Lou Gehrig, The Ape Man, Concluded

Lou did have some experience on Vaudeville and radio, along with being interviewed on camera, but had no professional skill as an actor. In his defense, Lou said, “They tell me my voice goes out over the air well and that I photograph better than I really look.” Christy Walsh, in typical agent fashion, put the best possible spin on his Hollywood rookie, declaring, “Lou’s got everything to go over big in the movies. He stands six feet one inch and weighs 210 pounds. If he gets a chance with lions and tigers, there’ll probably be a scarcity of those species after he gets through with them.” In another interview, Walsh proclaimed, “His facial features are ten times more attractive than Weissmuller’s. He would be a tremendous box office attraction, especially to women. Lou is a natural because of his title of baseball’s iron man.”


There were caveats. Lou was insistent that movies would never interfere with his baseball career, but assumed both could co-exist by arranging his schedule. Eleanor was enthusiastic about the opportunity, but had some reservations, saying, “Lou photographs well and I think he would make a hit. I would go out there with him. I’d want to protect my interests against those girls out there like Jean Harlow, Ginger Rogers, and Irene Dunne, the last of whom is Lou’s favorite on the screen.”


Before leaving New York, Lou posed for some publicity photos in his new Tarzan uniform. He showed up wearing not only the famous leopard skin, but also outfitted in expensive shoes, flashy stockings, and fashionable garters. One reporter noted that after experiencing such a novel sight, “three little girls, a stray dog and a couple of corner loafers were receiving hospital treatment for shock.” Lou soon discarded the shoes, socks, and garters for his photoshoot, showing off his muscles, letting off a Tarzan bellow, and displaying his hairy chest. One caption for a photograph crowed, “Those muscles—those biceps—what a man!” When another reporter asked if he was sincerely interested in a Tinseltown career, Lou responded, “Certainly it is on the level, if Hollywood wants me. I don’t know of any better way of spending the winter than to pick up a piece of Hollywood change making love in the trees.”


Alas, Lou Gehrig as Tarzan was not meant to be. His crash-and-burn first foray into the movies was best summed up by Edgar Rice Burroughs, author of the Tarzan novels. Burroughs sent Lou a telegram that served as an obituary for Lou Gehrig, Ape Man, “Having seen several pictures of you as Tarzan and paid about $50 for newspaper clippings on the subject, I want to congratulate you on being a swell first baseman.”

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LOU GEHRIG, THE APE MAN

Taking a short break from Lou’s fishing trips, I will now tell of his brush with fame as the hero of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ tales of Tarzan. By October of 1936, Sol Lesser, “a one-armed movie factory r

© 2020 by Alan D. Gaff