Native Texan Ron Ely was born Ronald Pierce on June 21, 1938. In the mid 1950s, he enrolled at the University of Texas, but he soon made his way to California. After signing with 20th Century Fox in the late 1950s, Ely appeared in small roles in several films and television shows, including the films South Pacific and The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker and the TV series How to Marry a Millionaire (1957-1959; with Merry Anders, Barbara Eden, and Lori Nelson). And in 1960 Ely was cast in the CBS series The Aquanauts, but the show was canceled after just one season. Several more films followed, but his big break didn't come until 1966, when the 6'4" actor was cast in the role of Tarzan for the TV series of the same name.

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Ron Ely as Tarzan

Ely had tried out for the role of Tarzan after Jock Mahoney abandoned the role in 1963, but he lost out to football player-turned-actor Mike Henry. Henry made three Tarzan films and was originally cast for the series, but he declined it after some bad experiences while shooting his first Tarzan film. Ely was then cast in the role.

After a number of attempts to create a Tarzan TV series had failed, producer Sy Weintraub finally was able to bring Tarzan to the small screen in 1966. Tarzan aired on NBC beginning in September 1966 and lasted until September 1968, with each episode running at about 47 minutes. In the series, there is no Jane in sight; Tarzan is assisted only by Cheetah and Jai (Manuel Padilla Jr.), an orphan. Citing sagging ratings and rising production costs, NBC canceled Tarzan in 1968. Throughout the run of the series, several films were released, mostly using footage from the series. In the early 1970s, Ely made a number of films in Germany, where he became very popular in a brief series of adventure films. His next hit would come in 1975, with the release of Doc Savage.

the films of ron ely

The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker (1959)

Ron Ely and Jill St. John

With Jill St. John in the 20th Century Fox comedy The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker

The Aquanauts (1960-1961 CBS TV Series)

Ron Ely

As Mike Madigan from the CBS TV series The Aquanauts

Once Before I Die (1966)

Ron Ely

From the Warner Bros. war drama Once Before I Die with Richard Jaeckel. This film was directed by John Derek

The Night of the Grizzly (1966)

Clint Walker and Ron Ely

Clint Walker slaps Ron Ely in Paramount's The Night of the Grizzly

Tarzan (1966-1968 NBC TV Series)

Ron ElyRon ElyRon ElyRon Ely and Manuel Padilla Jr.

LEFT and CENTER: Various shots from Ely's 1966-1968 NBC series Tarzan. RIGHT: With Manuel Padilla Jr. as Jai

Tarzan's Jungle Rebellion (1967)

Ron ElyRon Ely

From Tarzan's Jungle Rebellion

The Cry of the Black Wolves (1972)

Ron Ely

From the Swedish-made adventure The Cry of the Black Wolves, lensed in Austria

Doc Savage (1975)

Ron ElyRon ElyRon Ely Ron Ely and Pamela Hensley

From the Warner Bros. adventure Doc Savage. LEFT and CENTER: Ely as the title character. RIGHT: With Pamela Hensley

Fantasy Island (1978-1984 ABC TV Series)

Ron ElyRon ElyRon Ely

From Ron Ely's guest appearance on ABC-TV's Fantasy Island, episode My Fair Pharoah/The Power, which originally aired on May 10, 1980

Sea Hunt (1987-1988 Syndicated TV Series)

Ron Ely and Kimber Sissons

With Kimber Sissions in the syndicated series Sea Hunt, a reboot of the original series which starred Lloyd Bridges

ron ely today

Since the 1990s, Ron Ely has cooled his acting career, focusing instead on writing mystery novels focusing on the character, Jake Sands. His novels are titled Night Shadows and East Beach, both published in the mid 1990s. Until about 10 years ago, Ely made appearances on popular TV shows, his most recent being Sheena and Renegade. He is now retired from acting.

ron ely dvds available from

ron ely books available from


Slavers (1978) with Ray Milland, Cameron Mitchell, and Britt Eklund
Killing Me Softly (1976) with Senta Berger
Doc Savage (1975) with Paul Gleason, Robyn Hilton, and Pamela Hensley
Halleluja and Sartana Strike Again (1972)
The Cry of the Black Wolves (1972)
Tarzan's Deadly Silence (1970) with Jock Mahoney and Woody Strode
Tarzan and the Four O'Clock Army (1968) with Maurice Evans and Julie Harris
Tarzan and the Perils of Charity Jones (1967) with Woody Strode and Julie Harris
Tarzan's Jungle Rebellion (1967) with Jason Evers, William Marshall, and Nichelle Nichols
Night of the Grizzly (1966) with Clint Walker, Martha Hyer, Keenan Wynn, and Nancy Kulp
Once Before I Die (1965) with John Derek, Ursula Andress, Richard Jaeckel, and Rod Lauren
The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker (1959) with Clifton Webb, Jill St. John, Dorothy McGuire, and Charles Coburn
The Fiend Who Walked the West (1958) with Hugh O'Brian, Robert Evans, and Linda Cristal
South Pacific (1958) with Rossano Brazzi, Mitzi Gaynor, Ray Walston, France Nuyen, Doug McClure, Richard Harrison, Ken Clark, and Tom Laughlin

Sea Hunt, 1987-1988 syndicated TV series
Face the Music, 1979-1981. Ely served as the host of this syndicated game show
Tarzan, 1966-1968 NBC-TV series. The series also aired on CBS from June 1969 through September 1969
The Aquanauts, 1960-1961 CBS TV series (aka Malibu Run)

Sheena, episode The Feral King, originally aired October 13, 2001
Renegade, episode Hard Evidence, originally aired February 19, 1996
Hawkeye, episode Out of the Past, originally aired November 13, 1994
L.A. Law, episode Book of Renovation, Chapter 1, originally aired October 7, 1993
Renegade, episode White Picket Fences, originally aired September 27, 1993
The Hat Squad, episode Family Business, originally aired October 28, 1992
Tarzan, episode Tarzan, the Hunted, originally aired March 8, 1992
The Adventures of Superboy, episode The Road to Hell: Part 2, originally aired May 25, 1991
Blacke's Magic, episode Ten Tons of Trouble, originally aired January 8, 1986
Fantasy Island, episode Goin' on Home/Ambitious Lady, originally aired January 7, 1984
Hotel, episode Charades, originally aired October 19, 1983
Matt Houston, episode A Deadly Parlay, originally aired April 10, 1983
Fantasy Island, episode Eternal Flame/A Date with Burt, originally aired March 5, 1983
The Love Boat, episode The Captain's Crush/Out of My Hair/Off-Course Romance, originally aired February 19, 1983
The Love Boat, episode New York, A.C./Live It Up/All's Fair in Love and War, originally aired February 20, 1982
Fantasy Island, episode The Case Against Mr. Roarke/Save Sherlock Holmes, originally aired February 6, 1982
The Love Boat, episode She Stole His Heart/Return of the Captain's Brother/Swag and Mag, originally aired December 6, 1980
Fantasy Island, episode My Fair Pharaoh/The Power, originally aired May 10, 1980
Fantasy Island, episode The Red Baron/Young at Heart, originally aired October 27, 1979
The New Adventures of Wonder Woman, episode The Deadly Sting, originally aired October 6, 1978
Marcus Welby, M.D., episode To Father a Child, originally aired October 1, 1974
Ironside, episode Killing at the Track, originally aired February 4, 1971
The Courtship of Eddie's Father, episode Pain, originally aired October 22, 1969
Thriller, episode Waxworks, originally aired January 8, 1962
The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, episode The Posse, originally aired May 10, 1960
The Millionaire, episode Millionaire Sergeant Matthew Brogan, originally aired November 24, 1959
How to Marry a Millionaire, episode The Method, originally aired July 30, 1959
Playhouse 90, episode The Second Happiest Day, originally aired June 25, 1959
Steve Canyon, episode The Sergeant, originally aired March 26, 1959
Father Knows Best, episode Crisis Over a Kiss, originally aired February 9, 1959


Tarzan Titles and Air Dates Guide
This site contains a complete listing of all 57 Ron Ely Tarzan episodes, with titles and original air dates.
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