- Birth name:
- James H. Pierce
- Date of Birth:
- 11 December 1900 Freedom, Indiana, USA
- 6' 4" (1.93 m)
He had been an all-American center for Indiana University 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.