|A Day in Indiana History - August|
Edgar Rice Burroughs chose James H. Pierce to portray Tarzan in his fourth Tarzan film the 1927 Tarzan and the Golden Lion.
James H. Pierce (August 8, 1900 - December 11, 1983)
The son of James Martin Pierce and Jenny McIntosh Pierce, James was a native of Freedom, Indiana. Six foot, four inch tall Big Jim Pierce, nicknamed "Babe" by his friends and family, he played football for Indiana University as a center, becoming an All American. After coaching high school football in Arizona, he became an amateur actor. He won the lead for a 1924 movie called Leatherstocking, which was an adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper's The Deerslayer. He would remain in California coaching football at Glendale High School. His players in high school included John Wayne, Robert Livingston and Addison Randall.
Pierce attended a party at Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzania ranch, during which Burroughs convinced him to take the lead role in his next Tarzan movie. Pierce was already involved in another film, Wings, which he abandoned to take the Tarzan role. It was a good decision.
Movie and Radio
The movie led to a radio show that his wife, Edgar Rice Burroughs daughter Joan, narrated through almost 400 episodes. The show was popular all over the United States, South America and Western Europe. The show ran from 1932 through 1934. He would later star in the movies King Thun the Lion Man and Zorro’s Fighting Legion. He was instrumental in forming the forerunner to the Air National Guard, the National Airmen’s Reserve, during the Second World War. After the war, he starred in minor movies, mostly westerns, until 1951. After that, he became part of a successful real estate firm. He and his wife are interred in Forest Hill Cemetery in Shelbyville, Indiana.