James Hubert Pierce belongs to that special fraternity of athletes-turned-actors -- exemplified by Johnny Weissmuller, Buster Crabbe, and Bruce Bennett (aka Herman Brix) -- who were very popular with action film audiences in the early- to mid-20th century. He also shared a component of his career with all of the aforementioned actors, as they all portrayed Edgar Rice Burroughs' lord of the jungle, Tarzan. And, along with Herman Brix, he shared the unusual distinction of having gotten the imprimatur of Burroughs himself for the role.
Pierce was a former All-American football player at Indiana University and he was working as a coach at Glendale High School in 1926, when he was noticed by Burroughs at a celebration for the author's daughter being given at his home. The author declared Pierce to be the most perfect realization of the Tarzan character that he'd ever encountered and he arranged for a screen test for him at FBO (Film Book Offices Studios, the precursor to RKO), which was planning a new Tarzan movie. Pierce passed his audition and was cast as Tarzan in what proved to be the last silent Tarzan feature film, Tarzan and the Golden Lion. Released in May 1927, it was a modest success, and it logically might have led to a follow-up film but for the fact that two Tarzan serials, Tarzan the Mighty and Tarzan the Tiger, both starring Frank Merrill, went into production at Universal during the closing years of the silent period.