Tarzan (radio program)

Tarzan is a generic title that can be applied to any of three radio jungle adventure programs in the United States. Two were broadcast in the 1930s and one in the 1950s.

Other namesTarzan of the Apes
Tarzan and the Diamond of Ashair
Tarzan and the Fires of Tohr
GenreJungle adventure
Running time15 minutes (1932-1934, 1934-1936)
30 minutes (1951-1953)
Country of originUnited States
Home stationWOR (1932-1934 and 1934-1936)
Mutual-Don Lee West Coast Network and CBS (1951-1953)
StarringJames Pierce, Joan Burroughs (1932-1934)
Carlton KaDell (1934-1936)
Lamont Johnson (1950-1951)
Written byRob Thompson (1934-1936)
Bud Lesser (1950-1951
Produced byFrederick C. Dahlquist (1932-1934)
Fred Shields (1934-1936)
Walter White (1950-1951)
Original releaseSeptember 12, 1932 – June 27, 1953


As told in the Tarzan book series, the episodes centered around young Lord Greystoke, who was raised by a female ape as Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, and Jane Parker, a girl who was separated from a safari. Vincent Terrace wrote in his book, Radio Programs, 1924-1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows, "Stories relate Tarzan's efforts to protect his adopted homeland from evildoers."[1]

Producers of the transcribed programs added a touch of authenticity by going to zoos to record sounds of jungle animals and then using those sounds in appropriate places in episodes.[2]

1932-1934 (Tarzan of the Apes)

The initial radio Tarzan originated at WOR in New York City[2] and was syndicated by the World Broadcasting System.[3] Production later switched to Hollywood, California.[4] The series was broadcast September 12, 1932 - March 3, 1934.[2]

Tarzan was played by James Pierce, who portrayed the title character in the film Tarzan and the Golden Lion (1927).[5] Jane was played by Joan Burroughs, daughter of Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of the Tarzan stories.[3] The program's writer prepared scripts using material from the original Tarzan books, and Burroughs himself revised each script as needed for accuracy.[6]

This version of Tarzan was notable for the extent of distribution of a recorded program. Jim Cox, in his book, Radio Crime Fighters: More Than 300 Programs from the Golden Age, wrote: "The first Tarzan show, produced and recorded by American Radio Features, set a distinct precedent in U.S. radio. It was actually the premier feature prerecorded and distributed to local broadcasters throughout the nation and overseas."[2]

The youth-oriented program included two elements that were often found in other programs aimed at a young audience: a club centered on the central character and premiums that could be obtained by sending in elements such as labels or box tops from the sponsor's products. In the first 30 days after the Signal Tarzan Club was launched by sponsor Signal Oil, 15,000 youngsters from California signed up for it.[7] During the club's first year, membership reached 125,000.[2] Another sponsor, Fould's Milling Company of Chicago, received 93,000 package ends of its products in eight weeks through WBBM in Chicago and CKOK in the Windsor/Detroit market. The proofs of purchase were submitted to obtain "plaster of paris statuettes of various characters in the Tarzan series."[3]

1934-1936 (Tarzan and the Diamond of Ashair and Tarzan and the Fires of Tohr)

Tarzan and the Diamond of Ashair (1934-1935) and Tarzan and the Fires of Tohr (1935-1936)[2] applied a serial structure to the Tarzan episodes, with one story line in each of the two seasons. Andy Briggs, in his book, The Savage Lands, wrote, "Tarzan radio serials thrilled millions of listeners across the country."[8]

An anecdote from Dayton, Ohio, demonstrated the popularity of the second Tarzan radio series -- especially when its appeal was combined with the opportunity for a free viewing of the film The New Adventures of Tarzan. The trade publication Broadcasting reported that radio station WHIO joined with sponsoring milk dealers and producers to offer a showing of the film with one milk cap as admission. The result: "By curtain time more than 15,000 children were lined up for several blocks on each side of the movie house."[9] The theater added two showings to accommodate the crowd.[9]

1950-1951 version

This version was syndicated in addition to being carried on the Mutual-Don Lee West Coast Network. and on CBS. March 22, 1952 - June 27, 1953.[2]


  1. Terrace, Vincent (1999). Radio Programs, 1924-1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-4513-4. P. 326.
  2. Cox, Jim (2002). Radio Crime Fighters: More Than 300 Programs from the Golden Age. McFarland. pp. 248–250. ISBN 9781476612270. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  3. ""Tarzan" Series Tests Produce 93,000 Letters In First Eight Weeks" (PDF). Broadcasting. December 15, 1932. p. 13. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  4. "Transcriptions" (PDF). Broadcasting. December 1, 1932. p. 24. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  5. Sies, Luther F. (2014). Encyclopedia of American Radio, 1920-1960, 2nd Edition. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-5149-4. Pp. 680-681.
  6. Stebbins, Barton A. (January 15, 1933). ""Tarzan": A Modern Radio Success Story" (PDF). Broadcasting. p. 7. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  7. "Broadcasters Accept Challenge of 1933". Broadcasting. January 1, 1933. pp. 5–9. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  8. Briggs, Andy (2013). The Savage Lands. Open Road Media. ISBN 9781480400108. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  9. "Merchandising Notes" (PDF). Broadcasting. February 1, 1936. p. 24. Retrieved 9 September 2016.

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