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What is it about the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films that seem to be as entertaining today as they were when first released. In this installment a plane crashes in Africa and the only survivor is a baby which is rescued by a gang of Chimpanzees. Old Cheetah quickly gets control of the infant and swings back to Tarzan and Janes place and presents his find to the man of the treehouse. Tarzan and Jane adopt the child naming him simply "Boy" and quickly he is grown from baby to a five year old in the form of Johnny Sheffield complete with his own jungle yell. Outsiders from the civilized world who are boys blood relatives show up and that means trouble. Jane, Boy and his (evil) relatives wind up as captives of a hostile tribe and Tarzan with Cheetah and the help of most of Africas Elephant population arrive in time to save the day. This film is now sixty years old but doesn't seem dated or tired. Perhaps it's Weissmullers simple dialog and acting which did it. "Cheetah find" is his answer when Jane questions where the baby came from. "Food" is what he tells his guests who have lunch in the treehouse and asks him what the name of the fruit that they are enjoying is. When the baby won't stop crying Tarzan sticks an over sized (what looks to be) chicken leg in the infants face thinking maybe something to eat will do the trick. Perhaps it was Weissmullers swimming scenes which did it or the antics of Cheetah or maybe the classic Tarzan yell. Whatever it was the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films seem to be the best and this is one of them.
TARZAN FINDS A SON (MGM, 1939), directed by Richard Thorpe, the fourth
installment to the popular movie series based on the characters created
by Edgar Rice Burroughs, marks a new beginning for Tarzan and Jane as
they become parents and accepting the responsibility in raising a
child. No, Jane did not have a blessed event in the traditional sense,
nor did Tarzan start passing out bananas in place of cigars in the
waiting room to other expectant African native fathers in the waiting
room of a jungle cottage hospital, nor did Cheetah act as the midwife.
Three years have passed since the last installment of TARZAN ESCAPES
(1936), which provided enough time for the writers to come up with
something original. While the plots and situations were starting to
repeat themselves by this time, something new has been added, a son for
Tarzan and Jane, with delivery not by way of stalk but by air delivery.
Because no marriage ceremony was ever indicated since their union, the
rulers of the production code couldn't permit Jane to become pregnant
and bear forth a child of her own since Tarzan and Jane were obviously
living together. So the writers have thought up a the solution to the
A young British couple (Morton Lowery and Laraine Day), aboard a private airplane with their infant baby, learn that they are in danger when the plain acquires engine trouble. After the pilot (Gavin Muir) makes a crash landing, everyone perishes except for the child. He is later picked up by chimpanzee's before Cheetah takes the infant, offers it to Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller), who in turn vine swings himself back to the tree house where he presents the child to Jane (Maureen O'Sullivan). At first Tarzan becomes jealous of Jane's full attention towards the child, but in time becomes fond of him also, and being the "father," names him Boy. Five years pass. The introduction of Boy (John Sheffield in his movie debut) is shown in full swing as he hangs on to the vine, doing everything Tarzan does. He even learns the ape call like Tarzan, and uses it whenever in distress, such as one instance as he is caught and being covered by a big web and nearly getting attacked by a flock of large-size spiders. But outside of that, all seems to go well for the jungle family until a searching party, (Ian Hunter, Frieda Inescort, Henry Wilcoxson and Henry Stephenson), enters the scene. Revealed as relatives of Boy's deceased parents, they learn the truth of the boy and try to persuade Jane into deciding to giving up the youngster so they can take him back to England where he belongs (especially since he happens to be the heir to several million dollars). While Tarzan has already made up his mind in keeping Boy with them, the scheming relatives, with the exception of Sir Thomas (Stephenson), now being held captive, have other plans.
TARZAN FINDS A SON is a grand scale production and the only one in the series set in a time frame of more than the standard months or weeks, in this instance, five years, although the movie itself gives the impression of taking place solely in 1939 instead of from 1934 to the present, especially since Maureen O'Sullivan's 1940s hairstyle is evident throughout, but otherwise, makes little difference to the plot since it's the story and action the viewers come to see. As credited in the opening titles, underwater swimming scenes were filmed in Silver Springs, Florida. What a pity it wasn't done in Technicolor to take advantage of the fine location scenery. But with its usual dose of elephant stampedes, Cheetah's comedy relief and Tarzan's race to the rescue and a one man fight against hundreds of African natives, is enough adventure and excitement during its 81 minute time frame not to be a disappointment.
TARZAN FINDS A SON, along with the other MGM entries, have become available on either the VHS or DVD format, and formerly shown on the American Movie Classics cable channel from 1997 to 2000. It later shifted over to Turner Classic Movies where its premiered June 4, 2004, Bob Dorian, former AMC host, once profiled this chapter as being the one in which Maureen O'Sullivan, who wanted out of the series, to have her Jane character killed off, but preview audiences objected and a new ending was substituted. It's also been mentioned that is was Weissmuller who personally selected little John Sheffield, out of hundreds of candidates, for the role of Boy. He must have made a great impression since he would reprise his role seven more times until he outgrew the part by 1947. Next chapter: TARZAN'S SECRET TREASURE (1941). (***1/2)
Tarzan and Jane adopt a baby boy, the sole survivor of a plane crash. The
boy's parents perished and so Tarzan and Jane adopt the little tyke. A few
years later and he's a boy grown into the guise of Tarzan...complete with
Tarzan's abilities to swing vines and talk to jungle animals. Only unknown
to Tarzan and Jane, this "Boy" they made their son is actually a wealthy
heir and his relatives have come to their jungle hideaway searching for him.
Now Tarzan and Jane are faced with a most difficult choice..let "Boy" return
to civilization and lose him forever or hold on to him themselves and have
him remain in the jungle at all costs and despite the many dangers.
This one is powerful and moves the viewer through a wide range of emotions as the plight of Tarzan and Jane over Boy really puts one through the wringer. Suitable for family viewing for the most part although a scene or two may disturb more impressionable kids.
This was another interesting, fast-moving Tarzan film with plenty of
action and even a little more humor than normal.
The action scenes are hokey (shots of wild animals on a screen in back of the live actors) and even the background scenery is obviously painted but, hey, it's an old film. That I can put up with, but not the vast amount of "darlings" uttered by "Jane" (Maureen O'Sullivan). That gets really annoying
However, the rest of the film is very entertaining, very good and even very clever at times. The story is about Tarzan and Jane acquired "boy" (Johnny Sheffield) when the latter was five years old.
Overall: entertaining and one of the better Johnny Weissmuller-Tarzan entries.
With Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) and Jane (Maureen O'Sullivan) nicely
settled into their treetop des-res (complete with all mod cons), it was
only going to be a matter of time before we heard the pitter patter of
little footsteps (other than Cheetah's, of course). However, with the
Hays Code in full effect, and our arboreal lovebirds not actually wed,
they sure weren't going to be permitted to have a child of their own
via the normal method.
The writers of the Tarzan series get around this problem by having a child delivered from the sky by 'the great metal stork'a plane that crashes in the jungle with a baby boy as the only survivor. Cheetah finds the wailing bundle of joy and whisks him off to Tarzan and Jane, who decide to adopt the lad, naming him Boy (Tarzan's second choice, after having Elephant rejected by Jane).
Five years of blissful family life later, and an expedition turns up at the escarpment searching for the plane and any possible survivors. But Tarzan and Jane have become rather attached to their little tyke, and aren't about to give him up, especially when they discover that two of the visitors only want Boy for his vast inheritance.
Aimed at the matinée crowd, this particular instalment features none of the graphic nastiness or raciness that can be found in the first two Tarzan films (the obligatory native killing at the end of the filmvia a huge skull-cracking deviceis brief and non-explicit); instead, we get mild peril as Boy is attacked by pipe-cleaner tarantulas and a back-projected rhino, comic relief courtesy of Cheetah the chimp, and a lot of fun interplay between Tarzan and his 'son', the best scene being an impressively shot moment of underwater horseplay.
6.5 out of 10, happily rounded up to 7 for the bit where Cheetah turns her lips inside-out to amuse the new arrival (which makes me laugh just thinking about it).
This is a middle point of the Tarzan series. Its when they moved from
more violent and sexy adult fare (a prime example being "Tarzan and His
Mate") to safer, more polished grade-b matinée films. When compared to
the earlier films in the series, one can't help but be disappointed.
However, when viewed on its own, its passable entertainment. Its
definitely one of the best of the latter entries. It embodies what most
people think of when they hear the name Tarzan.
There are several things that work well. First off, Henry Stephenson gives a sympathetic and dignified portrayal of an older British gentleman who accompanies the rescue safari. His performance is very high class, much more so than the series needed. Maureen O'Sullivan, while never a fantastic actress, was certainly ravishing. If you want to see her at her finest, check out "Tarzan and His Mate", which is still the greatest film in the series.
There are also some negative points to this entry. The ending seems rushed and poorly edited. Its also less exciting and suspenseful than the previous entries. This is still an entertaining flick to make you feel nostalgic. (5/10)
Most people I talk to about Tarzan films, always seem to remember this one best - it certainly was aimed at the Saturday Afternoon Matinée Audiences of the 1930"s, and from their points of view, it probably did not disappoint. It really is a kids movie, but provides escapist entertainment, and the introduction of their "son" creates new interest to a somewhat tired storyline - there are only so many elephant stampedes you can have! The acting of the principals is the same as always, with Johnny W. having a very limited script to worry about. Jane (Maureen O'S.) looks good, while Johnny Sheffield is an appealing "Boy" who became a real pain in sequels! Henry Stephenson and Freda Inescort were good support for Ian Hunter, and in a very small bit part was Laraine Day, presumably in her debut movie. I must say the Metro Tarzan movies had more class than those that followed from lesser studios.
My second Tarzan double-feature slot and the cracks are beginning to
show! That said, TARZAN ESCAPES (1936; ***) is much better than online
reviews would have you believe: true, there is ample stock footage on
display here but it also boasts a strong plot line and cast (featuring
Benita Hume, future wife of Ronald Colman and later George Sanders, as
well as MGM staple Herbert Mundin and James Whale favorite E.E. Clive,
not to mention the villainous John Buckler who comes to a particularly
sticky end in this one) to even things out. By now, Weissmuller and O'
Sullivan have grown considerably in their respective parts but the
influence of the Hays' Office (established while the film was in
production, resulting in extensive re-shoots before it could be
classified for exhibition!) is also very much in evidence: Tarzan and
Jane's behavior (to say nothing of the latter's 'wardrobe') is rather
chaste this time around, and even the violence is there mainly by
virtue of recycled scenes from the two previous entries in the series!!
TARZAN FINDS A SON! (1939; **1/2), though certainly briskly-paced and fairly enjoyable in itself, is where things really start to degenerate and a sense of deja'-vu hangs over the proceedings like a cloud; not that this factor is an isolated case in franchises of this period consider, for instance, the noticeable leap in quality from the ornate SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939) to a strictly programmer-level THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (1942) To make matters worse (though, I guess, this can be pinned down to personal opinion), we have here the addition of another jungle 'initiate' in the figure of Boy who emulates Tarzan in his every move, down to that grating yodel! Besides, his getting into endless predictable scrapes throughout, forcing Tarzan's nick-of-time intervention and queuing in further stock footage from the earlier films (now looking pretty rough-hewn alongside the lavish budgets MGM could afford by the end of the decade!), does the picture no favors at all in the story department!! Logic, too, is casually thrown out the window: the film opens with a plane crash-landing (i.e. before reaching its intended destination), yet when a search party is set in motion (5 years after the fact, conveniently allowing Boy to grow up and become attached to the Tarzans!), its members (invariably harboring an agenda of their own) go directly to the supposedly forbidden/secret part of the jungle where the Lord Of The Apes has set up residence sheesh!! Once again, the familiar cast-list adds to the fun, though it has to be said that Ian Hunter (usually playing the reliable type) makes for an unconvincing villain in this one.
Mysterious air currents and mechanical failures cause a private plane
to crash in Africa, with only a baby boy surviving. Tarzan's chimp
"Cheeta" swings by and tosses the blanketed lad to jungle king Johnny
Weissmuller (as Tarzan), who has arrived to investigate. Mr.
Weissmuller brings the baby home to pretty Maureen O'Sullivan (as
Jane). They adopt the baby by declaration and decide to call him "Boy"
(an unimaginative name, but it fits). The baby quickly grows into cute
preteen Johnny Sheffield. As young Sheffield learns the ropes from
Weissmuller, an expedition of his surviving family members is
investigating. Naturally, they will want to take the Lancing baby away
from Tarzan and Jane...
Much has been made of the fact that "Tarzan Finds a Son!" has the jungle couple's son arriving by plane crash, instead of vaginally. This is due to moral guidelines set by the Hays production code being more rigorously enforced in 1934. This raises some questions, however. It has been generally accepted that Weissmuller's "Tarzan" and O'Sullivan's "Jane" never marry, and that they adopt "Boy" in this film. However, the script of this film suggests a legal marriage has taken place off-screen. Their on-screen "adoption ceremony" appears to be on much shakier ground. More obviously, plot potential favored Sheffield's arrival by plane. This entry's highlight is sparkling underwater photography.
****** Tarzan Finds a Son! (6/16/39) Richard Thorpe ~ Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O'Sullivan, Johnny Sheffield, Ian Hunter
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Fourth film in the MGM Tarzan sequence is a great step up from the last
film, Tarzan Escapes (what a dog that one is).
Here the film has Tarzan and Jane having a baby boy brought to them by Cheetah. The baby, who they name Boy, was orphaned when the plane he was flying with his parents crashed in the jungle. The crying baby was rescued by some chimps not long before the plane is discovered by unfriendly tribesmen. (we later learn the parents fates). Five years later an expedition comes into the jungle looking for the plane and some sign of the people on board. It seems a vast fortune hangs in the balance of the location of anyone on board the plane. Will Boy return to civilization or stay with Tarzan and Jane? Good film is a nice step forward in the MGM Tarzan saga.The plot moves along at a good clip, has some great thrills and keeps the stock footage to a minimum. To be honest I can't really say that any bit of the story really stands out but at the same time I enjoyed the film the entire time it was on.
If there are any draw backs to the film it would come in two places, first the basic structure of some one coming into the jungle to find some one, Boy here, Jane in the previous two films, was cliché almost from the get go. the fact that the studio got three films in a row from the plot line shows the films have more to them then the well worn plot lines. The second problem with the film is the long sequences where Tarzan and Boy frolic. Its good in that it establish father/son bonding and their relationship, but it kind of goes on and one too long. Worse its all variations on the Tarzan Jane frolics from the last two films.
Ultimately the pluses out weigh the minuses so this is a great little adventure film. Definitely worth your time.
(Addendum and possible spoiler: I can't believe that MGM was going to kill off Jane. I'm curious has to how the final sequence was suppose to be played since the scene as it stands now is a bit silly with Jane suddenly better.)
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