According to “The Tom Tyler Story” by Mike Chapman, Van Dyke was looking for the right actor to play Tarzan in the upcoming 1932 film “Tarzan the Ape Man”. Tom Tyler apparently tested for the role and was declined, due to his “not being muscular enough for the role” (p. 83). Van Dyke wanted Brix as Tarzan but apparently the actor was recovering from an on-set injury while filming “Touchdown!”(1931). Olympic swimming champion Johnny Weissmuller was selected instead, and made “Tarzan the Ape Man” a smash hit that year for MGM. Due to the film's popularity, Weissmuller appeared as Tarzan eleven more times on the silver screen.
Perhaps it is because both Brix and Weissmuller look similar facially, and have the sandy hair in addition to the tall, athletic physiques (both Brix and Weissmuller were 6'3”) that make them look suitable as Tarzan. To be fair, it might be worth comparing the role of Tarzan as a Tom Tyler possibility to that of the lead male star in Murnau's “Tabu” (1931). As with “Tabu”, Tom was also passed up in favor of Murnau's desire to go the purist route, employing Tahiti-born actors for this film. The main question is this: If Tom Tyler was originally selected to play a South Pacific Islander – and he was – but not Tarzan, then why?
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