Film Locations

The MGM Films

The early Tarzan films were shot in the Lake Sherwood area. Other exterior shots included Sherwood Forest, where aerialist Alfredo Codona doubled for Weissmuller swinging through the trees.

Woodland Park near Pico-Rivera in Whittier (Swamp), Big Tujunga, China Flats, the Arboretum in Arcadia, and Iverson's Ranch, specifically the Garden of the Gods site, were also used. The remaining filming was done on the MGM lot.

The Escarpment (a.k.a. Tarzan Rocks) was located at the west-end of lot one, as were the river/lake and sound stages. The top of the escarpment was on lot two and in Sherwood Forest.

The completed tree-house was first seen in the released version of Tarzan Escapes, and was built at Crater Camp, in what is now the Malibu Creek State Park, and duplicated on a stage at MGM. The interiors were on another sound stage.

 When the filming of Tarzan Finds a Son! was nearing completion, it was decided to send Weissmuller and Sheffield to Silver Springs, Florida, to get some underwater footage. The waters there were crystal clear, and afforded some splendid sequences. A Florida resident was used to double for Maureen O'Sullivan, who remained in California. Additional footage was shot at Wakulla Springs for Tarzan's Secret Treasure.

For Tarzan's New York Adventure, the Hagenbecker-Wallace circus was hired and put on the MGM backlot. Some second unit shots of New York City were done on location without the cast.

Big John, Little John, and Silver Springs Manager Newt Perry

The RKO Films

RKO Pathe had its own jungle and lake on part of its Forty Acres backlot, which was sandwiched between Higuera Street, Lucerne Avenue and Jefferson Boulevard, in a triangular shape. Skirting the boulevard and separating the RKO jungle and lake from the rest of the backlot was Ballona Creek. Here the façade for the Tarzan tree-house was built, with the interiors located on a sound stage. The long shot of the house was a matte painting, seen in all the RKO Tarzan films. The small lake was also separate from Ballona Creek.

In this lake, Brenda Joyce frolicked with Weissmuller for close-up shots, near the tree-house. But the remainder of the aquatic shots were filmed, first at Lake Sherwood for Tarzan Triumphs and Tarzan's Desert Mystery, and then at the Arboretum for the remaining films, excluding, of course, Tarzan and the Mermaids.

The Forty Acres backlot was eventually bulldozed to make room for an industrial development, and on the site of the 'jungle' now stands a fire station complex.

Paul Stader, Weissmuller's stunt double, made the dive from the cliff at Lake Sherwood for Tarzan Triumphs. He would make a similar dive at the same spot thirteen years later doubling for Weissmuller as Jungle Jim in the TV series.

Lake Sherwood as seen June 1999. The large rock across the lake is the famous "Chicken Rock" from which Paul Stader dived for Johnny in Tarzan Triumphs, and later for the introduction to the Jungle Jim TV series.

The mountain sequences seen in Tarzan Triumphs and Tarzan and the Amazons were a combination of matte paintings and sets on sound stages. It was there, for instance, that an 11-year-old Johnny Sheffield fell onto a precarious branch in Tarzan Triumphs. The action was shot in reverse, using a wire.

The jungle terrain shots of Tarzan and the Amazons and Tarzan and the Huntress were done mainly at the Arboretum, but those of Tarzan and the Leopard Woman were done in RKO's own jungle, at the back of the so-called Forty Acres lot. And Sheffield thinks that Lesser used a bluff at the Arboretum for the shot of Athena falling in somersault fashion in Tarzan and the Amazons. Babe DeFreest, a stunt woman famous for falls, probably did the stunt; she had been Frances Gifford's stunt double in Tarzan Triumphs.

Baldwin's Lake at the Arboretum was the location for numerous aquatic scenes in the RKO Tarzan films and the Jungle Jim films of Columbia Pictures .

A studio still showing Ballona Creek at the back of the Forty Acres lot

The remnants of a tree-house in RKO's own jungle

Ballona Creek photos courtesy of Joe Musso and Studio Historian Walt O'Connor

Additionally, in Tarzan Triumphs, some animation was produced for the long shot scene of Buli, the elephant, pushing Schmidt over the escarpment.

At RKO, an Arab village had been built for the film The Garden of Allah. It was this village that we see in four of the six Weissmuller-RKO films. For Tarzan and the Amazons, Lesser had the hidden city of Palmyria and mountain entrance built on a sound stage. Both Johnny Sheffield and Brenda Joyce have commented on how impressive these sets were. In fact, Lesser, enthused at seeing a rough cut of Tarzan and the Amazons in December, 1944, pumped another $100 000 into the pic and reopened shooting. The film already carried a $500 000 price tag.

The desert scenes for Tarzan's Desert Mystery were filmed at the Olancha Sand Dunes at Lone Pine, California.

And for the secret temple of the Leopard Cult in Tarzan and the Leopard Woman, a combination of miniatures, matte paintings, and sound stage interiors was used.

For Tarzan and the Mermaids, Lesser took his people to Acapulco, Mexico. The interiors and underwater scenes were shot at Studios Churubusco outside Mexico City, and the exteriors in and around the Pacific town of Acapulco. The river passing by Tarzan's home was filmed at Puerto Marqués. Aquatania was Will Beach. The long shots of the tree-house were the familiar ones used in earlier RKO Tarzan features. The exteriors of Balu's temple were lensed at the Aztec ruins of San Juan de Teotihuacán. The high dives were photographed at La Quebrada, and it was here that stunt double Angel García was killed as a result of a spectacular dive from the Acapulco cliff. The caverned lagoon shots were made at Pie de la Cuesta.

For more information on location sites for the Tarzan films, visit Jerry Schneider's website.

The Columbia Films

Corriganville, named after its owner Ray "Crash" Corrigan, was the number one location site for the Jungle Jim films. It boasted the famous Vendetta Village, built by Howard Hughes in 1946 for the film Vendetta, which introduced Faith Domergue to the movie-going public. Corrigan often allowed the studios to build on his property, but the sets had to remain after the filming was completed. He occasionally did this in lieu of fees. It was this standing village that became Dzamm in The Lost Tribe.

Also in Corriganville, Robin Hood Lake, recently renamed Jungle Jim Lake, was built which showcased a Stunt Rock from which Weissmuller dived into the water. To allow for underwater photography, a camera house replete with window was built at one end. This camera house hidden under a bridge was a contribution of Sam Katzman of Columbia Pictures. It was undoubtedly cheaper than building a swimming tank on a sound stage. All the underwater sequences were shot here. The lake may have existed as early as 1938, and the Rock's first recorded use was in 1943.

The first photo is Stunt Rock as seen in 1991; the second is a side view of Stunt Rock. The third photo was taken standing on Stunt Rock, and you can see what remains of the camera housing from which the underwater scenes of the Jungle Jim films were taken. And the fourth photo shows a space between a tree and a huge rock which was often used to simulate the entrance to a valley.

There was also a fake cave entrance built on the property, frequently used in the Jungle Jim films. It was first noticed in the filming of the serial Jungle Girl.

The Fake Cave seen June 1999. The right side had originally been built up with plaster and cement, but disintegrated over the years. This is all that remains today. It appeared in Jungle Manhunt and Killer Ape, but not in Jungle Jim in the Forbidden Land as the sign in the park states.

Next on the list of frequently used sites was Baldwin's Lake at the Arboretum in Arcadia. Here stood the Commissioner's quarters and the famous bent palm from which Weissmuller spearfishes in Mark of the Gorilla. Johnny Sheffield often swam here as well, not only in the RKO Tarzan films, but in several of the Bomba movies as well, and he describes the water as "raunchy."

All interior shots were done on one of Katzman's sound stages on the Gower Street lot.

Of the remaining locations, the following can be noted. The coastal settlement in The Lost Tribe, was lensed at Portuguese Bend. The rocky terrain seen in Mark of the Gorilla suggests Bronson Canyon , and the mountain and desert scenes in Fury of the Congo were photographed at the famous Vasquez Rocks, known for the slanted rock formations. The long shot views of the rapids in Jungle Manhunt were probably shot at Kernville, since that is the closest source of white water to Los Angeles.

Two shots from Vasquez Rocks. The one on the left was definitely used in Fury of the Congo. The one on the right may have been used in the same film.

In most of the later films, studio backlots, both at Columbia and MGM, and sound stages would seem to account for most of the jungle and rocky terrain. Earl Bellamy states that the MGM rocks and lake were used for some of the episodes of the Jungle Jim television series that he worked on.