The Tarzan Yell-The Life of Johnny Weissmuller
Did you realize that 23 actors have played the part of Tarzan from 1918-2003?
Growing up, I recall that my dad was a huge fan of Johnny Weissmuller and he always maintained that Weissmuller was the only Tarzan in his book. I remember watching the black and white episodes of Weissmuller playing Tarzan while I was sitting next to my dad. It was really a magical time for me.
I always marveled at how effortlessly he would glide through the water. I didn't find him to be an exceptionally good-looking man, but he had so much grace and style and a swimmer's body. It was hard not to fall in love with that. In later years, Ron Ely made a more chiseled Tarzan in my opinion.
The Distinctive Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan Yell
Born: Johann Weissmuller in Austria-Hungary on June 2, 1904
Married: 5 or 6 times although no one seems to have info about the first wife other than her name.
- Camilla Louiee (Unknown)
- Bobbe Arnst (2/28/31-10/33) Band & Club singer
- Lupe Velez (10/8/33-1939) Actress
- Beryl Scott (8/20/39-1/29/48) and had three kids with her
- Alleen Gates (1948-1962) young golfer
- Maria Brock Mandell Bauman (1963-1984 when he died)
Died: January 20, 1984 at the age of 79 in Acapulco, Mexico. Died of pulmonary edema.
A Quote from the Man Himself
"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."
There have been 23 actors who have played Tarzan from 1918 to 2003.
Gordon Griffith 1918 (young Tarzan)
Elmo Lincoln 1918-1921
Gene Pollar 1920
P. Dempsey Tabler 1920
James Pierce 1927
Frank Merrill 1928-1929
Johnny Weismuller 1932-1948
Buster Crabbe 1933
Herman Brix (later known as Bruce Bennett)1935-1938
Glen Morris 1938
Lex Barker 1949-1953
Clint Walker 1954
Gordon Scott 1955-1960
Denny Miller 1959
Jock Mahoney 1962-1963
Ron Ely 1966-1970
Mike Henry 1966-1968
Miles O'Keefe 1981
Christopher Lambert 1984
Joe Lara 1989
Wolf Larsen 1991
Casper Van Dien 1998
Travis Fimmel 2003
Trivia about Weissmuller
- Even though Weissmuller was born in Hungary, he and his family immigrated to the United States in 1905 when he was only 7 months old. They travelled by ship as steerage passengers and arrived at Ellis Island in New York. Weismuller grew up in Pennsylvania and later Chicago. There was a bit of controversary over his birthplace. It was reported that he lied about his birthplace to ensure being able to join the US Olympic team
- He contracted polio when he was 9 yrs old and a doctor suggested he take up swimming
- As a teen, he dropped out of high school
- He was a member of the YMCA swim team in Chicago
- His parents owned a bar and later his mother was the head cook at a famed restaurant
- He was a lifeguard at a beach on Lake Michigan
- He was discovered while working as a bellboy and elevator operator at the Illinois Athletic Club
- He was 6 foot 3 inches and weighed 190 pounds
- He broke a world record on 7/9/22 in the 100 meter freestyle previously held by Duke Kahanamoku
- He won 5 gold medals, 52 US National Championships, set 67 world records, never lost a race and retired undefeated
- He was a model for BVD promoting swimwear
- In 1927, he and his brother were credited with saving the lives of several occupants of a boat that capsized
- Appearing in twelve Tarzan films he was paid approximately $2 Million.
- He was the first speaking Tarzan
- Created the distinctive ululating yodel of a yell that is synonymous with Tarzan.
- Reportedy, MGM paid one of his wives $10,000 to divorce him because he was incredibly popular with the women and being married wasn't good for his image
- A makeup artist on the movie set claims to have had to cover a lot of bruises and scratches during Weissmuller's marriage to Lupe Velez
- He appeared in 13 Jungle Jim films and 26 TV episodes in an adventure series by the same name.
- Worked with 8 different chimpanzees. The first chimp attacked him in spite of the trainer assuring him it would not. He put his knife to the chimp's nose and then struck him with it. They were friends after that.
- Reportedly had a run-in in Cuba where he and some golfing buddies were about to be kidnapped by some Fidel Castro soldiers. He shocked them with his distinctive Tarzan yell and being star-struck they were more impressed with meeting him
- American military G.I.s requested his Tarzan yell to be broadcast on the battlefront.
- He spent a few years teaching Navy recruits how to swim out from under water that was covered with flaming petroleum. This earned him a special citation by the US War Finance Program in 1945.
- He started a swimming pool company
- He built a tourist attraction in Florida known as Tropical Wonderland or Tarzan's Jungleland in Titusville, Florida. For more info on it, click here.
- He briefly worked as a greeter at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas in 1973
- In 1974, he broke his hip and leg and discovered he had a serious heart condition
- The last movie he appeared in was Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood in 1976
- In 1977, he suffered from a series of strokes
- In 1979, he was hospitalized in California before moving to Acapulco which was the location of his last Tarzan movie
- At his request, a recording of his famous Tarzan yell was played at his funeral as they lowered his coffin into the ground
Great Links and Resources
- Meredy\'s Tarzan Trivia Mania
25 tough trivia questions about Tarzan.
- Johnny Weissmuller - Biography
Johnny Weissmuller on IMDb: Movies, TV, Celebs, and more...
- Biography of Johnny Weissmuller
Very indepth and informative article about Johnny Weissmuller.
- Johnny Weissmuller - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Johnny Weissmuller Biography and Statistics - Olympics at Sports-Reference.com