Spotlighting Latinos in DVD Releases
By Luis Reyes
Tarzan, which is now available on on demand DVD from the Warner Home Video archive, was an NBC TV color series that premiered on the network In 1966 and ran until 1968. It starred Ron Ely as Tarzan, lord of the Jungle and costarred ten year old child actor Manuel Padilla Jr. in a regular role as the jungle boy, Jai.
As Jai, Padilla stole every scene he was in and was a remarkable performer. He dominates several episodes. Padilla had guest starred as a Mexican or Indian boy in TV westerns such as Bonanza, Rawhide and Gunsmoke. He had been featured in the films Dime with a Halo, as a street urchin, Robin and The Seven Hoods, with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and appeared with James Earl Jones in the film The Great White Hope.
Tarzan, though set in Africa was filmed in Mexico and had a decidedly Latin flavor utilizing many Mexican actors and crew members as well as African-American actors from the U.S. After Tarzan, Manuel became a regular on The Flying Nun TV series as Marcello, a little boy who befriends Sally Field as Sister Bertrille. Manuel is perhaps best known to contemporary audiences for his role as Carlos, the Pharaoh’s car club leader in George Lucas’ classic American Graffiti and its sequel More American Graffiti. Born and raised in Burbank, California, Padilla Jr. died in 2008 at the age of 52 from a heart attack.
International film and recording legend Sarita Montiel stars alongside opera singer Mario Lanza in the musical romance drama Serenade (1957) filmed in color, mostly in Mexico.
The story of a farmworker who discovers singing success in San Francisco and runs away from a disastrous love affair only to find redemption in Mexico, is based on a James M. Cain story. Sarita plays Juana, Lanzas’ beautiful Mexican love interest. The Spanish born actress began her career as a teenager in Spain in 1946 which led to a long term film contract in Mexico in 1950. She quickly established herself as one of the most popular actresses of the decade. Her singing in one film led to another musical which catapulted her career to new heights in which she combined the making of films with the recording of highly successful albums and concerts worldwide.
Tarzan, The first Season, on eight discs that feature 30 one hour color episodes are entertaining and fun adventures that the whole family can enjoy. Serenade is also available from Warner Home Video Archive Collection on demand.