Until the beginning of 1992, the lush, tropical jungle foliage at the Los Angeles State and County Arboretum at Arcadia, California, remained intact, much in the same manner as it was in 1936 when Tarzan appeared in the first recorded film lensed on the property. Although a lot of the jungle has been removed and a tropical rainforest installed, it is still a living location where a person can visualize Johnny Weissmuller, Lex Barker, and Gordon Scott swinging through the trees as Tarzan of the Apes; or Johnny Sheffield as Tarzan's son, Boy, and as Bomba the Jungle Boy swimming in the lagoon; or watch Bob Hope and Bing Crosby as they stroll along the lagoon in "On the Road to Singapore" (Paramount 1939); or Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains beside the lake in "Notorious" (RKO 1945); or Douglas Fairbanks and Madeleine Carroll on a small stern wheeler on the lake in "Safari" (Paramount 1939). In fact, scores of motion pictures, television shows, and commercials have used the property for their film work--work which continues to this day.

Map of the Arboretum

Prior to 1769, the area which comprises the Arboretum and surrounding environs was occupied by the Gabrielino Indians [they were so named by the Spaniards of the San Gabriel Mission who oversaw their conversion to Christianity--the Gabrielino Indians were the descendants of the Shoshoneans who arrived in California around 1000-500 B.C.]. In 1839, Hugo Reid applied for title to the 13,319 acres that would become Rancho Santa Anita, the nucleus of which would become the Arboretum. Two years later, he received title to the land, with full title becoming his in 1845.

From then until 1875, the property passed through several owners [Henry Dalton, Joseph A. Rowe, Albert Dibblee, William Corbitt, William Wolfskill, Leonard Rose, Louis Wolfskill, Alfred Chapman, and Harris Newmark] before finally ending up in the possession of Elias Jackson "Lucky" Baldwin. For $200,000, he purchased the 8,500 acres of the Rancho that still remained intact. By the time of his death in 1909, the size of the property had decreased to 3,500 acres. Two of his children, Clara and Anita Baldwin, inherited the property, with Anita taking active interest in the business dealings of the Rancho.

From 1909 until 1936, the acreage of the Rancho continued to decrease as parcels were sold off until only 1,300 acres remained. That property was then sold to the real estate syndicate, Rancho Santa Anita Syndicate, headed by Harry Chandler of the Los Angeles Times. In January 1947, the State of California and County of Los Angeles purchased 111 acres at the center of the Rancho for $320,000. Movie making history at the Rancho began around this time period.

The Arboretum is approximately 15 miles from Downtown Los Angeles. Take the 110 freeway north towards Pasadena, then continue onto Interstate 5 north. When you reach the 134 freeway, take it east. It will connect with the 210 freeway east. Exit at Baldwin Ave., turning south. You will shortly discover the Arboretum entrance on your right side (the west side of the street, directly across from the Santa Anita Race Track).

Upon entering the property, take the roadway that heads northward (towards the mountains), you will pass the location where the Tarzan tree once stood. This tree, it is said, was used for some of the vine-swinging scenes. Sometime around 1968, the tree was blown over in a windstorm [caused by root rot which led to its downfall]. The tree site is in the Australian section.

Leaving the Australian section, continue along the roadway until you reach the lagoon area. You may not be able to see it yet because of the foliage, but you will not be able to continue straight ahead on the road. Take the crossing road to the left. ll the area to your right side (west) is where most of the jungle scenes were shot. Until early 1992, this section closely resembled the time when Johnny Weissmuller first set foot on the property. owever, during 1992, the area was completely cleaned up, with many of the trees and bushes being removed. This primitive section lies mainly on the east side of the Laska lagoon/lake which will be readily identifiable even today from the RKO Tarzan movies.

To the south of the lagoon is the Hugh Reid adobe which was built in the early 1800's. Where the water-front fence now stands was the location of the house addition that is seen in many films, it being used as a commissioner's house or trading post. t was dismantled when restoration work was begun on the adobe house in 1958.
Hugo Reid
Click on image for larger view

On the westward side of the lake is the Queen Anne Cottage, built in 1885, which was used for exteriors in the television series Fantasy Island. In fact, the lake was used on the series where you see the incoming airplane taxiing in with the passengers for that week's show.

Aside from the filming locations I've mentioned, there is much more to the Arboretum that is pleasing to your senses: the flowers, the trees, the plants of all kinds, and the wildlife, most notably the peacocks--the Arboretum is a living museum.

When Sol Lesser obtained the rights to the Tarzan series after MGM canceled further Tarzan films with the release of "Tarzan's New York Adventure" in 1942, he needed to find a location to film at. Many of the studios at that time supported jungles on their backlots, some to a larger degree than others. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) probably had the largest, but so did Universal Studios, Twentieth Century Fox (their Century Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains which they purchased in 1946 was the site of the Tarzan treehouse in the MGM movies), and many of the smaller studios had jungles, such as Columbia Pictures and Republic Pictures. However, Lesser decided on the RKO Studios which not only had sound stages in Hollywood and Culver City, but had a movie ranch in Encino and a backlot at the Culver City facility. It was at this Culver City backlot (nicknamed Forty Acres) that he built the RKO Tarzan treehouse in a jungle area separated from the main backlot by Ballona Creek. While a lot of the jungle scenes were lensed at this site, Lesser also used the Arboretum for jungle and river scenes.

Tarzan first appeared at the Arboretum in the guise of Johnny Weissmuller in 1935 in "The Capture of Tarzan" (the unreleased first version of "Tarzan Escapes") and last appeared in newly filmed material as Gordon Scott in 1955 for "Tarzan's Hidden Jungle" (Lex Barker appeared as Tarzan in the interim between these two stars). Stock footage of the Arboretum from previous films in the series was utilized in the 1958 Tarzan and the Trappers.

Of related interest to Tarzan fans concerns Monogram Studios Bomba the Jungle Boy series. After Johnny Sheffield outgrew the part of Boy with the release of "Tarzan and the Huntress" in 1947, Monogram Studios signed him for the lead role as Bomba. From 1949 through the end of the series, all of the Bomba the Jungle Boy pictures that were filmed on location with a jungle setting, used the Arboretum.

Likewise, when Johnny Weissmuller became too old for the part of Tarzan and was signed to appear in the Columbia Pictures Jungle Jim series, many of his jungle scenes continued to be filmed at the Arboretum.


"The Capture of Tarzan" (MGM 1935) Directed by: Richard Thorpe. Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O'Sullivan. This version of "Tarzan Escapes" was not released to the public.

"Waikiki Wedding" (Paramount 1937) Directed by: Frank Tuttle. Cast: Bing Crosby, Shirley Ross, Bob Burns, Martha Raye.

"The Buccaneer" (Paramount 1938) Directed by: Cecil B. DeMille. Cast: Frederic March, Franciska Gaal, Akim Tamiroff, Margot Grahame, Walter Brennan.

"Straight, Place and Show" (20th Century Fox 1938) Directed by: David Butler. Cast: Ritz Brothers, Ethel Merman, Richard Arlen.

"Devil's Island" (Warner Bros 1938) Directed by: William Clemens. Cast: Boris Karloff, Nedda Harrigan.

"Honeymoon in Bali" (Paramount 1939) Directed by: Edward H. Griffith. Cast: Fred MacMurray, Madeleine Carroll, Allan Jones, Akim Tamiroff.

"Typhoon" (Paramount 1940) Directed by: Louis King. Cast: Robert Preston, Dorothy Lamour, Lynn Overman.

"The Women" (MGM 1939) Directed by: George Cukor. Cast: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Mary Boland, Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine, Hedda Hopper, Majorie Main, Margaret Dumont.

"Man in the Iron Mask" (1939) Directed by: James Whale. Cast: Louis Hayward, Warren Williams, Alan Hale, Bert Roach, Joan Bennett.

"Moon Over Burma" (Paramount 1940) Directed by: Louis King. Cast: Dorothy Lamour, Robert Preston, Preston Foster.

"Road to Singapore" (Paramount 1940) Directed by: Victor Schertzinger. Cast: Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour, Charles Coburn, Anthony Quinn, Jerry Colonna.

"Safari" (Paramount 1940) Directed by: Edward H. Griffith. Cast: Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Madeleine Carroll.

"Susan and God" (MGM 1940) Directed by: George Cukor. Cast: Joan Crawford, Frederic March, Ruth Hussey, John Carroll, Rita Hayworth, Nigel Bruce.

"Victory" (Paramount 1940) Directed by: John Cromwell. Cast: Frederic March, Cedric Hardwicke, Betty Field.

"The Lady Eve" (Paramount 1941) Directed by: Preston Sturges. Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn.

"Among the Living" (Paramount 1941) Directed by: Stuart Heisler. Cast: Albert Dekker, Harry Carey, Frances Farmer, Susan Hayward.

"Manila Calling" (20th Century Fox 1942) Directed by: Herbert I. Leeds. Cast: Cornel Wilde, Lloyd Nolan, Carole Landis.

"Gentleman Jim" (Warner Bros 1942) Directed by: Raoul Walsh. Cast: Errol Flynn, Alan Hale, Alexis Smith, Ward Bond, William Frawley.

"Passage to Marseilles" (Warner Bros 1944) Directed by: Michael Curtiz. Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Sidney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Michael Morgan, Claude Rains.

"Cobra Woman" (Universal 1944) Directed by: Robert Siodmak. Cast: Maria Montez, Jon Hall, Lon Chaney Jr., Sabu.

"Mr. Winkle Goes to War" (Columbia 1944) Directed by: Alfred E. Green. Cast: Edward G. Robinson, Ruth Warwick, Ted Donaldson.

"Tarzan and the Amazons" (RKO 1945) Directed by: Kurt Neumann. Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Brenda Joyce, Johnny Sheffield, Henry Stephenson, Mme. Maria Ouspenskaya, Barton Maclane, Don Douglas, Steven Geray, J. M. Kerrigan, Shirley O'Hara.

"Tarzan and the Leopard Woman" (RKO 1945) Directed by: Kurt Neumann. Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Brenda Joyce, Johnny Sheffield, Acquanetta, Edgar Barrier, Dennis Hoey, Tommy Cook, Anthony Caruso.

"Notorious" (Selznick 1946) Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock. Cast: Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, Leopoldine Konstantin, Claude Rains.

"Anna and the King of Siam" (20th Century Fox 1946) Directed by: John Cromwell. Cast: Irene Dunne, Linda Darnell, Lee J. Cobb.

"The Yearling" (MGM 1946) Directed by: Clarence Brown. Cast: Gregory Peck, Claude Jarman Jr., Jane Wyman.

"The Best Years of Our Lives" (Goldwyn 1946) Directed by: William Wyler. Cast: Frederic March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo.

"Tarzan and the Huntress" (RKO 1947) Directed by: Kurt Neumann. Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Brenda Joyce, Johnny Sheffield, Patricia Morison, Barton Maclane, John Warburton, Charles Trowbridge, Ted Hecht, Wallace Scott.

"Till the Clouds Roll By" (MGM 1947) Directed by: Richard Whorf. Cast: Robert Walker, Judy Garland, Lucille Bremer, Van Heflin, Dinah Shore, Van Johnson, June Allyson, Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra.

"Tycoon" (RKO 1947) Directed by: Richard Wallace. Cast: Judith Anderson, John Wayne, Laraine Day, Cedric Hardwick, Anthony Quinn.

"Wake of the Red Witch" (Republic 1948) Directed by: Edward Ludwig. Cast: John Wayne, Luther Adler, Gail Russell, Gig Young, Adele Mara.

"Jungle Jim" (Columbia 1948) Directed by: William A. Berke. Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Virginia Gary, George Reeves, Lita Baron, Rick Vallin, Holmes Herbert, Tex Mooney.

"Under Capricorn" (Transatlantic 1949) Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock. Cast: Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotton, Michael Wilding, Margaret Leighton.

"Johnny Allegro" (Columbia 1949) Directed by: Ted Tetzlaff. Cast: George Raft, George Macready, Nina Foch, Will Geer.

"Bomba on Panther Island" (Monogram 1949) Directed by: Ford Beebe. Cast: Johnny Sheffield, Allene Roberts, Lita Baron, Charles Irwin, Harry Lewis, Smoki Whitfield, Martin Wilkins, Bill Walker.

"Malaya" (MGM 1949) Directed by: Richard Thorpe. Cast: Spencer Tracy, James Stewart, Sidney Greenstreet, Lionel Barrymore, Gilbert Roland.

"Mark of the Gorilla" (Columbia 1950) Directed by: William A. Berke. Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Trudy Marshall, Onslow Stevens, Suzanne Dalbert, Robert H. Purcell, Pierce Lyden, Neyle Morrow, Selmer Jackson.

"Captive Girl" (Columbia 1950) Directed by William A. Berke. Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Buster Crabbe, Anita Lhoest, Rick Vallin, John Dehner, Frank Lackteen, Rusty Wescoatt, Nelson Leigh.

"On the Isle of Samoa" (Columbia 1950) Directed by: William A. Berke. Cast: Jon Hall, Susan Cabot, Raymond Greenleaf.

"Lost Volcano" (Monogram 1950) Directed by: Ford Beebe. Cast: Johnny Sheffield, Donald Woods, Marjorie Lord, John Ridgely, Elena Verdugo, Tommy Ivo, Don C. Harvey, Grandon Rhodes, Robert Lewis.

"Tarzan and the Slave Girl" (RKO 1950) Directed by: Lee Sholem. Cast: Lex Barker, Vanessa Brown, Robert Alda, Hurd Hatfield, Arthur Shields, Tony Caruso, Denise Darcel, Robert Warwick.

"Pygmy Island" (Columbia 1950) Directed by: William A. Berke. Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Ann Savage, David Bruce, Steven Geray, William Tannen, Tristram Coffin, Billy Curtis, Tommy Farrell, Pierce Lyden, Rusty Wescoatt, Billy Barty, John George, Angelo Rossitto, Harry Wilson.

"Jungle Manhunt" (Columbia 1951) Directed by: Lew Landers. Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Bob Waterfield, Sheila Ryan, Rick Vallin, Lyle Talbot, Billy Wilkerson.

"Tarzan's Peril" (RKO 1951) Directed by: Byron Haskin. Cast: Lex Barker, Virginia Huston, George Macready, Douglas Fowley, Glenn Anders, Dorothy Dandridge, Alan Napier, Frederick O'Neal, Edward Ashley.

"The Golden Hawk" (Columbia 1952) Directed by: Sidney Salkow. Cast: Sterling Hayden, Rhonda Fleming, Sidney Sheldon.

"Royal African Rifles" (Allied Artists 1953) Directed by: Lesley Selander. Cast: Louis Hayward, Veronica Hurst, Michael Pate.

"Appointment in Honduras" (RKO 1953) Directed by: Jacques Tourneur. Cast: Glenn Ford, Ann Sheridan, Zachary Scott.

"Beachhead" (United Artists 1954) Directed by: Stuart Heisler. Cast: Tony Curtis, Frank Lovejoy, Mary Murphy.

"Gambler From Natchez" (20th Century Fox 1954) Directed by: Henry Levin. Cast: Dale Robertson, Debra Paget, Thomas Gomez, Kevin McCarthy.

"Killer Leopard" (Allied Artists 1954) Directed by: Ford Beebe and Edward Morey Jr. Cast: Johnny Sheffield, Russ Conway, Bill Walker, Milton Wood, Barry Bernard, Donald Murphy, Beverly Garland, Smoki Whitfield, Leonard Mudie, Roy Glenn.

"Cannibal Attack" (Columbia 1954) Directed by: Lee Sholem. Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Judy Walsh, David Bruce, Bruce Cowling, Charles Evans, Steve Darrell, Joseph A. Allen Jr.

"Tarzan's Hidden Jungle" (RKO 1955) Directed by: Harold Schuster. Cast: Gordon Scott, Vera Miles, Peter Van Eyck, Jack Elam, Charles Fredericks, Richard Reeves.

"Lord of the Jungle" (Allied Artists 1955) Directed by: Ford Beebe. Cast: Johnny Sheffield, Wayne Morris, Nancy Hale, Paul Picerni, William Phipps, Smoki Whitfield, Leonard Mudie, James Adamson, Harry Lauter, Joel Fluellen, Juanita Moore.

"The Cyclops" (1957) Directed by: Bert I. Gordon. Cast: Gloria Talbot, James Craig, Lon Chaney Jr.

"Congo Crossing" (Universal 1956) Directed by: Joseph Pevney. Cast: George Nader, Virginia Mayo, Peter Lorre, Michael Pate, Rex Ingram.

"Attack of the Giant Leeches" (1960) Directed by: Bernard L. Kowalski. Cast: Ken Clark, Yvette Vickers.

"Three On A Couch" (Columbia 1966) Directed by: Jerry Lewis. Cast: Jerry Lewis, Janet Leigh, Mary Ann Mobley.

"Too Late the Hero" (ABC Pictures Corp 1970) Directed by: Robert Aldrich. Cast: Michael Caine, Cliff Robertson, Henry Fonda.

"Trader Horn" (MGM 1973) Directed by: Reza Badiyi. Cast: Rod Taylor, Anne Heywood, Jean Sorel, Ed Bernard.

"Marathon Man" (Paramount 1976) Directed by: John Schlesinger. Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Sir Laurence Olivier.

"MacArthur" (Universal 1977) Directed by: Joseph Sargent. Cast: Gregory Peck, Dan O'Herlihy, Ed Flanders.