Tarzan at 100

Tarzan pic1

In 1912 Edgar Burroughs wrote the first Tarzan story, which makes Tarzan 100 years old.

Little did Edgar realise his story would spawn hundreds of novels, comics, cartoons and 89 films. Many fine actors played Tarzan including Buster Crabbe, Glen Morris, Lex Barker, Gordon Scott etc. The best and most famous was “The Bronzed God” Johnnie Weissmuller who was thought of as extraordinary looking by most of 1930s women. Johnnie was chosen to play Tarzan after winning 5 Olympic swim medals in the early 1960s. Coffin polisher, yes coffin polisher, Sean Connery was tested to play Tarzan. That same week he also tested for a new series called 007 James Bond, so the ‘bauld’ Sean swapped his loin cloth for a tuxedo. The female lead in the 1930-40 films was our very own Maureen O’Sullivan. Maureen was born in Boyle, Co Roscommon, and an MGM scout spotted her at the Horse Show in Ballsbridge and took her to Hollywood. Maureen was at school with Vivian Leigh, who of course won an Oscar for her portrayal of Scarlet O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind”. Most of the Tarzan films were shot on the back lot at MGM and the L. A. Arboretum. In my humble opinion the best actor in the series was Cheeta the Chimp. I was astonished to see Cheeta only died last year so he not only outacted the human characters he outlived them!

To bring fresh life to the films Hollywood gave Jane a son called “Boy”. On hearing this Catholic Church went bananas and tried to ban this through “The Hays Office” as “Boy” was born out of wedlock. No problem said MGM and the Hollywood hacks and hacketts said Jane found “Boy” in the Jungle. In all Tarzan films that old chestnut “Me Tarzan, You Jane” was never said, just like Cagney never said “you dirty rat” and Bogart never said “Play it again Sam”. Maureen O’Sullivan married John Farrow and had four children including Mia Farrow, who at 18 married Frank Sinatra. At their wedding a drunken Dean Martin shouted at Ol’ Blue Eyes, “Hey Frank, I have whiskey at home older than your new wife”. That was the end of the friendship with Sinatra, there was no forgiveness for this crass remark.

Most of the Tarzan films were the same format as the last. Johnnie fighting the same dummy crocodile in the same pool, ferocious savages, and rapacious white men, but of course Tarzan always won. As I write this there are two new Tarzan films being shot. I am not looking forward to them as I fear they will be dystopian films. One of the Metteur-En-Scene has said, “My Tarzan will not be clean cut like Roy Rogers or Hopalong Cassidy, no sir. He will be bad, mean, unshaven and a real bad ass. And my Jane will kick ass.” Mein Gott, the mind boggles; this is what has he in mind! Will Tarzan be fighting the Taliban, or perhaps even aliens? God only knows – we will all have to wait with bated breath.

John Weissmuller died in 1984. As the coffin was lowered, at his request, his famous Tarzan yell was played three times – a truly magnificent moment. Sleep easy Johnnie, we will never forget you.

Finally, to all at NewsFour and to all our readers I wish you a Merry Christmas and a super New Year.

By Noel Twamley