While Miller is sometimes credited as the first blond Tarzan, he maintains that actor Buster Crabbe, "who was kind of blond," deserves that honor.
To land his role as Lord of the Jungle, Miller had to pass a second screen test, this one involving a recitation of the 23rd Psalm.
"I think I ended up saying fewer words in the movie," he said. "'Ungawa' seems to cover a lot of things in Tarzan's world. But the movie was so much fun. It was like being in a circus. I got to ride elephants and play with chimps and swing from vines."
One day while shooting the jungle movie, "a set of those big studio doors swung open and a stretch limousine comes up to the set," he recalled. "It was [Jordan's] King Hussein, who loved the Tarzan films and books. We got his autograph."
While Miller had the loincloth-friendly athletic looks and the vine-swinging abilities of other cinematic Tarzans, "I just couldn't do the call," he said. "I had to do it when we were filming, but someone else's voice was dubbed in. My Tarzan yell sounded like a wounded yak."
Miller said his favorite movie experience took place while filming "The Party" with Peter Sellers in 1968, under the direction of Blake Edwards.
"I played the role of Wyoming Bill Kelso, the biggest jerk of a TV star in history," he said. "It was a fun role, but the best part was getting to work with a comic genius like Peter Sellers. Most of the movie was unscripted, and Blake Edwards pointed to Sellers and told the rest of us to follow that guy and see where it took us. We did just that for the 12 best weeks in my acting career."
Miller's most recent movie role was as a miner in "Hell to Pay," a 2005 western featuring Lee Majors, James Drury and Stella Stevens and a host of other veterans of the oater genre.
"These days, I'm trying to use Tarzan as a platform for promoting exercise and fitness," said Miller, who can still fit into the loincloth he kept from his stint as Lord of the Jungle. "There are something like 10,000 Baby Boomers retiring each day, and more than half of them don't exercise."
A physical education major whose physician father served on the President's Advisory Committee on Youth Fitness during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, Miller is the author of several fitness books, including "Toxic Waist? Getting to Know Sweat," and "Me Tarzan, You Train -- Without Pain!"
Miller's self-deprecating humor comes through in a memoir of his career as a character actor. It's title?
"Didn't You Used to be What's His Name?"
In addition to presentations by Miller, Bridgewater College's Tarzan Centennial Conference will include a screening of the remastered 1918 film "Tarzan of the Apes," with live musical accompaniment, and a live production of Burroughs' only stage play, "You Lucky Girl."
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.