The First B Movie Superstar: Elmo Lincoln

Elmo Lincoln was an American film actor. Born Otto Elmo Linkenhelt, the barrel-chested actor is best known in his silent movie role as the first person to star as Tarzan (as an adult) (Gordon Griffith played him as a child in the same movie).He was the first Tarzan. A former Arkansas peace officer, Elmo Linkenhelt worked in D.W. Griffith’s “The Battle of Elderbush Gulch” (1912). In a fight scene his shirt was partially torn off, displaying his powerful chest. Griffith noticed, called him over, and told him “That’s quite a chest you have there”. Griffith changed the name to Elmo Lincoln and featured him in several of his films. He got the role in “Tarzan of the Apes” when, a few days after production began, World War I broke out an the man originally contracted to play Tarzan (Winslow Wilson – stocky New York actor and ukulele player) walked off the set and enlisted. The film was a box office smash, one of the first to earn over a million dollars. It’s sequel, “Romance of Tarzan” just broke even. He did three successful serials and a feature for Universal Film Manufacturing before returning in “The Adventures of Tarzan” in 1921, his last Apeman performance. His final silent performance was in a cheap Rayart serial “King of the Jungle” (1927) after which he moved to Mexico and invested in mining. He came back to play a number of bit parts and appeared briefly in the Seal Brothers Circus as “The Original Tarzan in Person”. In 1949 he had a part as a fisherman in “Tarzan’s Magic Fountain”. Just before his death he had a bit part in “Carrie” which starred one of his heroes, Lawrence Olivier.

Elmo Lincoln died of a heart attack in 1952 and was interred in the Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery. For his contribution to the motion picture industry, he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7042 Hollywood Blvd.

In 2001, his daughter Marcia Lincoln Rudolph told his story in her book, My Father, Elmo Lincoln: The Original Tarzan.