A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Denny Miller had a weight room in his garage that bore the sign “Miller’s Body Shop”, which helped him maintain the strapping physique that led to his showbiz breakthrough in a 1959 “Tarzan, the Ape Man” remake.
Working as a mover during summer vacation, the muscular Miller caught the eye of a talent agent and wound up playing Tarzan, billed as “MGM’s sensational new young star!”
Miller only played the Lord of the Jungle once. (The studio had rights to three Tarzan movies, “but the one I did was so bad they didn’t do the other two,” Miller joked in a 2007 Review-Journal interview.)
Yet he remained Tarzan for the rest of his life, as a card-carrying member of what he jokingly called the PTA: the Past Tarzans Association.
Miller was a regular at festivals celebrating his past roles – including, but not restricted to, Tarzan.
Fans of TV Westerns could meet and greet the strapping 6-foot-3 Duke Shannon, the role Miller played on TV’s “Wagon Train.”
During his almost 50-year acting career, Denny Miller appeared on the big screen with such stars as Sidney Poitier, Peter Sellers and Charles Bronson.
He also guest starred on dozens of TV series, from “Gilligan’s Island” (where he spoofed his Tarzan past as Tongo the Ape Man) to “Gunsmoke”, “The Rockford Files” and “Vega$”.
I met Denny a few years back at a western festival and corresponded with him a little after. Super nice guy. When I asked him about Vince Gironda he told me Vince had given him a set of keys to the gym to work out after hours. He was very positive when it came to talking about fitness.
Denny liked to sign “Stay healthy” on letters and autographs.