James Parker and Harry Holt are on an expedition in Africa in search of the elephant burial grounds that will provide enough ivory to make them rich. Parker's beautiful young daughter Jane arrives unexpectedly to join them. Harry is obviously attracted to Jane and he does his best to help protect her from all the dangers that they experience in the jungle. Jane is terrified when Tarzan and his ape friends first abduct her, but when she returns to her father's expedition she has second thoughts about leaving Tarzan. After the expedition is captured by a tribe of violent dwarfs, Jane sends Cheetah to bring Tarzan to rescue them...Written by
Gary Jackson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I hadn't seen Johnny Weissmuller's debut film Tarzan The Ape Man for many years so I was struck by the fact that Neil Hamilton and Maureen O'Sullivan got first billing with Weissmuller down the opening credits in an 'introducing' category. As if no one in America, let alone the movie going public didn't know who Johnny Weissmuller was.
The fuss over swimming champion Michael Phelps is nothing compared to what Johnny Weissmuller's celebrity was like. In the Roaring Twenties when each sport seemed to have an icon that became a legend, Weissmuller was that for swimming. The records he set in the Olympics stood for many years, with today's athlete conditioning methods I can only speculate what he could do today if he were alive and in his prime.
Still Louis B. Mayer was nothing if not cautious in protecting an investment in a non-actor to be a lead in a major film. He kept Weissmuller's dialog to grunts, guttural jungle utterings, and a few choice words that Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane teaches her new jungle man toy.
With tons of footage left over from MGM's African location film of Trader Horn, Tarzan The Ape Man had all the background needed to make the film look good. It's fairly obvious that when you see shots of Neil Hamilton and Maureen O'Sullivan they're shot against a background of real natives. They never got further to Africa than Toluca Lake in the shooting.
It's also obvious that Weissmuller couldn't act at all which was why he was only given grunts and dialog of one and two words. Later on he did become a competent enough actor. But quite frankly who cared when they saw him in a loin cloth.
Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane Parker comes to Africa to visit her father C. Aubrey Smith and she finds that Smith and his partner Neil Hamilton are planning an expedition into some unexplored territory in search of the fabled elephant's graveyard. A lot of loose ivory to be picked up there without the danger of actually trying to kill the beasts. Hamilton's interested in her, but when white jungle man Tarzan rescues O'Sullivan, Hamilton doesn't have a prayer.
Tarzan The Ape Man is still an exciting adventure film even to today's more sophisticated eyes. And Weissmuller and O'Sullivan's appeal as a romantic couple is timeless.
All right so they haven't got the dialog from Romeo and Juliet, who cares?
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