Jul 27, 2014

Herman Brix: Almost the First Tarzan

The iconic Tarzan has always been Johnny Weissmuller, who took Edgar Rice Burroughs' sophisticated, multilingual Lord Greystoke and embued him with  "me Tarzan" jargon, the fake-African "Umgawa," the chimp companion, and the vine-swinging.  But for a trick of fate, Herman Brix would have become the Ape Man.

Like Weissmuller, Herman Brix was an Olympic athlete. He won a silver medal for the shot-put in 1928.  He moved to Los Angeles in 1929 and went to work in the movies.  In 1931, MGM chose him to star in the new talkie, Tarzan the Ape Man, but he broke his shoulder before filming could begin, and Johnny Weissmuller took his place.

But a few years later Brix had another opportunity to play Tarzan, in a movie serial, The New Adventures of Tarzan (1935).  

It was so popular that Brix became typecast as Tarzan, and found it difficult to get other work.

He de-Germanized his name into Bruce Bennett, and appeared in many more movie serials, Westerns, and detective movies.  After serving in the Navy during World War II, he continued to work, mostly in B-movies.

In 1961, he wrote and played the villain in The Fiend of Dope Island.  The "dope" is marijuana, which whip-wielding Charlie Davis (Bennett) forces innocent Caribbean natives to grow for him, until David (Robert Bray) shows up.

He died in 2006, at the age of 100.

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