Planet of the Apes Revisited: The Role of the Chicago Underworld in the Shaping of Modern America

Planet of the Apes Revisited: The Role of the Chicago Underworld in the Shaping of Modern America

by Joe Russo, Larry Landsman

Paperback(First Edition)



For the first time ever, the complete, provocative history behind the motion picture series that began a new tradition in science fiction film sagas.

Planet of the Apes Revisited is the colorful, factual account of the science fiction milestone Planet of the Apes and the series of movies and TV shows it inspired. Through exclusive interviews with cast and crew and access to the personal archives of Arthur P. Jacobs, the producer and originator of the first film and all its spin-offs, Joe Russo and Larry Landsman present a fascinating, in-depth look at the entire Apes canon, featuring:

Rare, behind-the-scenes photographs Deails on special effects and makeup Story and screenplay developments On-the-set changes and post-production edits Behind-the-scenes anecdotes A chapter on Tim Burton's "reimagining" of the classic Planet of the Apes

The book also serves as an invaluable reference volume on Hollywood filmmaking and the many personalities who are part of the legend and lore of this outstanding adventure series. The most comprehensive guide available, Planet of the Apes Revisited vividly re-creates the history, the sticky studio politics, and the fascinating creative process that resulted in this unprecedented science fiction phenomenon.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312252397
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 08/11/2001
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 7.48(w) x 9.42(h) x 0.82(d)

About the Author

Joe Russo and Larry Landsman are freelance writers who met in 1974 through the enthusiasm they share for the Apes series. They began research for Planet of the Apes Revisited over fifteen years ago and have since gone on to write several pieces on the Apes saga, including features in Starlong and Sci-Fi Universe. In addition to being a devoted Apes fan, Mr. Russo enjoys a successful career as a musician. When is he not touring with his band, he resides in New Jersey. Mr. Landsman works in public relations for the entertainment industry. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, Alyson, and two sons, Jared and Justin.

Edward Gross is the author of numerous nonfiction books, including Captain's Logs: The Complete Trek Voyages, X Files: Confidential, and The Alien Nation Companion. He has also written for a variety of magazines, among them Cinefantastique, Fangoria, Comic Scenes and Premiere.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Road to the

As 1998 was nearing a close, the science fiction world in general, and the World Wide Web in particular, was abuzz.

    George Lucas had just gone on-line with the teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the first entry in that film series to be produced in sixteen years; Paramount Pictures was about to release the ninth Star Trek feature film, Insurrection; and Twentieth Century Fox was busy celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of Planet of the Apes.

    It was all pretty heady stuff, particularly when one considers that back at the time of Planet's release in 1968, sci-fi was a four-letter word that no studio executive in his right mind would willingly embrace. The genre was pretty much dismissed, its primary audience considered to be children who couldn't handle a sophisticated or philosophical approach. Certainly there had been exceptions along the way—among them Forbidden Planet and The Day the Earth Stood Still—but as far as mainstream Hollywood was concerned, sci-fi was best epitomized by television's Lost in Space. Indeed, even the original Star Trek was struggling ratings-wise on NBC at the time. But one man—producer Arthur P. Jacobs—believed when no one else would.

    "It started in Paris in 1963," the late Jacobs had recalled to the press. "I was looking for material, and I would meet with various literary agents. [They] asked me what Iwas looking for and I said, 'I wish King Kong hadn't been made so I could make it.' I [also] said, 'What I would like to find is something like King Kong.' I didn't want to make King Kong, because you can't do that. About six months later, I was in Paris and a literary agent called me, came over and said he had a new novel by Francoise Saigan. I read it and wasn't too fascinated. Then he said, 'Speaking of King Kong, I've got a thing here, and it's so far out I don't think you can make it. It can't be filmed. How can you make talking apes believable?' He told me the story and I said, 'I'll buy it—gotta buy it.' He said, 'I think you're crazy, but okay.' So I bought it and that's how it came about."

    In 1971, he summarized the early years of Planet of the Apes' development: "I spent about three and a half years of everyone refusing to make the movie. First, I had sketches made, and went through six sets of artists to get the concept, but none of them were right. Finally, I hit on a seventh one and said, 'That's how it should look.' Then, I showed the sketches to the studios and they said, 'No way.' Then I got Rod Serling to do the screenplay and went to everybody again—absolute turndown. I even went to J. Arthur Rank in England, and Samuel Bronston in Spain. Everyone said no. Then I figured I needed a top director to sell the package. Blake Edwards took it to J. L. Warner and they were both crazy about it. But then they got into a fight, and when Warner saw the high budget, he said, 'Forget about the apes.' So then I figured, maybe if I got an actor involved. I sent the script to Marlon Brando, who said he didn't understand it. Then I sent it to Charlton Heston who, in one hour, said yes. Then Heston suggested Franklin Schaffner as director, and he also said yes. Now I have Heston, Schaffner, a screenplay, and all the sketches. I go right back to everybody and they throw me out again.

    "I went to Richard Zanuck at Fox," Jacobs elaborated, "and he turned it down, saying, 'Nobody will believe Charlton Heston talking to an ape.' I finally convinced [him] to let me make a test, and I got Heston and Edward G. Robinson, with Schaffner directing it. I showed it to Zanuck, who really got excited over it. Rod Serling wrote a long, nine-page scene, a conversation between Taylor and Dr. Zaius, which was condensed in the final film. Everyone still thought that no one would believe an ape talking to a man, and I said, 'I will prove it to you that they will believe it.' We packed the screening room with everyone we could get a hold of, and Zanuck said, 'If they start laughing, forget it.' Nobody laughed, they sat there tense, and he said, 'Make the picture.'"

    Despite the fact that Jacobs made the creation of Planet of the Apes sound like an exercise in simplicity, the truth is that it took several very long and arduous years before Zanuck uttered the words, "Okay, go."

In the Beginning

Planet of the Apes' origin can probably be traced back to Irish satirist and poet Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), whose literary works included Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World by Lemuel Gulliver (1726), imagining a world not dissimilar to the one that Pierre Boulle had imagined. Popularly known as Gulliver's Travels (collected and revised in 1735), this four-book epic went about marooning its central character in a number of alien cultures, each of which contrasted sharply with Gulliver's world. In this way, Swift was able to address what he believed to be the absurdities of the eighteenth-century British society from which he came.

    Swift's most biting parody—and the one which Boulle must have borrowed as a basis for his novel—was Book IV: "A Voyage to the Houyhnhnms." Gulliver finds himself stranded in a society of intelligent horses, who do not (for example) understand human concepts such as war, the telling of lies, or sexual passion. In fact, humans are commonly referred to as Yahoos by the Houyhnhnms, and are shunned by the graceful creatures. When Gulliver's ship is wrecked and he first washes ashore, he is mistaken as a Yahoo by the Houyhnhnms. As a result, he is caged and marked for extermination. Gradually, though, his intelligent actions reveal Gulliver to be "civilized." He is adopted by one of the Houyhnhnms, and quickly learns much about their advanced but emotionally sterile society. The Houyhnhnms (like Star Trek's Vulcans several centuries later) have purged all emotions from their society, and structured lives devoted to pure reason. While Gulliver may admire the horses for their intellect, he finds them soulless; and yet he has nothing in common with the bestial humans. By the end of the story, the ship's captain is ready to return to his less-than-perfect English society. Swift reminds us that no matter how bad we may find some of the political or cultural aspects of our society, ironically, it is still our society.

    Similarly, the great English novelist, Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) wrote about another dystopia, set in 2108 after an atomic and bacteriological war has devastated most of the world and apes now rule in place of man. Written in 1948 as an original screenplay (later published in book form), Ape and Essence follows the attempts of a human biologist to make sense out of the topsy-turvy world he is in. When a group of researchers from New Zealand—the last bastion of human society untouched by the final war—arrive in postholocaust Los Angeles, Alfred "Stagnant" Poole is captured by ruthless, de-evolved humans. He discovers their society has gone savagely wrong, with science being replaced by a type of devil worship. A baboon culture, on the other hand, living concurrently with the humans, is far more civilized, and has replaced man's society with one modeled after Hollywood's golden age. The baboons are contemptuous of the savage humans, and take steps to limit their reproduction by introducing the new creed of Belial, which preaches sexual abstinence (for all but two days out of the year). Poole is shocked by all he sees, and returns by his schooner to New Zealand with news that America is beyond hope of salvation.

    The pessimism of Huxley's book is unalleviated, and its presentation, as the work of a misanthropic screenwriter, pokes fun not only at human folly but also the Hollywood system. His work nicely anticipates the kind of struggle that Arthur P. Jacobs would eventually go through to turn Boulle's novel into a film.

Monkey Planet

La planete des Singes, a witty, philosophical novel that fits in nicely with Karel Capek and other social satirists of the day, was first published in 1963. The idea of a world where apes had evolved into an intelligent society and where humans were hunted or enslaved was hardly a new one, but Boulle's ironic yet compassionate message, pinpointing many of the problems he saw in the world, struck a raw nerve. His novel was translated by Xan Fielding into English, and released in Great Britain as Monkey Planet; later retitled Planet of the Apes for its American release. Few realized at the time the kind of impact the novel would have upon Arthur P. Jacobs and the Hollywood establishment, but Boulle, for his part, simply regarded it as one of his minor works.

    Pierre Boulle was born in Avignon, France, on February 20, 1912. Trained as an electrical engineer, he spent eight years in Malaysia as a planter and a soldier. He wrote both William Conrad, his first novel, and his best-known work, The Bridge Over the River Kwai, while he was stationed there. When he returned home a disillusioned ex-patriot, he began writing moral fables to contrast his profound experience in Asia with those absurdities of life in France. Three of his books—Contest de L'Absurde (1953), E=MC2 (1957), and Garden on the Moon (1965)—took to task his distress about science and man's overdependency on machines. While the press had classified them as works of science fiction, Boulle rejected that label, preferring to call his work social fantasy.

    When he wrote the novel that became Planet of the Apes, Boulle was inspired by a visit to the zoo where he watched gorillas. "I was impressed by their humanlike expressions," he told the press. "It led me to dwell upon and imagine the relationships between humans and apes." Sketching out the novel over a period of six months, Boulle called upon several familiar devices—almost cliches—to tell his story. He wasn't interested in writing a science fiction novel, but in order to get his characters from the earth to his imaginary world, he relied on space travel and Einstein's theory of relativity.

    Monkey Planet, structured in many ways like Swift's Gulliver's Travels and other incredible literary journeys from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, begins within a story frame. Jinn and Phyllis, a wealthy couple of leisure, are rocketing around the cosmos on holiday when they discover a message in a bottle. Written in some ancient dialect that Jinn thinks might have originated on a forgotten green world known as Earth, the multilingual space traveler translates for his wife.

    The novel tells of the exploits of a trio of earth astronauts who come to a distant planet inhabited by intelligent apes, while humans are savages. One of these astronauts-Ulysses Merou, a journalist by trade—finds himself in a society that is very much earthlike, with cities, automobiles, planes, and so on; a society that has no use for humans and to which he must defend his kind. In the interim, he falls in love with a savage woman, Nova, to whom he teaches language and who becomes pregnant with his child. It is only through the efforts of chimpanzees Cornelius and Zira that Merou escapes from orangutan leader Dr. Zaius's murderous plans for him. Ultimately the man and his "family" make it aboard his orbiting space vessel and head back to earth, ignoring the fact that nearly eight centuries will have passed since he left. In the end, he is stunned to learn that in his absence the same evolution has occurred—apes have become the dominant species, man the lower life-form. Returning to the framing stow, the final moment reveals that Jinn and Phyllis are chimpanzees.

    To readers, the ending was quite a shock, seeming the perfect conclusion to a tale that had so successfully captured the imagination. At the time—in an age long before computer-generated imagery (CGI)—no one imagined that such a vision could be brought to the motion picture screen.

    Well, almost no one.

Hollywood Goes Ape ... Eventually

Arthur P. Jacobs was born on March 7, 1922, and in some ways had life stacked against him. Yet as chronicled in many a Hollywood saga, he managed to rise above the obstacles thrown in his path.

    Destiny chose to make him an orphan, his father dying in a car accident and his mother losing a bout with cancer, but Arthur Jacobs chose not to allow himself to drown in emotional pain. Instead, he put himself through school and college, attending the University of Southern California. From there he took a job in the MGM mailroom, having fallen in love with Hollywood and grown determined to somehow be involved in the industry. Within two years he worked his way in to the publicity department of both MGM and Warner Bros., before setting up his own public relations firm that he ran from 1947 to 1962. That firm, known today as Rogers & Cowan, was originally called Rogers, Cowan & Jacobs, and had amassed such clients as the Principality of Monaco, American Airlines, David O. Selznick, Judy Garland, Rock Hudson, Richard Burton, Gregory Peck, James Stewart, and Marilyn Monroe. "Arthur knew everybody," exclaims Mort Abrahams, who would eventually become Associate Producer of Arthur P. Jacobs (APJAC) Productions. "At one time or another, he represented just about anyone you could think of. He was a fantastic publicist."

    Frank Capra, Jr., who would also serve as associate producer at APJAC, notes, "The company was one of the premier entertainment publicity firms in the country."

    That being the case, it was, to say the least, risky for Jacobs to leave that secure position and venture into the highly volatile world of motion picture producing, but he refused to be deterred from his dream.

    Andy Knight, a friend of Jacobs's for many years, offers, "Arthur treated failure and success equally. He enjoyed success, obviously. It's human nature. But public relations, as you know, is a lucrative business, especially if you have name clients like Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, and people like that. He had very good literary people, too, like Ernest Hemingway. Obviously when you leave a lucrative business like that to embark on a rather precarious producing kind of business, you're taking a chance. As a producer, you don't know whether you're going to make any money or not, because there you are a captive audience as far as your public is concerned. If the picture takes off, you make a mint. With the most artistic picture, if the public doesn't go to see it, it's not worth the film it's printed on, is it? It may win an Oscar or whatever, but it still doesn't put any butter on your bread, right? It may not even put any bread in you] So, obviously, in the time that it took—preproduction, talking stages—until a picture was made, it was always tough."

    Director J. Lee Thompson, perhaps best known as the helmer of The Guns of Naverone and who would eventually helm the fourth and fifth entries in the Apes film series, met and became instant friends with Jacobs in 1959. "He hadn't been a producer at all," the soft-spoken Englishman smiles. "He came in one morning at breakfast and gave me a little card and said, 'Would this appeal to you?' And it said, 'Marilyn Monroe in What a Way to Go!, with Paul Newman, Grace Kelly, and a lot of other people.' I ended up directing that film, which Arthur made his debut on as producer."

    In attempting to encapsulate the nature of Arthur P. Jacobs, Thompson explains that Marilyn Monroe committed suicide before she commenced work on the 1964 comedy. "Arthur was the first person who told me she was dead," he notes. "He rang me early one morning and said, 'Marilyn has committed suicide.' I was, you know, naturally shocked. And there was a pause on the telephone before Arthur said, 'What about Elizabeth Taylor?' Which sums up the delightful Arthur who I enjoyed. He just lived films and nothing was going to get in his way to do films and become a producer."

    Natalie Trundy, destined to become Jacobs's only wife, is a perfect example of the producer's tenacity; a physical reinforcement of the fact that when he found something he wanted, he would go after it until he had achieved his goal.

    Trundy began her career as a model at the age of eleven, and then starred in a live television adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood. At fourteen she managed to score roles in several plays, which led to producer Sam Taylor noticing her and ultimately deciding to cast Trundy in The Monte Carlo Story. It was during the making of this film—while she was still only fifteen—that Trundy met Arthur Jacobs.

    "At the time," she says, "he wasn't a producer, he was the film's publicist. Because he was twenty-five years older than me, he said to my mother, 'When she grows up, I'm going to marry her.' And he did. He kept track of me all through my youth, and so now here I am living in London with a friend, Vanessa. She worked for my [future] husband. There was one night in London when the Playboy Club opened in 1965 or 1966. He was sitting at the bar alone having a drink and she said to him, 'Well, what's wrong with you?' And he said, 'I'm very lonely.' And she said to him, 'Well, what's your name?' He said, 'My name is Arthur P. Jacobs,' and she said, 'Oh, I work in your office.' He told her that he was in love with one person and Vanessa asked who it was. He said, 'Natalie Trundy. She's the only one I ever wanted to marry.' So now Vanessa comes home to our flat. She woke me up and said, 'Natalie, you will never believe who I ran into this evening. Arthur P. Jacobs has said that you're the only one he wants to marry.' And I said, 'Great, can I go back to sleep now?' The next morning the telephone rings. 'Ms. Trundy? Mr. Arthur Jacobs is on the telephone.' And so I said, 'Hello.' He said, 'I'm in love with you, we're going to get married.' I said, 'I don't think so. First of all, I'm just a kid, you're about twenty-five or twenty-four years older than me.' And he said, 'I will take care of you for the rest of your life.' I said, 'Arthur Jacobs, you're a wonderful man, I assume, howsoever, I'm not ready to get married to anyone. I live here with Vanessa and her child, James, and we have a very nice life here.' And he said, 'Oh well, we will take care of that.' Then Vanessa comes home, because she worked for him, and said, 'You stupid idiot, he's so in love with you!' I said, 'So what, you think I care?' Anyway, we did end up together and of course we ended up getting married [in 1968]."

    Jack Hirshberg, a journalist and publicist who would be given the title of vice president of APJAC Productions, remembers Jacobs fondly. "He was a lovely man and a very unusual man," says Hirshberg, who handled publicity on all five Apes films. "He was a man who, I think, was very underrated in the movie business. The great thing about working with him, aside from the personal relationship and my fondness for him, was that he believed in doing things right. He was a great movie fan and he made movies from the point of view of a movie fan. Like a lot of other people, he wasn't self-indulgent and figured he wouldn't do something very artyschmarty and so forth to glorify his own name. We didn't do anything dirty. There wasn't a single dirty word in anything that we did. There wasn't even a dirty plot. I suppose the closest we ever came to it was in Play it Again, Sam, and that was a really great comedy. There wasn't anything the whole family couldn't go to see. And that was his whole approach to movies—he had great respect for movies as the old-fashioned moviemakers made them, and whatever we did we really did it right. I think the box office results of the pictures that APJAC made testify to that. He had a great feel for what the public would accept and would buy."

    According to Natalie Trundy, Jacobs's objective all along was to produce family-oriented product, such as Doctor Dolittle and, later on, the Apes films, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. So serious was he in this intent, that he even relinquished the rights he owned to the first X-rated Hollywood film, Midnight Cowboy (ultimately an Oscar-winner starring Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight).

    "If Arthur had made that film, I would be six million dollars richer," says Trundy matter-of-factly, "but he wouldn't do it because of the subject matter. If you couldn't take the whole family to see it, then he wouldn't do it. He was really a family man and loved children. All he ever wanted was to have children, so we would borrow our friends' kids when they'd go away for the weekend."

    Jacobs's friend Andy Knight recalls the Midnight Cowboy situation a little bit differently. "One Saturday morning a friend and associate of his by the name of Jerry Hellerman came in with a script and he and Arthur went for a walk," he says. "When Arthur came back, he was enraged. And he said, 'How dare Jerry even suggest for me to make a faggot picture?' He turned Jerry and Midnight Cowboy down. And Arthur told this stow to everybody. You know, 'That day I could have been a multimillionaire over night and I threw him out.' It simply wasn't his bag. The moment the picture was a success, he would always tell that story. In many ways, Arthur was very straight-laced and old-fashioned. He would have to have two or three drinks before he would use any swear words."

    As noted earlier, Jacobs had made his producing debut on 1964's What a Way to Go!, a black comedy starring a who's who of Hollywood, including Shirley MacLaine, Paul Newman, Gene Kelly, and Dean Martin. So enamored was Fox with the production—even before its extremely successful release—that Jacobs could almost write his own ticket. According to Mort Abrahams, he first tried to cash in that ticket on Doctor Dolittle and then Planet of the Apes.

    "In 1963," Abrahams explains, "Arthur had gone to France and met with Allain Bernheim, who was a literary agent in Paris—and he was a friend of Arthur's, and he gave him the Pierre Boulle novel. Arthur read it and was immediately struck by it—called [Twentieth Century Fox chieftan] Richard Zanuck, who was, I believe, in London at the time. Arthur called him from Paris and gave him a kind of two-sentence description on the phone, and Zanuck said, 'I'll buy it for you.' And he did—he [optioned the rights] for Arthur. Zanuck was so intrigued with this thirty-second synopsis on the phone that he never really stopped to consider the problem of actually turning the book into a film."

    Jacobs was immediately convinced that Boulle's Monkey Planet had all the markings of a high-concept film that would attract mass movie audiences. Together with J. Lee Thompson he began pursuing the idea of adapting the novel to the screen. To this end, he requested that Bernheim forward him several copies of the novel, which he passed on to, among others, MGM, Paramount Pictures, and—amazingly—Marlon Brando. Having scored so successfully in A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront, it was felt that Brando's interest would be all the clout necessary to get the film a green light.

    Wrote Jacobs to the legendary actor, "J. Lee Thompson and I have acquired the rights to make this film, and we think it is one of the most exciting projects and certainly the most unusual in many, many years ... Due to the unusual and unique aspects of this film, it was our thought that prior to consummating a distribution deal, we first submit it to you for your reaction. You are, of course, the first actor to whom this property has been submitted, and Lee and I feel you will share our enthusiasm for what we think can be one of the most exciting films ever made ... Our thought is that if the material excites you as it does us, it could then be put together in any manner which would best suit your needs ... As the book is coming out shortly, we want to effect an immediate distribution arrangement, so if you have any interest whatsoever, I would greatly appreciate if you would cable me."


Excerpted from PLANET OF THE APES REVISITED by Joe Russo and Larry Landsman with Edward Gross. Copyright © 2001 by Joe Russo and Larry Landsman. Excerpted by permission.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Charlton Hestonxi
1 The Road to the Planet of the Apes1
2 Planet of the Apes37
3 Beneath the Planet of the Apes93
4 Escape from the Planet of the Apes143
5 Conquest of the Planet of the Apes177
6 Battle for the Planet of the Apes203
7 Television Goes Ape225
8 Remaking the Planet of the Apes249

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