Zero Mostel as… Tarzan?

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Sometimes all it takes is just one wrong decision to overturn a zillion-dollar dream.

In 1969 Jidrool Pictures, according to my exclusive Hollywood sources (they’ve excluded practically everybody), raised $75 million to break into the big time with what was intended to be the biggest, best, and most bodacious Tarzan movie ever–Tarzan’s Revenge. Loosely based on two great novels, David Copperfield by Charles Dickens and Tarzan at the Earth’s Core by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan’s Revenge would feature state-of-the-art special effects and a script to knock your socks off.

And best of all, they hired a truly gifted big-name actor to play the title role.

Zero Mostel.

“He was a star!” explained ex-producer Monty Gavone. “Fiddler on the Roof! The Producers! Zero Mostel! He couldn’t miss!”

But as co-star Raquel Welch remembered it, “No matter what we did, it just wouldn’t work. Zero looked just awful in a loin cloth. He looked awful riding on a dinosaur. He looked even worse swinging through the trees on a vine. And his Tarzan ape-yell sounded like he was selling fish on some street corner in New York.”

One by one and two by two, the investors demanded their money back. The last straw was when Mostel accidentally shot himself with an arrow and then fell off the tree. The injuries weren’t serious, but they were serious enough to convince Mostel to quit. And by then the project had such dismal prospects that no one wanted to take his place in the role.

“Even Cecil Kellaway turned us down,” Ms. Welch recalled.

Today, the few surviving feet of footage (is that how you say it?) from Tarzan’s Revenge repose in a CIA vault, ready to be used against our country’s enemies.


11 comments on “Zero Mostel as… Tarzan?

  1. I am speechless. I really don’t know what to say about this one. Maybe, “the best laid plans of mice and men…”

  2. Agreed, bad casting. Zero was great as Tevye, but he is no Tarzan. Johnny Weissmuller is still the best as far as I’m concerned.

    This reminds me of the current “Holmes & Watson” movie starring Will Farrell and John C. Reilly – way to wreck a good character and story line. When will these Hollywood misfits ever learn to respect the classics.

    1. That’s not the one where Holmes and Watson have cell phones, is it?

      In his autobiography, Basil Rathbone says that he and Nigel Bruce pleaded with the producers of their Sherlock Holmes movies to leave the setting in the Victorian Era and not move it into modern times–but nobody listened.

    2. Holmes and Watson, with John C, Reilly and Will Ferrell. I just checked the Wikipedia page on it and it has been panned to the depths. Apparently the humor is puerile and some of what I read mentioned an erotic chess match. Looks like I’ll be skipping that one. Ferrell is exceptionally reliable, as a source of tasteless humor and movies which appeal to the more bass emotions.

  3. That would have been one heckuva strange movie.

    The Holmesmovie concerns me too. As a rule, I avoid Will Ferrell’s movies.

  4. Lee, you gave it away with “Jidrool Pictures,” not to mention producer Monty Gavone. 🙂

    Just the other day I was mentioning to someone that in my time — and yours, too, Lee — everyone in the NYC and northern NJ area knew a smattering of Yiddish and Italian, even if the speakers were purebred Irish or Chinese. Then Spanish was added to the mix — but somehow it took over (viz. “press one for English”) instead of being part of NY/NJ English, and now I suppose adopting any of someone else’s language would be considered cultural appropriation — except in the case of a foreign-born person using English, which would be considered being victimized by English-speakers’ cultural imperialism. It’s hard to keep up with the current victimology.

    Sorry to have wandered away from the original topic. 🙁

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