Lex Barker – Tarzan of course !!


Lex Barker was apparently the 10th actor to play the role of Tarzan in Hollywood

His full name was Alexander Crichlow Barker Jr. He succeeded Johnny Weissmuller, the Olympic swimming star, in the Tarzan role in 1949 after  Johnny had played it for some 17 years.

Lex Barker

Tarzan and the She Devil

ABOVE – Tarzan and the She Devil – I just love that tree house – here with Jane played by Joyce MacKenzie – the only time she played the role. She retired from films in 1960 and later became a teacher

He was born in New York and educated at Phillips Exeter Academy and at Princeton University, and had had considerable training as an actor before Sol Lesser, the Hollywood producer, signed him for the Tarzan role.

He appeared in summer stock and briefly on Broadway before he tried the Hollywood film factories in 1945. He had small roles in “The Farmer’s Daughter,” “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” and “Velvet Touch,” and then made his first Tarzan film, “Tarzan’s Magic Fountain.”

Tarzans Magic Fountain

This one is my own favourite of the Lex Barker Tarzan films – although the others were all pretty good – I just wished that the films had been made in colour as they could easily have been.    I reckon they would have had a much stronger appeal and given the films an impressive look if we could have seen those jungle locations in Technicolor which, as I have said many times before – produced a colour which has never been bettered in my opinion.

Tarzans Magic Fountain 2

I wonder if any of them have been colorised – well at least the publicity still above is in Colour

Lex Barker dropped the Tarzan role, and eventually made his way to Europe and particularly in Germany  where he became a top boxoffice star.

Lex Barker 2

The ABOVE picture is in the early fifties during his Tarzan Years. Here he is on the occasion of Lex Barker and Arlene Dahl’s engagement chatting to actress and dancer Ann Miller

Here BELOW is an interview given by Arlene Dahl many years later. Her marriage to Lex Barker was quite short but she obviously still thought a lot of him :

What do you think about Tarzan?

I thought it was fabulous that he was Tarzan. He got me exercising with him every day. He had a fabulous physique, he was very proud of it and he worked a lot to keep it that way. I didn’t see him in the studio as Tarzan and I couldn’t go to be with him in Africa because I was making films under contract — I had just signed a contract with Paramount. When he came back I was filming every day in the Paramount studios. All of this worked against our marriage.

Looking at the book Tarzan and Hollywood you saw many familiar faces again. What can you say about producer Sol Lesser?

Sol gave Lex a bonus that he could use for his honeymoon. Sol Lesser was not very generous with his contract with Lex. I never asked Lex how much he was making. He certainly wasn’t making a lot of money, even though he was the star of Tarzan. Sol Lesser was not very generous that way, but because of all the publicity and everything he gave the bonus to Lex to use for the honeymoon, which I thought was very nice, of course! But I met Sol Lesser on various occasions. He never gave parties or anything like that, he was a businessman. The bottom line was the most important thing for him. Lex wanted me to go with him to Africa. I don’t know if Sol Lesser would have picked up the tab or not. It never came up because I was just put under contract for three pictures to Paramount and one of them started almost immediately. I never had a chance to go to Africa. I think had I gone to Africa we would probably still be together. Who knows? That’s life!

Have you ever met Johnny Weissmuller?

Oh, yes…

How was he different compared to Lex?

Completely different. The only thing they had in common was the great physiques. But Weissmuller was not as social as Lex. He didn’t go out very much. He was a very nice man, but he was not very social. And he didn’t go to the big Hollywood parties and so on.

The last question: what place does Lex Barker hold in your life today?

I only have to close my eyes and I can hear his voice in my mind. Lex is already and always a part of my life.


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