Tantor Trumpets - by Ken Webber
COLORADO'S TARZAN RECALLED
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All Rights Reserved.
This is the fiftieth anniversary of Sol Lessor's "Tarzan's Revenge" (1938). It would be hard to find a reason to fondly remember this entry into Tarzan filmography. It was a weak film that appears very dated and even trite and hard to watch today.
But I would like to take this opportunity to take another look at Glenn Morris, the star of the epic. Being a fellow Colorado native, I'd like to share a brief biography of him to put him in a better light than this poor film would cast him in. He should be remembered for the Olympic decathlon champion that he was.
Glenn Morris was born on his father's ranch north of Silma, Colorado in 1912. As a boy Glenn loved to run. Regardless of the weather, he routinely jogged three miles to school every day. In high school he was he was a state football and track star. Some of his records stayed on the books until recent years when they were finally surpassed. When he graduated in 1930, he was six feet and two inches tall and weighed a solid 182 pounds. He went to Colorado A & M on a full scholarship. He played all of the college sports but favored track and field events. As a sophomore he attended as a spectator the Los Angeles Summer Olympics. He watched an athlete, Jim Bausch, whom he had competed against, becomes the first American to win the decathlon. Morris went home inspired to train and attempts the grueling ten-event competition himself and he began the task of preparing himself for the Berlin Olympics in 1936.
He began his own intense preparation. In 1933 and 1934 he place first in conference low hurdles. Also in 1934 at an eastern division meet, he won the hurdle events and the high jump, placed in shot put and discus throw, and ran a turn in the mile relay. He was also class president in his final year of school. He continued his education at the university getting degrees in economics and sociology. He worked on the3 side as a used car salesman and continued to train for the XI Olympiad.
The dream of Olympic gold began falling into place in 1936 at the Kansas Relays. There he competed and won thew decathlon with 7,576 points, a new American record. IN Milwaukee at the Olympic Trials, he high jumped 6' 1 1/2", pole-vaulted 11'4" and ran 1500 meters in 4:48.1 seconds to shatter the world decathlon record with 7,880 points.
Abrim with confidence, Glenn was off to Nazi Germany and the Olympics to represent his country. The decathlon battle would basically be between Glenn and two fellow Americans, Robert Clark and Jack Parker. While crossing the Atlantic on board ship Glenn gained eight ponds. Then he caught a bad cold from the rainy weather and the cold settled into his muscles and he was suddenly in less than peak condition for the challenge of his life. As the events started Glenn realized that he was outclassed in five of the events: shot put, high jump, pole vault, javelin and discus. He still managed enough points to stay in the battle. But then his performance in the 100 meters and the long jump were sub-par. At the end of the first day of competition Clark was in the lead 4.1944 to 4,192 points. That night Morris could not sleep nor eat. Instead he spent the night drinking coffee and anxiously awaiting the next day's events.
The next day Morris took the lead when he won the 110-meter hurdles. Then before the final event, the 1500 meter run, it was announced to the crowd in numerous languages that in order to win the decathlon event Morris would have to finish in 4.32, faster than he had ever run before. The stage was set. Glenn sucked it up and put everything he could find in himself into the race of his life. During the second lap a Belgian runner cut in front of him, breaking his stride and making him stumble. The crowd, 90,000 strong arose to their feet booing. Then with the adrinilum rush, caused by the crowd support, he recovered his balance, regained his lost ground and the lead in the race. He won the race with 4.33.3 and then collapsed on the infield in utter exhaustion knowing his effort was insufficient.
A hush fell on the crowd as the announcement came over the speakers. First was an apology that the 4.32 mark had only been an estimate. Then Glenn Morris was declared to have won the 1936 Olympic Decathlon with 7900 points. Glenn had fulfilled his dream for Olympic gold. Clark and Parker took the silver and bronze metals.
And when the triumphant hero returned home, it was a dream come true. First was a ticker tape parade in New York City. Then back home in Colorado, they proclaimed a statewide "Glenn Morris Day" on September 9, 1936. And finally on December 13, 1936 he married his school sweetheart. To top it all off a Hollywood producer had called and wanted to sign him to a film contract!
When he arrived in Tinsel Town, he signed to become the silver screen's ninth Tarzan. Eleanor Holm, he swimming star who had been bumped from the 1936 Olympic team for drinking champagne was cast as his Jane. The film, "Tarzan's Revenge", that followed was shot on the backlot. It was a real turkey and was roundly panned by reviewers. The only positive remark came from the New York Times reviewer, which called Morris' Olympic status his "only distinction" from the other fauna in the film. No second Tarzan film was to follow and after one small bit part in the 1938 film, "Hold That Coed". Glenn left Hollywood and returned home to small town America.
But in a few months, things got darker as Charlotte divorced him. In 1940 he played a season with football team, the Detroit Lions. When World War II broke out he enlisted in the Navy and was wounded in the Pacific Theater.
When he returned home he ran a construction business until he retired due to ill health in 1962. He was inducted into the Colorado Spots Hall of Fame in 1969, but was too ill to attend the awards dinner. Glenn Morris died of a heart attack in Palo Alto, California on January 31, 1974.
Glenn Morris deserves to be remembered for his athletic accomplishments instead of his starring role in a Tarzan film. And perhaps knowing a little more about the man, ERB fans can watch "Tarzan's Revenge" with a bit more enjoyment knowing the hero in the leopardskin a little better.
Editor's note: Morris also appeared (as an athlete) in Leni Riefenstahl's film about the 1936 Olympics