Gordon Scott (August 3, 1926 – April 30, 2007) was an American film and television actor known for his portrayal of the fictional character Tarzan in five films (and one compilation of three made-as-a-pilot television episodes) of the Tarzan film series from 1955 to 1960. Gordon Scott was the eleventh Tarzan, starting with Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle (1955). He was "discovered" poolside, and offered "a 7 year contract, a loin cloth, and a new last name."
Early life, education and military service
He was born Gordon Merrill Werschkul in Portland, Oregon, one of nine children of advertising man Stanley Werschkul and his wife Alice. Scott was raised in Oregon and attended the University of Oregon, located in Eugene, Oregon, for one semester.
Upon leaving school, he was drafted into the United States Army in 1944. He served as a drill sergeant and military policeman until he was honorably discharged in 1947. He then worked at a variety of jobs until 1953, when he was spotted by a talent agent while working as a lifeguard at the Sahara Hotel and Casino, located on the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada.
"Due in part to his muscular frame and 6-foot-3-inch (1.91-metre) height, he was quickly signed to replace Lex Barker as Tarzan" by producer Sol Lesser. Lesser had Gordon change his name because "Werschkul" sounded too much like "Weismueller".
Scott's Tarzan movies ranged from rather cheap re-edited television pilots to large-scale action films with high-production values shot on actual African locations. In his early Tarzan films, he played the character as unworldly and inarticulate, in the mold of Johnny Weissmuller, an earlier Tarzan portrayer. In Scott's later films, after a change in producers, he played a Tarzan who was educated and spoke perfect English, as in the original Edgar Rice Burroughs novels. Scott was the only actor to play Tarzan in both styles.
Fearing he would become typecast as Tarzan, Scott moved to Italy and became a popular star of what were known as sword-and-sandal epics, featuring handsome bodybuilders as various characters from Greek and Roman myth. Scott was a friend of Hercules star Steve Reeves, and collaborated with him as Remus to Reeves's Romulus in Duel of the Titans (1961). Scott also played Hercules in a couple of international co-productions during the mid-1960s. As the Peplum film genre faded, Scott starred in spaghetti westerns and Eurospy films. His final film appearance was in The Tramplers (filmed in 1966; released in the United States in 1968).
Scott was married two times. His first marriage was with Janice Mae Wynkoop, of Oakland, California. They met when he was a lifeguard at Lake Temescal, located in Oakland, California. The couple married in Reno, Nevada, in 1948, and had one child, Karen Judith Werschkul (born August 26, 1948), before divorcing in 1949. He was married to his Tarzan co-star, actress Vera Miles, from 1956 to 1960. He had one son with Miles – Michael, born 1957 – and possibly several other children.
For the last two decades of his life, Scott was a popular guest at film conventions and autograph shows.
Scott died, aged 80, in Baltimore, Maryland, of lingering complications from multiple heart surgeries earlier in the year. He is buried in the Kensico Cemetery, located in Valhalla, New York.
|1955||Tarzan's Hidden Jungle||Tarzan||Scott married co-star Vera Miles|
|1957||Tarzan and the Lost Safari||Tarzan||the first Tarzan film successfully shot and released in color|
|1958||Tarzan's Fight for Life||Tarzan||Scott's only Tarzan film to include the character Jane|
|1958||Tarzan and the Trappers||Tarzan||failed television pilot; not aired until 1966|
|1959||Tarzan's Greatest Adventure||Tarzan||Sean Connery co-starred as a villain|
|1960||Tarzan the Magnificent||Tarzan||Scott's successor in the Tarzan role, Jock Mahoney, played the villain|
|1961||Maciste contro il vampiro||Peplum||Maciste / Samson|
|1961||Samson and the Seven Miracles of the World
(also known as Maciste alla corte del Gran Khan
|sword and sandal||Maciste|
|1961||Duel of the Titans
(also known as Romolo e Remo)
|sword and sandal||Remus|
|1962||Kerim, Son of the Sheik||adventure film||Kerim|
|1962||Gladiator of Rome
(also known as Il gladiatore di Roma)
|1962||A Queen for Caesar
(also known as Una regina per Cesare)
|historical drama film||Julius Caesar|
|1963||Zorro and the Three Musketeers||swashbuckler||Zorro|
|1963||The Shortest Day||Comedy film||Soldato||Uncredited|
|1963||L'eroe di Babilonia||adventure film||Nippur|
|1963||Goliath and the Rebel Slave||Peplum||Goliath / Gordian|
|1963||The Lion of St. Mark||adventure film||Manrico Venier|
|1963||Hercules Against Moloch
(also known as The Conquest of Mycene)
|sword and sandal||Glaucus ('Hercules')|
|1964||Coriolanus: Hero without a Country||historical drama film||Coriolanus|
|1964||Hero of Rome
(also known as Il colosso di Roma)
|historical drama film||Gaius Mucius Scaevola|
|1964||Karim ibn el sheikh||Karim|
|1964||Buffalo Bill, Hero of the Far West
(also known as Buffalo Bill, l'eroe del far wes)
|spaghetti western||Colonel William "Buffalo Bill" Cody|
|1965||Hercules and the Princess of Troy||fantasy film||Hercules||television pilot|
(also known as Gli uomini dal passo pesante)
|spaghetti western||Lon Cordeen|
|1967||Danger!! Death Ray||spy film||Bart Fargo|
|1967||Top Secret||Eurospy film||John Sutton||(final film role)|