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Bruce Bennett


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Standard works of reference such as Halliwell's "Who's Who in the Movies" and Katz's "Encyclopedia of Film" give his date of birth as 1909 (or 19th May 1909) but the IMDB has the date at 1906.

My edition of "Who's Who in Hollywood" also has his birthdate at May 19, 1909, which means he should be 97 next month.

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  • 10 months later...

I found his obit...as I said to others, what an interesting life he had, Olympian and acting, and in business. A truly full life.

 

Herman Brix, who died Saturday at 100, was a record-breaking shot-

putter who went on to star in Tarzan movies, in which he invented his

own version of the Tarzan yell, transliterated by one critic as

"Mmmmmmm-annnnngannnnn-eeeeeee."

 

 

Brix's was no competition for the more famous version developed by the

far more prolific Tarzan portrayer, Johnny Weissmuller, along with his

coaches at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. A dozen or so other actors played the

vine swinger before the 1960s, including Olympians Weissmuller and

Buster Crabbe. But Brix's Tarzan, in "The New Adventures of

Tarzan" (1935) and "Tarzan and the Green Goddess" (1938), was unique

in that he was the only one to play Tarzan the way his creator, Edgar

Rice Burroughs, had written him, as the multilingual, Oxford-educated

member of the English nobility, Lord Greystoke.

 

 

Brix did so to little acclaim, though, and soon dropped out of Tarzan

films, took acting lessons, adopted the screen name Bruce Bennett, and

went on to a series of supporting roles in films like "Mildred

Pierce" (1945) and "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (1948), in which he

played a down-on-his-luck American who joins Humphrey Bogart in a

doomed quest for gold.

 

 

Born in Tacoma, Wash., in 1906, Brix worked at lumber camps before

attending the University of Washington, where he played in the 1925

Rose Bowl and became a star javelin thrower and shot-putter. He was a

three-time All Coast tackle and a six-time national shot-put champion.

The sports writer Grantland Rice once called him "America's greatest

athlete."

 

 

Brix tossed the shot at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, winning a silver

medal just behind another American, John Kuck. The pair later toured

the country in a series of exhibitions during which Brix established

new world records.

 

 

In the early 1930s, Brix began making athletic instruction films and

was considered for "Tarzan the Ape Man" (1932), losing out to

Weissmuller after injuring a shoulder. He was hired for what amounted

to a competing franchise when Burroughs, who disliked Weissmuller's

grunting nature-boy Tarzan, decided to make his own Tarzan films.

"This was a man who had mastered both the jungle and civilization,"

Brix told the Christian Science Monitor in 1999. "It was a very

compelling idea for its time."

 

 

"The New Adventures of Tarzan" was shot in late 1934 under difficult

conditions in Guatemala, where a storm nearly wiped out the production

before it got a chance to start. Brix did all his own stunts and was

seriously injured when he attempted to dive into a cataract to save

the love interest - Ula Vale, not Jane Parker.

 

 

Originally released as a serial and then as a film, "The New

Adventures of Tarzan" flopped when MGM refused to screen it at its

theaters. The film did well abroad, and better in America when it was

recut and rereleased in 1938 as "Tarzan and the Green Goddess."

Despite the genuinely exotic locations, the film was hardly a model of

accuracy, featuring rhinos, giraffes, and lions prowling Mayan

temples. Sadly, conditions in Guatemala ruined the soundtrack. It is

seldom screened today.

 

 

Brix as Bruce Bennett went on to a workmanlike career in Hollywood;

his turn as Joan Crawford's well-meaning first husband in "Mildred

Pierce" is generally considered his high-water mark. He appeared in

dozens of films in the 1940s and then moved on to television in the

1950s. He was the kind of actor who appears once as a guest star on

every series.

 

 

Brix mostly retired in the 1960s and devoted himself to business,

first for a slot machine company and later as a real estate investor.

 

 

He cooperated in a 2001 memoir, "Please Don't Call Me Tarzan."

 

Ya know, it's nagging at me...not at this group but another I participate in someone had mentioned that their friend had interviewed him for a story in the past couple of years and found him clear as a bell and a real gentleman. I'll have to dig around and see if I can find a link to the interview.

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Amended post: My apologies to Silentfan66. I think we were posting simultaneously. It's good to know that many of us appreciated Mr. Bennett's work on film.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The following obituary for Mr. Bennett appeared in today's LA Times. If anyone is interested, Mongo has a fine profile of the essential character actor at this link:

http://tinyurl.com/34qavu

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Herman Brix, 100; Olympian became actor known as Bruce Bennett

By Dennis McLellan, Times Staff Writer

February 28, 2007

 

Herman Brix, who parlayed a silver medal for the shot put in the 1928 Olympics into a Hollywood career that included playing Tarzan in a 1935 movie, has died. He was 100.

 

Brix, who later adopted the stage name Bruce Bennett and appeared as Joan Crawford's husband in "Mildred Pierce" and as an ill-fated gold prospector in "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre," died of complications from a broken hip Saturday at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center, his son Christopher said Tuesday.

 

A former University of Washington football and track and field star who played in the 1926 Rose Bowl, Brix moved to Los Angeles in 1929 after being invited to compete for the Los Angeles Athletic Club.

 

He became friends with actor Douglas Fairbanks, who arranged a screen test for the handsome young athlete at Paramount. But while playing a small role as a running back in the 1931 Paramount college football movie "Touchdown," Brix broke a shoulder.

 

The injury caused the world record-setting shot-putter to fail to qualify for the 1932 Olympic trials. It also ended his chance to play Tarzan at MGM, where he is said to have been the studio's leading candidate for the role.

 

Instead, the star-making role in MGM's 1932 hit "Tarzan the Ape Man" went to Olympic swimmer Johnny Weismuller, who went on to appear in a string of Tarzan movies.

 

But two years later, Brix got his chance to play the jungle hero in "The New Adventures of Tarzan," which was produced by an independent film company whose principals included Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs.

 

In fact, Brix was picked by Burroughs to star in the 1935 movie.

 

"Herman Brix brought a presence to the screen that many people feel personifies the Tarzan of the books," Danton Burroughs, Edgar Rice Burroughs' grandson, wrote in the foreword to "Please Don't Call Me Tarzan: The Life Story of Herman Brix/Bruce Bennett," a 2001 book by Mike Chapman.

 

Brix, Burroughs wrote, "was lean and muscular, articulate and dignified. He moved with the superb athletic grace that my grandfather envisioned ? and played the role to perfection."

 

The high-profile role, however, proved to be a detriment to his acting career.

 

A test at Warner Bros. after the film came out was canceled after the casting director saw a photo of Brix as Tarzan in Life magazine.

 

"He said they couldn't use me," Brix told Chapman. "I asked why, and he said the audience would see me as Tarzan and wouldn't accept me as an actor."

 

Over the next several years, however, Brix appeared in more than a dozen films, including the serials "The Shadow of Chinatown," "The Fighting Devil Dogs," "Hawk of the Wilderness" and "The Lone Ranger."

 

But after making yet another serial, "Daredevils of the Red Circle" in 1939, he realized he had to do something to break being typecast in action roles.

 

"I realized the name Herman Brix was associated with Tarzan, so I made up a list of seven or eight names and asked people which they liked best," he told Chapman. "Bruce Bennett was the name I came up with."

 

As Bruce Bennett, he began carving out a new career as an actor, initially under contract at Columbia Pictures and then at Warner Bros. Among his many credits during this period were "The Officer and the Lady," "Atlantic Convoy," "Sahara" and "Dark Passage."

 

One of his most memorable film credits was "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre," the 1948 movie starring Humphrey Bogart, with Walter Huston and Tim Holt as fellow gold prospectors in Mexico.

 

As James Cody, the prospector who shows up at the trio's camp and offers his help for a share of the profits, Bennett angers Bogart's paranoid character Fred C. Dobbs and winds up being killed when the four men are attacked by bandits.

 

"I wish I would have had more to do in the film," Brix told Chapman. "I hated to get killed so soon."

 

The fourth of five children, he was born Harold Herman Brix in Tacoma, Wash., on May 19, 1906. In high school, he played football, basketball and soccer, as well as competing in swimming and track and field.

 

At the University of Washington in Seattle, Brix discovered the shot put. He also became an All-American tackle for the Huskies and went to the Rose Bowl in 1926, where the University of Alabama defeated the Huskies, 20-19. He graduated in 1928 with a bachelor's degree in economics.

 

After his Hollywood career ended in the 1960s, Brix went to work for a Los Angeles food service company, where he became West Coast sales manager. He later had a successful career in real estate before retiring in the mid-1980s.

 

Christopher Brix said that depending on how someone best knew his father ? as an Olympic athlete or as a Hollywood actor ? he would be called either Herman Brix or Bruce Bennett.

 

"He'd answer to either name," Christopher Brix said. "I think he was proud of both."

 

Jeannette, Brix's wife of 67 years, died in 2000. In addition to his son, he is survived by his daughter, Christina Katich; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

 

Memorial donations may be sent to the Olympic Committee, National Headquarters, 1 Olympic Plaza, Colorado Springs, CO 80909.

 

Services will be private.

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