Sukulu village, meanwhile, Celliers introduces DeGroot and Burger to the chief, who greets them warily. While Celliers talks with the hostile witch doctor, Burger and DeGroot slip away and discover the elephant herd. Burger instructs DeGroot to remove their jeep's muffler in order to scare the animals and cause them to run to the river, where they will be herded across and shot. Just then Tarzan and Jill arrive in the village, and Jane informs Celliers about the hunters' duplicity. After Tarzan races off to stop Burger and DeGroot, the chief orders Jill and Celliers to be executed. In the brush, Tarzan uses his jungle yell to direct the stampeding elephants to turn around, and the hunters soon are trampled to death. Tarzan then rushes back to the village in time to jump in the lion pit with Jill and Celliers and "talk" the hungry animals into retreating. Once the chief learns that the elephants are safe, he forgives Jill and Celliers and thanks Tarzan. His work done, Tarzan hops on a vine and swings away.
Peter Van Eyck
Lucky, A Chimp
Tarzan's Hidden Jungle
The son of a riverboat fireman whose family urged him to achieve greatness, Ingram was pursuing a medical degree at Northwestern University when a trip to Hollywood had unexpected consequences. Spotted on a street corner by a casting agent for the silent Tarzan of the Apes (1918), Ingram wound up with a role in the first motion picture devoted to Edgar Rice Burroughs' immortal treeswinger. Though filmed in Louisiana (where the swamps surrounding Morgan City stood in for the African bush), the production gave Ingram cause to stick around Tinsel Town, where he turned up in uncredited bits in William Fox's Salomé (1918), starring Theda Bara, and Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1923).
Through the Thirties, Ingram worked on Broadway and in Hollywood. In 1939, he rebranded the role of Nigger Jim in MGM's adaptation of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with an empowering masculinity and the following year appeared as the mystical Djinn in producer Alexander Korda's Technicolor The Thief of Bagdad (1940). Ingram's career trajectory was furthered by parts in Korda's Sahara (1943) and Frank Borzege's Moonrise (1948), whose October 1948 release came just weeks after he was arrested in Manhattan in the company of a 15 year-old Salina, Kansas, high school girl. That Ingram's companion, Jeanette Ann Hughes, was white may likely have influenced the charge of "white slavery" levied against the 52-year-old actor (who was, more formally, found guilty of violating the Mann Act). The prosecutors' discovery of a steamy love letter written by Ingram to Hughes led to the further charge of "using the mails to transmit obscene literature."
Though he had been slated to begin rehearsals on Broadway for Martin Ritt's staging of the Dorothy Heyward drama Set My People Free, Ingram instead spent ten months in a federal penitentiary and the effect on his career was no less than devastating. After several years of inactivity, Ingram accepted an uncredited role as an African tribal chieftain in Tarzan's Hidden Jungle (1955). This penny-pinching jungle adventure represented the sagging fortunes of the character of Tarzan, who had enjoyed a highly-funded film series at MGM starring Olympic gold medalist Johnny Weissmuller in the title role, which shifted to RKO in 1942. After headlining twelve films in the series, Weissmuller traded his Tarzan loincloth for the safari kit of Columbia's Jungle Jim (1948) and bequeathed the series to Lex Barker. Barker played Tarzan in five films before moving on as well, his abdication leaving producer Sol Lesser with the task of finding a replacement.
After auditioning 200 candidates, Lesser settled on 6'3 Las Vegas lifeguard Gordon Werschkul, whom he rechristened Gordon Scott. Production of Tarzan's Hidden Jungle commenced in mid-August 1954 on the grounds of the 170-acre World Animal Jungle Compound in Thousand Oaks. (The theme park would soon undergo a name change to Jungleland in a bid to compete with the newly-opened Disneyland). Scott's leading lady was former Miss America hopeful Vera June Ralston, whom an early marriage had left with the professional name Vera Miles. The newly-divorced mother of two took a shine to Scott, whom she married in 1956. The union was short-lived. While Scott swung from one Tarzan programmer to another, Miles enjoyed key roles in John Ford's The Searchers (1956) and Alfred Hitchcock's The Wrong Man (1956) and only lost out on the Kim Novak role in Vertigo (1958) when she became pregnant with her son, Michael. Following their 1959 divorce, Scott and Miles went their separate ways: Scott to bare-chested cult immortality in a number of Italian sword-and-sandal films and Miles to prominent roles in Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) and Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).
Rex Ingram enjoyed a modest uptake in his fortunes, with character parts in God's Little Acre (1958) and Anna Lucasta (1958), an unbilled bit as a preacher in Elmer Gantry (1960), and a return to Broadway in an all-black revival of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot alongside his Cabin in the Sky costar Mantan Moreland. The first African-American to earn a Phi Beta Kappa pin from Northwestern University, Ingram made history again in August 1962 when he became the first black actor awarded a contract role on a daytime drama, The Brighter Day. He had precious little time to enjoy his recurring character, clergyman Victor Graham, as the soap opera was cancelled two weeks after he shot his first episode. Rex Ingram died in Hollywood in 1969, at the age of 74.
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Tarzan's Hidden Jungle
Gordon Scott and Vera Miles married while making this film.
The film's title card reads: "Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan's Hidden Jungle." The film marked the motion picture debut of actor Gordon Scott (1927-2007), a former lifeguard and bodybuilder who went on to portray "Tarzan" in four more films, ending with Tarzan the Magnificent in 1960 (see below). In 1958, Scott also portrayed Tarzan in three episodes of a proposed television series that was distributed as a theatrical-length feature in Europe, but was only released on video in the U.S. under the title Tarzan and the Trappers. Tarzan's Hidden Jungle was also the first film in which Zippy the chimp portrayed "Cheta" (sometimes spelled "Cheetah") in the series. Zippy was a regular on the Howdy Doody television series. Although most of the Tarzan pictures featured the character "Jane," Tarzan's mate, she was not mentioned in Tarzan's Hidden Jungle.
The film also marked the last Tarzan picture to be released by RKO, the company that had been distributing the series since 1943. M-G-M, the studio that began a rival series in 1932, released the next two Tarzan pictures, Tarzan and the Lost City and Tarzan's Fight for Life ( entries). According to a Daily Variety news item and Hollywood Reporter production charts, location shooting for Tarzan's Hidden Jungle took place at the World Animal Jungle Compound in Thousand Oaks, CA. For more information about the series, see the entries above for Tarzan, the Ape Man and Tarzan Triumphs and consult the Series Index.