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Johnny Weissmuller Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (6) | Trivia (25) | Personal Quotes (7) | Salary (1)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 2 June 1904Freidorf, Banat, Austria-Hungary (now Romania)
Date of Death 20 January 1984Acapulco, Mexico  (series of strokes)
Birth NamePeter Johann Weissmüller
Nickname Big John
Height 6' 3" (1.91 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Johnny Weissmuller was born in Timisoara, Romania, then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, though he would later claim to have been born in Windber, Pennsylvania, probably to ensure his eligibility to compete as part of the US Olympic team.

A sickly child, he took up swimming on the advice of a doctor. He grew to be a 6' 3", 190-pound champion athlete - undefeated winner of five Olympic gold medals, 67 world and 52 national titles, holder of every freestyle record from 100 yards to the half-mile. In his first picture, Glorifying the American Girl (1929), he appeared as an Adonis clad only in a fig leaf. After great success with a jungle movie, MGM head Louis B. Mayer, via Irving Thalberg, optioned two of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan stories. Cyril Hume, working on the adaptation of Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), noticed Weissmuller swimming in the pool at his hotel and suggested him for the part of Tarzan. Weissmuller was under contract to BVD to model underwear and swimsuits; MGM got him released by agreeing to pose many of its female stars in BVD swimsuits. The studio billed him as "the only man in Hollywood who's natural in the flesh and can act without clothes". The film was an immediate box-office and critical hit. Seeing that he was wildly popular with girls, the studio told him to divorce his wife and paid her $10,000 to agree to it. After 1942, however, MGM had used up its options; it dropped the Tarzan series and Weissmuller, too. He then moved to RKO and made six more Tarzans. After that he made 16 Jungle Jim (1948) programmers for Columbia. He retired from movies to run private business in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Spouse (6)

Maria Brock Mandell Bauman (1963 - 20 January 1984) (his death)
Ailene Gates (29 January 1948 - 1962) (divorced)
Beryl Scott (20 August 1939 - 29 January 1948) (divorced) (3 children)
Lupe Velez (8 October 1933 - 1939) (divorced)
Bobbe Arnst (28 February 1931 - 1933) (divorced)
Camilla Louiee (? - ?) (divorced)

Trivia (25)

Born at 6:30pm-LMT
Swimmer/actor, won five Olympic gold medals
He was born in Freidorf, Romania, but his parents (Hungarian nationals) came to America when he was 3. Because of Olympic eligibility issues, he told everyone he was born in Windber, PA.
Won 5 Olympic Gold Medals 1924-1928 for swimming. Broke the record in each race. From 1921-1929 he won every free style race he entered.
Had three children with Beryl: Johnny Weissmuller Jr., Heidi Elizabeth Weissmuller and Wendy Anne Weissmuller.
Weissmuller had a close call in Cuba during the time of the Cuban Revolution. While playing golf, he and his friends found themselves suddenly surrounded by a group of Fidel Castro's soldiers intent on kidnapping them, or worse. Thinking fast, Weissmuller immediately gave his trademark Tarzan yell. The soldiers immediately recognized it and were so delighted to meet Tarzan that they began to clap and escorted the group back to a safe area, where Weissmuller was presented a $100 bill.
When Weissmuller was introduced to the first Cheetah in his Tarzan films in 1931 (he worked with 8 chimpanzees altogether), the chimp's trainer told him to show no fear or the animal would attack him. As Weissmuller, dressed in his Tarzan loincloth and hunting knife, walked up to the animal, it bared its teeth, growled at him and lunged as if to attack him. Weissmuller took the knife out of the sheath and held it in front of the chimp's nose, to make sure he saw and smelled it. He then slammed the animal on the side of the head with the knife handle. He put the knife back in its sheath and held out his hand to the chimp. It glared at him, bared his teeth again, then changed its mind, grinned at Weissmuller and jumped up and hugged him. Weissmuller never had any further problems with the chimp--although other cast and crew members did--and it followed him around like a puppy dog during all the pictures they worked together.
At his request, a recording of his trademark Tarzan yell which he invented was played as his coffin was lowered into the ground.
Appears on sleeve of The Beatles' "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band".
Inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, 1983 (charter member).
During his appearance on German television show "Das aktuelle Sportstudio", a monkey removed his wife Maria's wig and threw it on the floor (1971).
He was the first speaking Tarzan and he died in January 1984, the month after the last surviving silent Tarzan, James Pierce, died.
Was the first man in the world to swim 100 m. Freestyle in less than a minute
During the making of the "Jungle Jim" movies, he was fined $5000 for every pound he was overweight.
In 1970, he attended the British Commonwealth Games in Jamaica where he was presented to Queen Elizabeth.
Inducted into the Body Building Guild Hall of Fame in 1976.
His stormy third marriage to spitfire actress Lupe Velez (1933-1939) received much coverage in the Hollywood scandal sheets. The makeup man on the "Tarzan" set reportedly had quite a time of it concealing bruises and bite and scratch marks from their many fights. Lupe later committed suicide in 1944.
Moved to Las Vegas from Florida in 1973 where he was a greeter at the MGM Grand Hotel for a time.
In 1974, he broke a hip and leg. While hospitalized he learned that, in spite of his strength and lifelong daily regimen of swimming and exercise, he had a serious heart condition.
Made a cameo appearance with former "Tarzan" co-star Maureen O'Sullivan in The Phynx (1970).
In the late 1950s after retiring from acting, Weissmuller moved back to Chicago and started a swimming pool company. He also lent his name to other business ventures, but did not have a great deal of success. He retired in 1965 and moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he was Founding Chairman of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
After school, he worked as a bellhop and elevator operator at the Plaza Hotel in Chicago and trained for the Olympics with a swim coach at the Illinois Athletic Club, where he developed his revolutionary high-riding front crawl. He made his amateur debut on August 6, 1921, winning his first AAU race in the 50-yard freestyle.
His younger brother, Peter Jr., was born in the United States (Chicago). Both boys were strong, assertive swimmers.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume One, 1981-1985, pages 858-859. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1998.
Natives of the village Zitiste near the town of Zrenjanin, Banat region in Serbia (near border with Romania) started a campaign to build a monument in honor of him, claiming that he was born there.(spring 2007).

Personal Quotes (7)

How can a guy climb trees, say "Me, Tarzan, you, Jane," and make a million? The public forgives my acting because they know I was an athlete. They know I wasn't make-believe. [on his role as Tarzan in some 20 films between 1932 and 1949]
I have always been vitally interested in physical conditioning. I have long believed that athletic competition among people and nations should replace violence and wars.
I started out as a scrawny kid in Chicago, and even that was lucky. It got me to swimming. Then all the good breaks in the world happened-and kept on happening.
I'd like to move into the Douglas Fairbanks type of action pictures. I'm no great actor, but my fans like me, so why shouldn't I give it a whirl?
I've had about as perfect a 55 years as any human could have.
Tarzan films are decent films, designed for family viewing. It's an idealistic, down-to-earth story about a man's love for animals and the care of his family.
[on playing Tarzan] It was like stealing. There was swimming and I didn't have to say much. How can a guy climb trees, say 'Me Tarzan, you Jane'and make a million?

Salary (1)

Swamp Fire (1946) $75,000

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