Early studio publicity photo of Gordon Scott
Gordon Scott was born Gordon M. Werschkul on August 3, 1927 in Portland, Oregon. He was the youngest of nine children , all of whom emulated their father, who was a strong man and all-around athlete. The elder Werschkul taught Gordon and his brothers and sisters the secrets of physical fitness and strength and spurred them to proficency in all sports. He left Oregon University after one term in physical education to join the infantry after World War 2 broke out. It didn't take him long to earn his sergeant's stripes and become a drill instructor (specializing in close order drill, use of the rifle, bayonnet and pistol, judo and hand-to-hand combat). Before receiving his honorable discharge in 1947, Gordon became an M.P. (Military Police) and transported dangerous prisoners. He then took a variety of jobs as a fireman, a cowboy on his brother's ranch, a farm machinery salesman and then a lifeguard.
It was while he was a lifeguard (in Las Vegas in 1953 at the Sahara Hotel) that he was discovered by two Hollywood agents, Ed and Walter Mayers. Since Lex Barker had decided not to renew his contract and continue on as Tarzan, Sol Lesser was looking for a replacement. Over 200 candidates were tested before 27 year old Gordon Scott won the role.
"The six-hour screen test consisted of running, jumping, climbing trees, diving into the water and swinging on vines," Gordon would remember of his own screen test, "as well as helping five girls test for the female lead." None of these girls ended up a winner, the role going to Vera Miles, but Gordon was signed to a seven year contract by producer Sol Lesser and became the eleventh actor to play Tarzan.
An interesting sidenote is that while he was a lifeguard, Scott had posed along with Eleanor Holm, Olympic swimming champion and former co-star with Glenn Morris in "Tarzan's Revenge", for a newsreel taken at the Sahara pool. The six-foot-three 218 pound new Tarzan, who had nineteen inch biceps, had his name changed to Gordon Scott. Soon he was the star of his first movie, "Tarzan's Hidden Jungle." He also ended up marrying Vera Miles after the movie was completed, but the two were divorced a few years later.
Gordon Scott and Eve Brent in a publicity photo from Tarzan's Fight For Life
Gordon made five Tarzan movies and a few pilots for a proposed television series, but because of a question of who owned the rights to do a TV series, the three pilots were shelved until 1966, when they were edited together as a TV movie named "Tarzan And The Trappers." Sy Weintraub had bought the Tarzan rights from Sol Lesser and was changing the image of the Lord of the jungle away from the more simplistic way Johnny Weissmuller had played him for MGM since 1932. Gordon had made two excellent films for Weintraub and partner Harvey Hayutin, "Tarzan's Greatest Adventure" and "Tarzan The Magnificent." They had revitalized the Tarzan franchise, but Weintraub wasn't done yet. He bought out his partner Hayutin and then, after coming to an agreement with Gordon Scott, hired Jock Mahoney, the villain in "Magnificent", to became the next Tarzan.
Gordon Scott went to Europe and appeared in Italian muscleman epics like "Duel Of The Titans" with friend Steve Reeves, "Samson and the Seven Miracles Of the World" and "Goliath And The Vampires." He also made a few spaghetti westerns, including "Zorro and the Three Musketeers", "Buffalo Bill" and "The Tramplers" before retiring from films altogether. He spent the later years of his life going to nostalgia conventions, meeting many of his fans and signing autographs. Sadly he passed away May 3, 2007. Here is his obituary from the L.A. Times:
Gordon Scott, an actor known for his portrayal of jungle superman Tarzan in six films and later roles in westerns and sword-and-sandals gladiator movies, died Monday at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore of complications from several heart surgeries. He was 80.
Scott had spent the last five years living with friends Roger and Betty Thomas in Baltimore. Betty Thomas said that since October, the former film star had been in failing health and was in and out of a nursing home and several hospitals.
An unknown hotel lifeguard in the 1950s, Scott managed to beat out 200 other would-be Tarzans from across the world who had auditioned for the part by climbing trees, jumping into pools and swinging from ersatz vines for six hours.
He was an impressive physical and athletic specimen, standing 6 feet 3, weighing 218 pounds and gifted with 19-inch biceps.
In 1953, he was awarded a seven-year contract by producer Sol Lesser, becoming the 11th Tarzan in replacing Lex Barker as the "Jungle King," who was created by novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs.
After his first film, "Tarzan's Hidden Jungle" (1955), Scott married co-star Vera Miles. The couple divorced four years later.
The film was followed by "Tarzan and the Lost Safari" (1957), "Tarzan's Fight for Life" (1958), "Tarzan and the Trappers" (1958), "Tarzan's Greatest Adventure" (1959), with co-stars Sean Connery and Anthony Quayle, and "Tarzan the Magnificent" (1960).
"He was an absolutely wonderful Tarzan, who played the character as an intelligent and nice man who carried himself well, much as my grandfather had originally written it," said Danton Burroughs of Tarzana. "He also gave a wonderful rendition of Tarzan's call which didn't have so much yodel in it."
But Scott, having had his fill of Tarzan, moved to Italy in 1960 and appeared in films such as "Hercules" and "Buffalo Bill, Hero of the Far West."
His last film, "The Tramplers," made in 1966 with co-stars Joseph Cotten and James Mitchum, was released in 1968.
Scott supported himself later by attending autograph shows and film conventions and living off residuals.
"He was always a big spender and loved to party," his brother, Rafield Werschkul, said. "If he had one weakness, it was women. They were always hitting on him."
In a recent interview with the weekly Baltimore City Paper, Scott said that being an actor "is one thing I never thought about doing, but once you're in it, it spoils you for anything else if you're successful at it. The money's so easy, you meet beautiful people. My God, that's the ideal situation — kind of a fantasy world. It's the best way to travel too. First class, and you get to see a lot of interesting places."
Born Gordon M. Werschkul on Aug. 3, 1926, in Portland, Ore., he took up bodybuilding as a teenager. He attended the University of Oregon for a year after high school and was drafted into the Army in 1944, serving as a drill sergeant and military policeman until 1947.
After the war he moved to Las Vegas, where he became a lifeguard at the Sahara Hotel. He changed his last name to Scott after landing the role of Tarzan.
He had at least three marriages, family members said, and is believed to have had at least three children.
In addition to his brother, known survivors include two sisters, Janice McKeel of Salem, Ore., and Betty Lou Hyatt of Sisters, Ore.
(from the Internet Movie Database)
Gordon Scott in a scene from Hercules and the Princess of Troy
Raggio infernale, Il (1967) .... Bart Fargo
... aka Danger!! Death Ray (1967)
... aka Death Ray (1967)
... aka Nido de espías (1968) (Spain: dubbed version)
Segretissimo (1966) .... John Sutton
... aka Secretísimo (1967) (Spain: dubbed version)
Uomini dal passo pesante, Gli (1966) .... Lon Cordeen
... aka Showdown (1966)
... aka Tramplers, The (1966) (USA)
Hercules and the Princess of Troy (1965) (TV) .... Hercules
... aka Hercules Vs. the Sea Monster (1965) (TV)
Buffalo Bill, le héros du far west (1964) .... Buffalo Bill
... aka Attaque de Fort Adams, L' (1964)
... aka Buffalo Bill, Hero of the Far West (1964)
... aka Buffalo Bill, l'eroe del far west (1964) (Italy)
... aka Das war Buffalo Bill (1964) (West Germany)
Colosso di Roma, Il (1964)
Coriolano: eroe senza patria (1963) .... Coriolanus
... aka Coriolanus: Hero Without a Country (1963)
... aka Thunder of Battle (1963)
Ercole contro Molock (1963) .... Glauco/Hercules
... aka Conquest of Mycene (1964) (USA)
... aka Conquista di Micene, La (1963) (Italy: alternative title)
... aka Hercule contre Moloch (1963) (France)
... aka Hercules Against Moloch (1964) (USA)
... aka Hercules Vs. the Molloch (1963)
Eroe di Babilonia, L' (1963) .... Maciste
... aka Beast of Babylon Against the Son of Hercules, (1963-USA)
... aka Goliath, King of Slaves (1963)
... aka Hero of Babylon (1963)
Goliath e la schiava ribelle (1963)
... aka Goliath, the Rebel Slave (1963) (USA)
Leone di San Marco, Il (1963) .... Manrico Masiero
... aka Leone di San Marco, Il (1963) (Italy)
... aka Lion of St. Mark, The (1963)
... aka Marauder, The (1963) (USA)
Gordon Scott played Zorro in Zorro and the Three Musketeers
(also known as Mark of the Musketeers)
Zorro e i tre moschiettieri (1963)
... aka Zorro and the Three Musketeers (1963)
Figlio dello sceicco, Il (1962)
... aka Retour du fils du sheik, Le (1962) (France)
Giorno più corto, Il (1962)
... aka Giorno più corto commedia umoristica, Il (1962)
... aka Shortest Day, The (1962) (USA)
Gladiatore di Roma, Il (1962) .... Marcus
... aka Battles of the Gladiators (1962) (USA)
... aka Gladiator of Rome (1962)
Regina per Cesare, Una (1962)
... aka Queen for Caesar, A (1962) (USA: dubbed version)
Maciste alla corte del Gran Khan (1961) .... Samson
... aka Goliath and the Golden City (1961)
... aka Géant a la cour de Kublai Khan, Le (1963) (France)
... aka Maciste at the Court of the Great Khan (1961)
... aka Samson and the Seven Miracles of the World (1961) (USA)
Maciste contro il vampiro (1961) .... Maciste (Goliath)
... aka Goliath and the Island of Vampires (1961)
... aka Goliath and the Vampires (1964) (USA)
... aka Maciste Vs. the Vampire (1961)
... aka Vampires, The (1964) (USA)
Romolo e Remo (1961) .... Remus
... aka Duel of the Titans (1963) (USA)
Gordon Scott in a scene from the first color Tarzan movie, Tarzan and the Lost Safari
Tarzan the Magnificent (1960) .... Tarzan
Tarzan's Greatest Adventure (1959) .... Tarzan
Tarzan and the Trappers (1958) .... Tarzan
Tarzan's Fight for Life (1958) .... Tarzan
Tarzan and the Lost Safari (1957) .... Tarzan
Tarzan's Hidden Jungle (1955) .... Tarzan
Gordon Scott and the late Steve Reeves in Duel of the Titans
(also called Romulus and Remus)