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Wed Aug 1, 2012, 10:04 PM

TCM Schedule for Friday, August 3 -- Summer Under The Stars: Johnny Weissmuller

Obviously in honor of the Olympics, today's star is Johnny Weissmuller. He was born Janos Weissmuller, 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. He began in the movies as Adonis in a fig leaf, and went on to make twelve films as Tarzan and 13 films (and 26 television episodes) as Jungle Jim. Enjoy!

6:00 AM -- Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948)
68 min, TV-PG
Tarzan and Jane try to keep a woman from being forced to marry a con artist.
Dir: Robert Florey
Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Brenda Joyce, George Zucco

In Weissmuller's las appearance as Tarzan, his stunt double Ángel García allegedly was killed while performing the famous cliff dive into the ocean at Acapulco, Mexico. Local authorities rejected this claim as Hollywood publicity. Another source said Garcia survived the fall but died when the surf slammed him into the rocks. John Laurenz, who played the singing postman Benji, never made mention of any such incident in his popular radio program or in his article on the filming of this movie. No newspaper articles (Mexico, Hollywood or otherwise) from that time have been revealed noting the event.

7:18 AM -- Why Is It? (1948)
C-8 min
This short film, through a series of different situations, posits the age old question, "Why is it?"
Dir: Dave O'Brien
Narrator: Pete Smith

Why is it that every time you have an important appointment in the morning, you stay awake worrying about oversleeping? Why is it that when a wife makes an effort to prepare a special meal from scratch, the husband always makes a face after eating it? And why is it that every time you go to a library, you sit next to the person who will be the most distracting?

7:30 AM -- Tarzan and the Huntress (1947)
72 min, TV-PG
Tarzan fights to keep a seductive female big game hunter from capturing too many animals.
Dir: Kurt Neumann
Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Brenda Joyce, Johnny Sheffield

Johnny Sheffield's last movie as Boy.

8:48 AM -- How To Hold Your Husband - Back (1941)
9 min
A demonstration of the many emotional states wives display to hold their husbands - unintentionally back - under different circumstances.

My, but things have changed in 70 years! This is quite politically incorrect.

9:00 AM -- Tarzan and the Leopard Woman (1946)
72 min, TV-PG
Tarzan fights to keep a killer cult from attacking traders.
Dir: Kurt Neumann
Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Brenda Joyce, Johnny Sheffield

Geographical oops -- the elephants depicted are Indian elephants, not African.

10:15 AM -- Tarzan And The Amazons (1945)
76 min, TV-PG
Archaeologists trick Boy into helping them find a hidden valley ruled by women.
Dir: Kurt Neumann
Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Brenda Joyce, Johnny Sheffield

More geographical challenges -- In opening scene of Cheetah fishing they show some parrots in the trees, a macaw and two cockatoos. Macaws are native to Central and South America and cockatoos are found only in Australia and surrounding islands.

11:33 AM -- The Amazing Mr. Nordill (1947)
11 min

Nordill and his career were the basis for the feature film Mister 880, starring Edmund Gwenn as the character based on Mr. Nordill, and Burt Lancaster as the treasury agent after him.

11:45 AM -- Tarzan's Desert Mystery (1943)
70 min, TV-PG
The jungle king braves a lost prehistoric world to obtain malaria serum for the Allies.
Dir: William Thiele
Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Nancy Kelly, Johnny Sheffield

One never expects reality in a Tarzan film -- When Tarzan and Boy walk across the hot, sandy desert on their way to get the medicine from the jungle, they both walk across it in their bare feet. Sand often gets extremely hot out in the desert, and both of them should be suffering from burns on the bottoms of their feet, but they do not.

1:00 PM -- Tarzan Triumphs (1943)
76 min, TV-PG
The jungle king helps the princess of a lost civilization fight off Nazi invaders.
Dir: William Thiele
Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Johnny Sheffield, Frances Gifford

Jane's absence was explained in a letter saying that she was visiting relatives in England. Maureen O'Sullivan was sick of playing Jane, but her absence probably had more to do with the fact that the franchise had switched from MGM to RKO, and O'Sullivan was an MGM contract player.

2:30 PM -- Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942)
71 min, TV-PG
When a circus kidnaps Boy, Tarzan and Jane follow him to New York City.
Dir: Richard Thorpe
Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O'Sullivan, John[ny] Sheffield

The first movie Tarzan, Elmo Lincoln, has a cameo as a circus roustabout.

3:45 PM -- Tarzan's Secret Treasure (1941)
81 min, TV-PG
Prospectors kidnap Jane and Boy to force the jungle king to reveal the location of a golden treasure.
Dir: Richard Thorpe
Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O'Sullivan, John[ny] Sheffield

Due to many budget cutbacks following the death of Irving Thalberg many stock shots from former movies were used.

5:15 PM -- Tarzan Finds A Son! (1939)
82 min, TV-PG
The jungle king adopts the infant survivor of a plane crash.
Dir: Richard Thorpe
Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O'Sullivan, John[ny] Sheffield

Tarzan had to "find" a son, because censors would not allow Jane to become pregnant because she and Tarzan were not legally married.

6:45 PM -- Tarzan: Silver Screen King of the Jungle (2004)
C-73 min, TV-14
An original documentary featuring rare, behind-the-scenes footage and comments by Maureen O'Sullivan, Johnny Weismuller, Jr., TCM host Robert Osborne and several noted Tarzan historians.

The phrase "Me Tarzan, you Jane" was never spoken in any of the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films at MGM.


8:00 PM -- Tarzan, The Ape Man (1932)
100 min, TV-G
A British lord raised by apes kidnaps a beautiful noblewoman exploring Africa with her father.
Dir: W. S. Van Dyke
Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Neil Hamilton, C. Aubrey Smith

When Johnny Weissmuller was approached to play Tarzan, he was under contract with BVD to advertise its underwear and swimming trunks. BVD strenuously objected to its spokesman appearing in just a loincloth - the company only wanted him to appear wearing its product. In return for letting Weismuller play Tarzan, MGM allowed BVD to run ads featuring the studio's contract players in BVD swimsuits (including Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow and Marie Dressler). (source: "Tarzan of the Movies" by Gabe Esso)

9:52 PM -- Vitaphone Pictorial Review #60 (1937)
7 min
A Vitaphone short containing three unique segments: Growing Grass, about using beavers to help grow grass, Mallet Swingers, about polo players, Gordon Fleece, about wool manufacturing.

10:00 PM -- Tarzan And His Mate (1934)
104 min, TV-PG
The jungle king fights to protect his wife from a greedy ivory hunter.
Dir: Cedric Gibbons
Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O'Sullivan, Neil Hamilton

The only appearance of the two-piece Jane costume, subsequently replaced by a long one-piece costume in all the sequels due to pressure from the Hays Office as they felt it was too revealing.

12:00 AM -- Tarzan Escapes (1936)
89 min, TV-PG
Jane Parker's cousins try to kidnap the jungle king to get their hands on her inheritance.
Dir: Richard Thorpe
Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O'Sullivan, John Buckler

The original director was James C. McKay, who filmed many gruesome scenes. In July 1936, he was replaced by John Farrow who practically re-shot the entire film. Three months later, Farrow married Maureen O'Sullivan.

1:45 AM -- Jungle Jim (1948)
72 min, TV-PG
The famed explorer tries to protect a lady scientist searching the jungle for a polio cure.
Dir: William Berke
Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Virginia Grey, George Reeves

Based on the comic strip character created by Alex Raymond, who also created Flash Gordon.

3:00 AM -- The Lost Tribe (1949)
73 min, TV-PG
Jungle Jim fights to protect an African village targeted for exploitation.
Dir: William Berke
Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Myrna Dell, Elena Verdugo

Those of us of a certain age remember Elena Verdugo as the somewhat dumpy Consuelo Lopez, the assistant to Robert Young's Marcus Welby M.D.

4:30 AM -- Pygmy Island (1950)
69 min, TV-PG
Jungle Jim searches for a female Army captain who's gone missing.
Dir: William Berke
Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Ann Savage, David Bruce

The pygmy are played, for the most part, by white little people with shaggy black wigs.

5:40 AM -- Island Windjammers (1956)
8 min
This Sportscope features the annual Out Island Regatta held annually in the Bahamas.
Dir: Howard Winner
Cast: André Baruch, Spence Burton, Thomas Daniel Knox

Filmed on location in George Town and Nassau, Bahamas.

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