Ron Ely (center) as Tarzan, 1968.
Ronald Pierce Ely
June 21, 1938
Hereford, Texas, U.S.
|Years active||1957–2001, 2014–present|
(m. 1984; died 2019)
Ely is best known for having portrayed Tarzan in the 1966–1968 NBC series Tarzan and for playing the lead role in the film Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975). He hosted the Miss America pageant telecast in 1980 and 1981.
Ely won the role of Tarzan in 1966 after playing supporting roles in films such as South Pacific (1958), as an airplane navigator, The Fiend Who Walked the West (1958) and The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker (1959).
Ely's height (6'4") and athletic build also won him the title role in the film Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975), as well as various guest shots. He was in five episodes of the series Fantasy Island; in one, in 1978, Ely portrayed Mark Antony in a Roman military short tunic and breastplate. Also in 1978, Ely starred in the Wonder Woman television series two-part episode "The Deadly Sting."
Ely starred on the series The Aquanauts in 1960–1961, in the western adventure film The Night of the Grizzly (1966) opposite Clint Walker, and later appeared in Jürgen Goslar's slavery movie Slavers (1978). In the 1980s, he hosted the musical game show Face the Music, as well as the 1980 and 1981 Miss America Pageants, replacing longtime host Bert Parks. Later in the decade, Ely starred in a 1987–1988 revival of the 1960s adventure series Sea Hunt as Mike Nelson, the role played by Lloyd Bridges in the original series.
In the 1990s, Ely’s roles included a retired Superman from an alternative reality in the 1991 two-part episode "The Road to Hell" of the Superboy syndicated television series, and a big game hunter named Gordon Shaw in the 1992 episode "Tarzan the Hunted" of the syndicated Tarzán TV series (starring Wolf Larson). Until about 2001, Ely made appearances on such television shows as Sheena and Renegade.
Ely had retired from acting in 2001, but he returned to acting with an appearance in the television movie Expecting Amish (2014).
Ely embarked on a professional writing career and has authored two published mystery novels featuring private eye Jake Sands: Night Shadows (1994) and East Beach (1995).
Ron Ely married his high school sweetheart Janet in 1959. Both natives of Hereford, Texas, they stayed together until their divorce in July 1961. He later married Miss Florida USA (1981), Valerie Lundeen and they had three children: Kirsten, Kaitland, and Cameron.
On October 15, 2019, Valerie Lundeen was found stabbed to death at the Hope Ranch residential community along the Santa Barbara coast where the couple lived; Ron Ely was unharmed. Police were called to the scene for a "family disturbance", and a suspect identified as the couple's son Cameron was shot dead by police. In October 2020, Ron Ely challenged the Santa Barbara District Attorney after the police's actions were described as justifiable homicide by the district attorney and no charges were filed against the deputies who were involved in the shooting.
|1958||The Fiend Who Walked the West||Deputy Jim Dyer|
|1959||The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker||Wilbur Fielding|
|1966||The Night of the Grizzly||Tad Curry|
|1966||Once Before I Die||Soldier|
|1972||Der Schrei der schwarzen Wölfe||Bill Robinson|
|1972||Alleluja & Sartana Are Sons... Sons of God||Hallelujah|
|1975||Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze||Clark Savage Jr. aka Doc|
|1976||MitGift||Dr. Kurt Jahn|
|1986||Sea Hunt||Mike Nelson|
|2014||Expecting Amish||Elder Miller|
|1959||Father Knows Best||Jerry Preston||Episode: Crisis Over a Kiss|
|1959||Steve Canyon||Pete Randall||Episode: The Sergeant|
|1959||Playhouse 90||Buddy||Episode: The Second Happiest Day|
|1959||How to Marry a Millionaire||Philip Jackson||Episode: The Method|
|1959||The Millionaire||Jim Phillips||Episode: Millionaire Sergeant Matthew Brogan|
|1959||The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis||Dobie's Older Brother||Episode: Pilot|
|1960||The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp||Arleigh Smith||Episode: The Posse|
|1961||The Aquanauts||Mike Madison||18 Episodes|
|1962||Thriller||Lt. Mike Hudson||Episode: Waxworks|
|1969||The Courtship of Eddie's Father||Ronald||Episode: Pain|
|1971||Ironside||Scott Bradley||Episode: A Killing at the Track|
|1974||Marcus Welby, M.D.||Ben Brecht||Episode: To Father a Child|
|1978||Wonder Woman||Bill Michaels||Episode: The Deadly Sting|
|1979–1984||Fantasy Island||Fred Spenser / Burt Hunter / Kevin Lansing Eric Williams / Marc Anthony / Baron Manfred von Richthofen||5 Episodes|
|1980–1981||The Love Boat||Ted Cole / Jim / Steve Swaggart / Darryl Brewster||3 Episodes|
|1983||Matt Houston||Winston Fowler||Episode: A Deadly Parlay|
|1983||Hotel||Evan Paige||Episode: Charades|
|1987||Sea Hunt||Mike Nelson||Episode: Toxic Waste|
|1991||Superboy||Superman||Episode: The Road to Hell: Part 2|
|1992||Tarzán||Gordon Shaw||Episode: Tarzan, the Hunted|
|1992||The Hat Squad||Carl Strong||Episode: Family Business|
|1993||L.A. Law||Episode: Book of Renovation, Chapter 1|
|1993–1994||Renegade||Gen. Howard Bird / Reverend McClain||2 Episodes|
|1994||Hawkeye||Harry March||Episode: Out of the Past|
|2001||Sheena||Bixby||Episode: The Feral King|
- "BnF catalog entry for Ron Ely". Bibliothèque nationale de France. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
- "Ron Ely: Woman found dead at Tarzan star's California home". BBC News. October 16, 2019.
- "'Tarzan' actor Ron Ely's wife killed; son shot by deputies". ABC News. Associated Press. October 16, 2019.
- Rutledge, Leigh W. (1989). The Gay Fireside Companion. Alyson Publications, Inc. p. 146. ISBN 978-1-55583-164-6.
- "Our History | Miss America 2.0". Miss America. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
- Farrell, Paul (October 16, 2019). "Valerie Lundeen, Ron Ely's Wife: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Heavy.com. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
- O'Neill, Natalie (October 16, 2019). "'Tarzan' actor Ron Ely's wife stabbed to death: reports". New York Post. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
- Parker, Ryan (October 16, 2019). "Homicide Suspect Killed by Deputies in Home of 'Tarzan' Actor Ron Ely". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
- Roberto, Melissa (October 16, 2020). "Ron Ely challenges Santa Barbara district attorney after fatal shooting of his son deemed 'justifiable'". Fox News. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
- "No charges against sheriff's deputies who shot, killed son of 'Tarzan' actor Ron Ely in Santa Barbara County". ABC7 KABC. October 7, 2020. Retrieved October 15, 2020.