Family Legends

Day 10 – Today I am thankful for odd family legends.

I don’t mean the legends about Uncle Joe who passed out in the mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving or Great-Aunt Selma who had 48 cats. I’m talking about legendary family members. Family members who have a certain standing in the world beyond your family.

I’m talking about Elmo Lincoln. And here is where some of my family may want to bail on the post because they may not know the full story. You were warned.

If you’re not related to me by blood, you may have never heard of Elmo Lincoln. You may not know why he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Let me give you the answer to one of entertainment’s great trivia questions: Who was the first Tarzan in the movies?

Poster for Tarzan of the Apes (film), Image via WikipediaIf you answered “Johnny Weismuller,” you’re wrong and you haven’t been paying attention to this post. Elmo Lincoln was the first Tarzan.

Born Otto Elmo Linkenhelt in the Midwest, he drew D.W. Griffith’s attention for his “powerful chest.” Check it out to the left. Griffith got him to change his name, and within a couple of years, Elmo was the silver screen’s first Tarzan. Tarzan of the Apes was a huge hit, one of the first silent movies to bring in over $1 million. Elmo would play Tarzan a couple more times and would also show up in Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance. His IMDB bio states he died of a heart attack in the middle of a cough in 1952.

Image via WikipediaFamily legend had it that my maternal great-grandmother (after abandoning her daughter to the care of her mother-in-law or mother) lit out for California. At one point, Margarita “Blanche” [Gehris] Clark worked for Hollywood costume designer Edith Head. At one point, she had an affair with Elmo Lincoln. Yep, the family legend held that great-grandmother (a divorcée in the Babylon of Hollywood) shacked up with Tarzan (albeit well past his Tarzan days).

Sadly, the family legend was wrong. Blanche married Elmo’s brother, Frank. Did she have an affair with her new brother-in-law? Who knows. Probably not. But there is still at least a gossamer connection to the first King of the Jungle.

Family legends are pretty cool.


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