Probably the first jock
to turn movie star and widely recognized as the first Tarzan
Johnny Weissmuller was born in what today is considered Romania in 1904 and his family soon emigrated to the United States. He was sickly as a child and under the advice of his doctor took up swimming in order to build his stamina . That turned out to be pretty sound advice.
In all, Weissmuller wound up winning 67 world records and 52 national titles in freestyle swimming in every event ranging from the 100 meter to the half mile event. He competed in two Olympiads, the 1924 Olympic games in Paris in which he won three gold medals and the 1928 Olympic games in Amsterdam in which he won two more. In fact, he never lost in an Olympic event unless you count his playing on the United States water polo team, which lost in the first round.
Weissmuller was spotted by Hollywood while he was embarked on a modeling career that included ads for him clad only in his underwear. Seeking to fill the role of Tarzan, he was billed as “the only man in Hollywood who’s natural in the flesh and can act without his clothes”, his career as Tarzan was about to be born.
America was just coming out of the Great Depression and was looking for heroes. What better man to fill the bill than a past Olympic champion? Tarzan the Ape Man, the first of the the Tarzan movies was a boxoffice hit and Weissmuller’s career as Tarzan was now born. He went on to make a dozen movies as Tarzan for RKO and MGM. After switching to Columbia films, he made 16 more films as somebody called Jungle Jim, sorta like a Tarzan, only with clothes. Here’s a list of the Weissmuller/Tarzan films and the year they appeared followed by a brief commentary in, what else, Tarzan style.
Tarzan, The Ape Man – 1932 (Tarzan meet Jane/fall in love)
Tarzan And His Mate – 1934 (Jane wear leather bikini/Tarzan say "Ungowa!" /fight crocodile)
Tarzan Escapes – 1936 (White man find Tarzan/want to make exhibit/Tarzan say "No!")
Tarzan Finds A Son – 1939 (Plane crash/Cheetah find Boy/Tarzan & Jane keep Boy)
Tarzan’s Secret Treasure – 1941 (Boy run away/Tarzan rescue)
Tarzan’s New York Adventure – 1942 (Boy kidnapped / must work in circus/ Tarzan pissed!)
Tarzan Triumphs – 1943 ( Tarzan battle Nazis/ Say “Now Tarzan make war!")
Tarzan’s Desert Mystery – 1943 (Tarzan bring medicine to Allied soldier/fight giant spider)
Tarzan And The Amazons – 1945 (Tarzan help find lost city/rescue Boy)
Tarzan And The Leopard Woman -1946 (Tarzan rescue teachers/Boy/Jane from cult
Tarzan And The Huntress – 1947 (Tarzan friend killed by trappers/Tarzan save animals from zoo)
Tarzan And The Mermaids – 1948 (Tarzan go forbidden island/save people from high priest/dive from cliff/fight giant octopus/save day)
Info on Tarzan movies from www.tarzanmovieguide.com