derick

Johnny Weissmuller

29 posts in this topic

Yes. Weissmuller was the best Tarzan. I loved the Tarzan movies as I was growing up. The Weissmuller/Tarzans are the only ones I still like. But maybe I've seen them too many times. I can't watch any one of them without wishing that something in each one was done differently. I cringe whenever I see the scene in Tarzan's New York Adventure, where Jane gives him the OK to search for Boy on his own. He immediately turns and leaps through the window, dozens of floors above the street. Not even an idiot would have done that.

Also, later in the movie, when he is exiting the trailer and is suddenly surrounded by a gang of circus crewmen, there should have been a spectacular fight scene. Dissappointing.

Tarzan and the Amazons should have ended with all the main characters captured by the Amazons and sentenced to the arena to die at the claws and fangs of hungry lions. Tarzan would save the good guys and let the lions have their way with the bad guys. This would have been a much more dramatic and exciting finale.

Like I said. I've seen them too often. I keep wondering how much greater they could have been with bigger budgets and more creative stunts and special effects. Oh well. Too late now.

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I disagree. For my money, Gordon Scott was the best screen Tarzan, and his last two films in the series (Tarzan's Greatest Adventure and Tarzan The Magnificent) the best films in the series. For me, Scott, who unlike Weismuller, was trained in martial arts, hand-to-hand combat, bareback riding and trapeze work and thus did almost all of his own stunts, simply had an authority and naturalness chasing down the jungle fauna while running through its' flora that Weissmuller and the others couldn't match.

 

I do like the Weissmuller films quite a lot, and I think he played the role well, but that very high,flat, nasal voice of his was a real turn-off for me, and the constant use of a stunt double in the fast-motion vine swinging scenes (with the trapeze bar clearly visible) made Tarzan's "travellin' scenes" seem a little ludicrious to me.

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I didn't know those things about Gordon Scott. I'm impressed. I'm betting he's a real nice guy, too. I didn't care all that much for him as Tarzan, though. Image-wise, he looked as though he just came from a gym. Weissmuller had a natural, feral-man look. The remark about Weissmuller' voice, I don't agree. I've heard it before. I don't get it. It's like you are hearing a different sound-track than I hear when I watch a Weissmuller movie.

I watch Tarzan's Greatest Adventure and Tarzan the Magnificent, and I see a story of Tarzan of the Apes, mighty hunter, mighty fighter struggling to hunt down 3 or 4 ordinary bad guys. I think these 2 movies are often considered the best of the series based only on their titles.

I'm critisizing the Gordon Scott Tarzan movies, but I could just as much criticize the Weissmullers as well. But I still love them. I think maybe partly, because they were engrained in my soul as a young boy. bOb.

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A few years ago, I read it was Cheetah's 75th birthday. The article mentioned that Cheetah had played in Tarzan movies with Lex Barker. This got my suspicions up immediately because I identify Cheetah with Johnny. I contacted the owner of Cheetah through a forum like this one, and verified it was "Weismuller's" Cheetah. He is in retirement in california. I learned he had given up cigars years ago and spends his time painting. A few days later I get a note from a guy from Ft. Lauderdale asking my advice about whether I thought a purchase of one of Cheetah's paintings would be a good investment. Anyway, to make my story brief, this guy kept a running dialogue with me for a few months and would not believe that I hadn't a clue about Cheetah's artworks. So I just humored him with the best advice I could and he eventually bought a painting for around $400. All on the up and up, he was very thorough in making sure of its authanticity. It now hangs in his den.

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I'd have to agree with Markus21--Scott is, for my money, the best Tarzan. The fact that the films were shot on location, in color, no Jane and a chimp that doesn't get as much screen time as Tarzan all make for good viewing. I also like the fact that Tarzan speaks correct English, something not seen since Bruce Bennett did it in 1935's NEW ADVENTURES OF TARZAN. The supporting casts are also good, especially TARZAN, THE MAGNIFICENT where he chases down Abel Banton (John Carradine) and his murdering brood, headed up by Jock Mahoney. Far and away the best.

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I agree with you about the chimp. That stuff wore thin real fast in my view. But Taran chasing down a gang of murderous thugs is not much of a challenge for him. It wasn't boring, but I thought it was close. It was better than his other Tarzan pictures, though. Scott's first 3 or four Tarzan movies were yawners. For me maybe half of Weissmuller's were the best. Even Lex Barker made 1 decent Tarzan movie. Tarzan's Peril. bOb.

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I'd agree about TARZAN'S PERIL. Interesting film that was shot on location (a big deal back then), and George MacReady is an excellent villain. Of the earlier Scott films, TARZAN & THE LOST SAFARI is the best of the four. Shot in color (the first Tarzan film to be shot in color) and on location with a pretty good supporting cast including Robert Beatty.

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I took a canoe trip down the Oklawaha River in central Florida a number of months ago. As you travel along you occasionally spot a monkey. The rumor is that these are the descendants of the monkeys used at Silver Springs for the old Tarzan movies. When they packed up, they didn't bother to round up the monkeys. Anyone ever hear that story? Any truth to it? It sounds plausible in a pre-PETA movie era.

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Whoa! That is interesting. Another possibility might be that as a result of one of the hurricanes that whalloped Florida in recent years, wrecked a zoo or animal farm and some of the animals escaped. I think I remember reading something about that a few years ago. But I like the story you heard, about the old Tarzan movies, much better.

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I actually thought even Scott's first 3 or 4 TARZAN films had their moments, such as his fight with the giant python in Tarzan's Fight For Life. (Reportedly, it took six men to unwrap the snake from Scott's body after the scene was shot. The snake nearly killed him.)

 

Of course, they weren't on the level of his last two films with Sy Weintraub, but I do think those two films are the best in the series. It might not seem like much for Tarzan to tackle a group of men, but when the men were as heavily armed and ruthless as the foes Scott faced, it made for a pair of genuinely suspenseful, absorbing and fast-paced first-rate adventure films. The Weissmuller films were more fanciful, but after the first 2 or 3 MGMs they tended to settle down into "jungle family/cute chimp" mode, and though I still enjoyed them (and still enjoy watching them today), they lost much of that adult edge they had originally.

 

I kinda like Lex Barker's performance as Tarzan. Perhaps because he's the most aristocratic-looking of the actors who played the role. I agree that TARZAN'S PERIL is probably his best, but I also liked TARZAN AND THE SHE-DEVIL, which had a sort of noir-ish look to it, and I thought Dorothy Hart, Barker's "mate" in TARZAN'S SAVAGE FURY was probably the best "Jane" after Maureen O'Sullivan. Too bad they didn't keep her around longer.

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The first two Weismuller's were excellent adult feature with some chilling scene's (like the pit with the Ape). What really dropped the series down to matinee level was the third film, TARZAN ESCAPES. From everything I have read about this movie, the original version was another adult film, with that cave/swamp sequence with giant bats carrying off screaming victims and the bearers being butchered by that unfriendly tribe. But the preview raised such a furor among mothers that the film was virtually reshot with a new director. Isn't it a shame that the original version doesn't exist anymore? It would be a real thrill to see it.

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It would indeed. I've always regretted that that footage was lost, particularly the footage of the giant bats carrying off their victims.

 

Another "lost" potentially "adult" scene was the death of Jane in Tarzan Finds a Son!. Reportedly, the role of "Boy" was created when actress Maureen O'Sullivan announced her intention to leave the series following completion of this film. Studio writers decided to kill Jane off by having her get a spear in the back from an angry tribesman. TARZAN author Edgar Rice Burroughs reportedly had a fit when he learned of MGM's intention of killing Jane, but the studio's attorneys informed him that while MGM's contract with ERB forbade them from killing off or demeaning the Tarzan character, it was silent on the character of Jane and they were free to plan her demise. They also told ERB that it was too late to do anything about it as the scenes of Tarzan and Boy at Jane's grave had already been shot.

 

However, when pre-release publicity blurbs announced Jane's impending demise, fans of the series reportedly went ballistic, threatening to boycott not only the series, but other MGM films as well. The result: Public Opinion accomplished what TARZAN's creator could not: Jane's demise was averted by writing in a scene in which she recovered from her wound and Miss O'Sullivan was given a substantial raise in salary...which probably helped to assuage, but didn't entirely HEAL the emotional frustration she felt at becoming typecast in the role.

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While Johnny Weissmuller was good as Tarzan, my personal favorite apeman is still Gordon Scott, who was the first Tarzan I saw at the local movie theater. He and Herman Brix are the 2 oldest living Tarzans.

 

I would like to see TCM show Tarzan movies on a weekly basis, starting with either the Weissmuller films or the silent movies.

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Re: Johnny vs. Gordon vs Lex, etc. I think the answer is whoever you grew up watching. To me, it's always been Johnny. That's who was on the screen when I was 7-10 years old. When Lex took over, I viewed him (unfairly) as a fraud. Gordon looked like he spent most of his time in a gym and there were no gyms in the "French Belgium Congo" where I always assumed Tarzan lived.

 

This nostalgic Tarzan discussion reminds me of chatting with my daughters about James Bond. They find my opinion that Sean Connery was the best James Bond silly and old fashioned and causes them to roll their eyes at each other. They're smug in their knowledge that the "real" James Bond is Roger Moore. Reminds me of my Dad telling me Douglas Fairbanks was a greater swashbuckler than Douglas Fairbanks Jr. - another screen hero of my youth.

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I agree. We may be about the same age. When I was a kid, Weissmuller was Tarzan. When I was 9 or 10, Lex Barker became the newest Tarzan. But I was so into the Tarzan thing that I guess whoever was Tarzan at the time was good enough. But whoever, no one was nearly as good as Weissmuller. During Barker's reign, they kept re-releasing old Weissmuller/Tarzan films and I thought they were the ultimate. I'd sit throught them twice every time.

 

I've had this Tarzan Collection DVD set of the 6 MGM Weissmuller films for over a year and just last night I was watching the documentary disc. On it there is a short 15 minute film of the making of some of the swimming scenes for "Tarzan Finds A Son!". I watched it about 6 or 7 months ago, but last night was the first time I noticed that the boy swimming with Johnny Weissmuller was clearly not Johnny Sheffield, but his stand in. Throughout the program, the announcer constantly referred to him as "Little Johnny Sheffield".

Also, the film's working title, "Tarzan in Exile" was referenced several times by both the announcer and the newspaper clippings from the local papers in that area as they were shown on screen. Interesting stuff.

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Indeed He was. It was a shame that none of the other screen Tarzans were portrayed the way Herman Brix portrayed him. And that serial, "The New Adventures of Tarzan" from 1935 was a real action-packed story. Too bad the production values were low. It was the kind of story that Burroughs often had Tarzan involved in. I think MGM had the wrong idea. I wished they used Weissmuller the way Burroughs' production company used Brix.

One of these days I'm gonna buy Bruce Bennett's (Herman Brix) bio and find out why he titled it "Please Don't Call Me Tarzan'. Although, I think I could make a good guess. bOb.

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Geaorge MacCready was an excellent villain in avery film I ever saw him in. I think he helped raise "Tarzan's Peril" to a level above the other Lex Barker movies. And a few of Weissmuller's, too.

What I really want to reply to, blackhangman, is your comments about the lost footage of "Tarzan Escapes". That is an excellent subject to bring up. I've been hoping for decades that news might break someday on that lost footage being found and released. But as more and more time goes by, it doesn't look promising. I believe the working title was "The Capture of Tarzan". You're right, that was a turning point in the Tarzan film series, when they re-shot it to tone it down for kids. I can't help but wonder if subsequent releases might have been a bit more "adult" in a violent and action-oriented way if "The Capture of Tarzan" had been released as originally shot. bOb.

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It's hard to tell what might have happened. I'm surprised Thalberg ordered the re-shooting of TARZAN ESCAPES, but he was quite ill at the time and his duties were limited. Of course, by the time the next installment was made, he was dead. One book on the subject, and I forget which one, also said that there was a lot of "funny-money" things happening on TARZAN ESCAPES--charges from other films were transferred to the TE books, thereby inflating the budget for the film. Who knows??

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> But he's right! ;-)

 

Correctomundo! Dad's are always right. I was trying to point out that we all are products of our generation. But...who really knows how to measure a man's swashbuckling skills. The flashing smile and hearty laughter during swordplay has as much to do with it as acrobatics. It's probably been done, but would make an interesting thread. Who was the greatest swashbuckler of them all..and what made him so?

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