Ely had tried out for the role of Tarzan, but he lost out to football player turned to actor. Mark 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. Tarzan aired on NBC beginning in September 1966 and lasted until September 1968. In the series, there is no Jane in sight. Tarzan is assisted only by Cheetah and Jai, 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 with the release of Doc Savage.
Ron Ely Today
In the past few years, 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. But on occasion, Ely makes appearances on popular TV shows, his most recent being Sheena and Renegade.