Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tuesday Overlooked (or Forgotten) Film: TARZAN AND HIS MATE (1934) starring Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan

Because I still continue to have trouble with google search, I'm unable to do my regular Tuesday film post in the style to which I have become accustomed, that is, with pix from my chosen movie to add to the general ambiance.

So instead I've taken a post I did at the beginning of last year and amplified it for today's Overlooked (or Forgotten) Film entry - the weekly meme hosted by Todd Mason at his blog, SWEET FREEDOM. Don't forget to check in and see what other overlooked or forgotten films other bloggers are talking about this week. Todd has all the links.


While it may not be universally known, I have seen all the Tarzan films over the years (even the one with Herman Brix aka Bruce Bennett) but TARZAN AND HIS MATE with Johnny Weissmuller as the taciturn ape man,  remains my very favorite and, to my mind, the most romantic of what is, essentially, a series of jungle romances. (When they try to be anything else, they fail.)

Though TARZAN THE APE MAN (the first in the series) could give this one a run for its money. If it weren't for the nude underwater scenes shot as if they were ballet (in TARZAN AND HIS MATE), I'd switch the numbers around. These scenes were censored when the film was originally aired on TV and for many years thereafter. Then, finally, they were returned to their rightful place. (Thankfully they weren't destroyed.) The last two times I've seen the film, the sequence was there.

The film also implies that Tarzan and Jane (the gorgeous and spunky Maureen O'Sullivan) have, somehow, gotten married in the interim between this film and the first. But of course, we know better. I mean, who was there to marry them? They live cloud-high on the freakin' Mutea Escarpment where the only neighbors appear to be gorillas, elephants, rhinos, a leopard or two and some rather unpleasant native tribes.

Well, either/or, this time out, it's Jane's friend Harry Holt (the stoic Neal Hamilton), from the earlier safari which brought her to Tarzan's attentions in the first place, and Martin Arlington, an unscrupulous type played unctuously by Paul Cavanaugh, who turn up to cause trouble in paradise. Martin slavers most unattractively over Jane and the fortune he anticipates lying in wait at the famed elephant's burial ground - a cache of ivory to equal a king's ransom.

As I mentioned, this film is notable for the beautiful nude underwater scenes. Maureen O'Sullivan (at least it looks like her, but it could be a close body double, you never know) and Johnny Weissmuller, he in only his Tarzan-regulation loin-cloth swim for several minutes, all underwater. (He has ripped a gown off her just before they jump in the water from the branches of a tree in which they've spent the night.)

The gown (among several outfits, dresses, hats, shoes etc.) was brought from England by Harry and the vile Martin in hopes that Jane, as a woman, would be shallow enough to be swayed by fripperies into returning to England. Do these men know women or what?

They've even brought a wind-up record player which, by the way, scares the hell out of the bearers and transfixes Tarzan. The lascivious Martin, openly drooling over Jane who has tried on one of the gowns, dances suggestiely with her, sure of his own sleazy charm. Tarzan should have dealt with him then, but he is too intrigued by the music coming from the record player to think that Jane would ever even glance at another man. Well the truth is, with Weissmuller around, there ARE no other men.

Johnny Weissmuller at his peak. All together now.....SIGH!

Later when Tarzan refuses to guide Harry and Martin to the elephants' burial grounds, Martin fatally wounds an elephant and the two men and their few remaining bearers follow the poor limping creature to the fabled resting place.

Martin manages to get rid of Tarzan by nefarious means (he is a total murderous sleaze) and convinces Jane that he saw Tarzan meet his end in a duel with a crocodile. Jane then decides to head back to London with Harry and Martin, since without Tarzan, there's nothing to keep her in Africa.

Unfortunately the best laid plans of mice and murderers often do not go awry - Cheetah finds the limp and battered body of Tarzan, barely alive. With the help of a friendly elephant, the chimp manages to get Tarzan to a place of safety.

When Tarzan has recuperated sufficiently, he goes searching for his woman.

As usual, Tarzan arrives in the nick of time as Jane and the men have been attacked by some fiendish natives. In the end, with the help of his animal friends - mostly elephants - Tarzan gets Jane back but not before Martin gets his just comeuppance. Jungle justice has never been so well deserved.

For those of you interested in such things, Jane's fetching little jungle outfit is the skimpiest it will ever be in TARZAN AND HIS MATE. Between this and the third film, the censorship board came into being and Jane shows up in later films in this ridiculous neck to mid-thigh outfit guaranteed to make a cat laugh. She became then and forever, Jane the asexual mom.

There is, unaccountably, one other nude scene at the beginning of the film when Martin strips for a bath in a portable tub while having a conversation with Harry Holt. The only thing that prevents us seeing Martin's spare parts are a timely arrival of a servant who steps in front of the camera for a moment. Lots of nudity going on here. But all tastefully done. Still, it does make one wonder.....

What? Oh sorry, my mind...uh, wandered.

A fun film. And never has the magic attraction between Weismuller and O'Sullivan been more apparent. I love it.


  1. One of the very few adventure movies I liked and I think it was because of the chemistry between them and the nuclear family that evolved. I need it to be rooted in something I could understand.

  2. Oh Patti, I was the original adventure kid. I LOVED adventure movies - still do, as a matter of fact. But probably they needed to have some sort of love story going on too. i.e. KING SOLOMON'S MINES, for instance. (The original of course.)

    The Tarzan movies are the ultimate escape from reality, I think. Even if he and Jane do form a family.

    My favorites are still the ones in which Maureen O'Sullivan played Jane. He never really had much chemistry with any of the other Janes that followed.

  3. Fun post, Yvette!

    Johnny Weissmuller was really an Adonis! I never liked the way they made him speak in the movies..too caveman like. When He and janehave "Boy" I wondered why jane could not have found a better name?

  4. I think Tarzan named him and she just went along with it and really, it's not like Tarzan had a last name. Though in the Edgar Rice Burrough's story he was an Earl, I think. Lord Greystoke.

    I don't mind his caveman routine though in reality, of course, it could be weary-making. :)

    I always wondered too why Jane never got pregnant. But maybe it's just as well she didn't.

  5. I haven't seen these movies in years. I think I need to get a hold of them.

  6. Well, only these:

    after those, it's all down hill. :)

  7. I can remember the Tarzan movies.
    Years later Weismuller was going to teach me to swim. He got mad and told my Husband Forget it.
    I saw him in Mexico years later.
    That OHara was so beautiful.
    Some Actor's are like Lawyer's,
    they only know one pigeon hole.

  8. You're welcome, Ryan. :)

    Yvonne: I'm not quite clear on why Weissmuller got mad with you. What on earth did you do? Ha!

    Was it just male pique?

    You mean Maureen O'Sullivan? Yes, I agree she was a beauty and the best Jane ever. :)


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