History of James Pierce

James H. Pierce aka Babe Pierce was born in Freedom, Indiana on August 8, 1900. He was radio’s original Tarzan in program that featured his wife as Jane and was produced in the early 1930s. His wife, Joan Burroughs (whom he married in August 8, 1932), was the daughter of writer Edgar Rice Burroughs, who also created “Tarzan”.

His family moved to Shelbyville in the 1930s several years after his graduation from Indiana University in 1921. Pierce’s father was mayor of Shelbyville from 1943-48.

The 6-foot-4 Pierce had been an all-American center for Indiana University football when he graduated in 1921. He coached football for two years in Arizona and tried amateur acting. He won the lead in Leatherstocking (1924), and stayed to coach at Glendale (California) High School. His teams included future film stars John Wayne, Robert Livingston and Addison Randall (Livingston’s brother, who would later be known as cowboy star Jack Randall). During a party at Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzana ranch, Burroughs convinced Pierce to play Tarzan. Taking the role (which paid $75 a week) required Pierce to back out of the aviator part already offered him in Wings (1927) (it went to Gary Cooper). Though popular with audiences, the Tarzan film was panned by the critics. He and his wife played the Apeman and Jane on the radio through 364 15-minute episodes of a serial that played in every U.S. state, South America and Western Europe from 1932 to 1934. He quit this to play King Thun the Lion Man in Universal’s Flash Gordon (1936/I) and was featured in Zorro’s Fighting Legion (1939) for Republic. During World War II he helped form the National Airmen’s Reserve, the foundation for the later Air National Guard.

James Pierce died in Apple Valley, California on December 11, 1983. Pierce and his wife are buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in Shelbyville. Pierce’s tombstone is inscribed “Tarzan” and his wife says “Jane.”

Some of James Pierce’s films include:

Cattle Queen (1951) (as Jim Pierce) …. Bad Bill Smith
… aka Queen of the West (USA: alternative title)
Michael Shayne: Private Detective (1940) (scenes deleted) …. Burly Man
The Texas Rangers Ride Again (1940) (as Jim Pierce) …. High Boots
Arizona Frontier (1940) (as Jim Pierce) …. Henchman Kansas
Rainbow Over the Range (1940) (as Jim Pierce) …. Jim Rader
Zorro’s Fighting Legion (1939) (as Jim Pierce) …. Henchnam Moreno
Captain Fury (1939) (as Jim Pierce) …. Guard
Flash Gordon (1936/I) …. Prince Thun [Chs. 2-9, 12-13]
… aka Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers (USA: video title)
… aka Space Soldiers (USA: TV title)
Timber War (1935) (as Jim Pierce) …. Henchman Charlie Braden
The Virginia Judge (1935) (as Jim Pierce)
Belle of the Nineties (1934)
The Lightning Express (1930) …. Thug
Ladies of the Mob (1928) …. The officer
Phantom of the Range (1928) …. ‘Flash’ Corbin
Her Summer Hero (1928) …. Chris
Jesse James (1927) …. Frank James
… aka The Outlaw Rider (UK)
Tarzan and the Golden Lion (1927) …. Tarzan
The Return of Grey Wolf (1926)
Her Man (1924)
Leatherstocking (1924) …. Harry March

The Internet Movie Database 1/16/2009 http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0682376/#actor

Electric Consumer Online 1/16/2009 http://indremcs.org/ec/article.php?sid=55

Jim and Joan Burroughs Pierce Gravesite 1/16/2009 http://www.angelfire.com/trek/dumdum1/12graves.html