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In fact, notwithstanding some uncomfortable chafing he sustained from riding Mary the rhinoceros, Weissmuller was never seriously injured by any of the animals during his seventeen-year reign as Tarzan. A good example of the real danger he faced during the filming of certain scenes was the thrilling and famous elephant stampede at the end of Tarzan the Ape Man. He based it on the yodeling he learned as a boy in the German community of Chicago, and the influence of occasional childhood outings to the opera with his mother. It would be used for nearly every live action film or tv series to come, dubbed in when he was no longer the star.

And to the universal delight of fans, he would easily reproduce it throughout his life and in sometimes unlikely settings - reveling in the happiness that his gesture always produced. The Weissmuller Tarzan yell passed to legendary status and is one of the most recognizable cinema soundbites in history. Listen to the Tarzan yell here. Their screen chemistry and perfect rapport were very compelling and totally believable, and they are widely considered to be one of the all-time great screen couples.

They remained close friends throughout their lives In the summer of he was appointed to the Santa Monica lifeguard squad on a volunteer basis; not a publicity stunt, he took it very seriously as he wanted to put his spare time to good use and loved being in the water. In August he made his first of many rescues, saving the life of a 12 year old boy. He also got more into the nascent sport of surfing and was a pioneer for the early sport of paddleboarding. As a big celebrity, he did much to support and publicize these sports.

Also in , Weissmuller became the main celebrity endorser for Wheaties breakfast cereal that year. He was on the box, and appeared in many full-page ads and special promotions. The petite and gorgeous Lupe was well known for her sex appeal and great comedic talent, and also for her emotional instability and wild parties. But their sense of style and adventurous outings also made them trendsetters in their day.

Tarzan and His Mate was released in the Spring of It is arguably the greatest Tarzan film ever made, of more than 40 throughout the years. In , the U. Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. The American Film Institute counts the movie on a list of the greatest film love stories ever told. Watch the Tarzan and His Mate trailer here. It was redone with the swimmer in costume and there were actually three versions eventually released.

Either way, the gorgeous underwater ballet - choreographed in part by Weissmuller - is a classic and groundbreaking scene. In the famous underwater river battle with a giant crocodile, Johnny himself was grappling with the huge mechanical reptile; however, in other films he would go on to wrestle live alligators, working in a tank of frigid water to make the beasts lethargic. And one of the most exciting scenes ever made for any Tarzan film was Johnny riding on the back of an African rhinoceros. Another of the most iconic screen Tarzan images is taken from a scene in this movie, where Weissmuller is standing atop the lead elephant of the herd called by Tarzan to surround the elephant graveyard.

Finally released at the end of , the third film Tarzan Escapes was roiled by production changes and repeatedly delayed by the studio. MGM wanted to be sure that it would far outshine the two low-budget, unsuccessful Tarzan films made without Weissmuller that were released in the intervening time. Though perhaps not a true classic in the way the first two films were, the worldwide public loved it and it was a hit.

And it made certain that by that time anyone other than Weissmuller was considered to be an imposter in the role. While he was under contract at MGM, they never allowed Weissmuller to be lent out to other studios or to play any other role. But they did consent to him starring in occasional swimming exhibitions and the water shows he loved to do, as long as they were big ticket events. Several million people attended the Aquacade that summer, and Billy Rose became a rich man because of the huge success of the show. Johnny wore gold swim trunks to highlight his gorgeous physique, and performed magnificent dives and swimming.

Weissmuller was still in such superb condition at the age of 35 that he was able to easily beat the current national champion of the yd freestyle in a practice race in NYC that summer! He picked yr old swimming champ Esther Williams. Her performances with superstar Weissmuller, and his introducing her to the MGM studio heads, helped to launch her own path to film stardom. In the summer of formal divorce proceedings from Lupe had begun, and were finalized in August of However, they remained good friends and when she passed away from an overdose five years later Johnny was a pallbearer at her funeral.

He had been her only legal husband, and was deeply saddened by her premature death. He was one of the top celebrity golfers in the country for many years, and helped to establish major tournaments like the Bing Crosby Pro-Am Classic Crosby was an old pal by then. Read more about this story here. Johnny and Beryl were married on August 20, , only days after his divorce was finalized. Although they turned out to be incompatible from early on - with the pressures of being wed to a big movie star certainly contributing to the discord — having kids was a priority for both of them.

Hundreds of young boys were screened for the role. Finally, Weissmuller gave his personal okay on the selection of Johnny Sheffield.

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He had taken a liking to him at the interview, and ended up teaching him how to swim once he saw that Sheffield was not afraid of the water. Tarzan Finds A Son! It was another great success in the U. The first was especially noteworthy for the fact that it featured a young black actor in the role of a native lad suddenly orphaned, who becomes a part of the Tarzan clan for this story.

It was revolutionary at the time to portray a mixed race family and friendship in this way. And, Johnny personally always championed the cause of all minority actors and rights when he could. Though decidedly different than the previous films, most critics saw it as a refreshing change of pace; it was a fan favorite and has become a cult classic. He also did many new and dangerous stunts in the picture, including climbing high up on the actual Brooklyn Bridge. As World War II loomed and then overtook America and much of the world, Johnny wanted to do more than just be a cinema hero and source of enjoyable escape to a beleaguered nation.

During those years he did as much as he could to help the war effort by participating in innumerable celebrity fund-raisers and shows for the troops, including being part of the famed Hollywood Canteen about which the film Stage Door Canteen was made in He also spent a lot of time visiting with wounded and disabled veterans at VA hospitals nationwide.

Twice a month for 2 years he intensively trained troops in dangerous operations like swimming out from under and diving into water covered with flaming oil, at the Long Beach Naval Academy in California. And - indicative of his already great influence on popular culture - at times during the War homesick soldiers asked for the Weissmuller Tarzan yell to be broadcast to them at the battlefront for inspiration.

The war not only had major repercussions for the country and the world, it also severely compromised the motion picture industry. And for the Tarzan films, three quarters of their revenue came from markets outside the U. But producer Sol Lesser of RKO had been waiting for the chance to work with Weissmuller as the star of his favorite franchise, and so immediately bought out the rights to the character and offered Johnny a contract.

Although they were lower-budget than the MGM movies, there were several noteworthy and acclaimed adventure films in the bunch and they became a solid part of the Weissmuller Tarzan legacy — especially the final three films. They had a totally different aesthetic and pacing than the earlier films. Some were set in contemporary times e. Loved by the public, they endured the test of time and some iconic images of Weissmuller as Tarzan come from those years.

After the first two pictures, in RKO brought Jane back in the form of Brenda Joyce, a tall beauty with strawberry blonde hair. And Johnny was as popular as ever as Tarzan, receiving thousands of letters each week from fans around the globe. It was an action-packed adventure that featured spectacular scenery and stunts — including the famous cliff dives at La Quebrada in Acapulco. And the extensive use of music and singing, composed by Dimitri Tiomkin future Oscar winner , was a first for any Tarzan film.

He had first visited there in , and had returned many times. They were even co-owners of the Los Flamingos Hotel there for many years. He would end up spending the last years of his life in Acapulco not far from that hotel, in a beautiful cliffside home overlooking the Pacific, and was laid to rest in a cemetery nearby Johnny had kept himself in good shape and was still very believable and universally beloved in the role of Tarzan.

At age 43 he was powerfully built even though he might not have had the lean physique of his younger years. Nonetheless, in Weissmuller decided that he would finally retire his loincloth. Part of the impetus was that Lesser would not give him a share of the revenue for the films, something which was just starting to become a more standard practice in Hollywood for the stars whose names were a big draw. In Johnny Weissmuller, an Olympic swimmer, was introduced as the Jungle king and ever since has dominated the field despite the appearance from time to time of minor incarnations.

Weissmuller lives modestly in Beverly Hills They had tried their best to keep the family together for the sake of the children, but found no way to do so. Johnny stayed committed to fully supporting his kids in every way he could, and was always present in their lives when their mother allowed the visits.

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A few years earlier, Johnny was playing his usual rounds at the California Country Club when he met Allene Gates, daughter of a pro golf celebrity and an accomplished amateur golfer in her own right. The friendship turned romantic after a couple of years, and they were wed shortly after the divorce.

Johnny and Allene often traveled the country and the world to golf tournaments and exhibitions together, and their love of the sport provided a strong bond. The much younger Allene and Johnny would pass a number of happy years together, until the age difference and a serious financial downturn caused by his unscrupulous business manager took their toll. It was a big hit, and the series proved to be very financially lucrative for Weissmuller as well.

Beginning in Johnny starred in sixteen Jungle Jim movies over eight years, all of which were financially successful and immensely popular - if not critically acclaimed. Both the films and the TV series were syndicated domestically and abroad for years thereafter. Weissmuller continued to perform many dangerous stunts and all of the underwater fight scenes himself for both the movies and the 26 episodes of the Jungle Jim TV series that followed, well into his early fifties.

Remarkably, the highest dive he ever did was for the opening of a Jungle Jim film — 76 feet off a cliff into a river. He shone in his field with brilliance and power All these awards also meant Johnny was featured in a whole new series of ads and products. In , MGM re-released his first two films to great success; a whole new generation now saw him in his prime on the big screen.

In fact, most of the 12 Weissmuller Tarzan movies were re-released in theaters worldwide over the years. And then the television era ushered in five more decades of widespread international viewing of those Weissmuller films, which are among the most broadcasted movies of all time. By , Weissmuller had retired from acting and went on to partner in various business ventures. He also traveled the world doing charity work throughout his life, always willing to lend his fame for a good cause when asked. One of his pet charities was the Special Olympics, and to that end in he donated all of his Olympic medals and many trophies to the Joseph P.

Kennedy Foundation for disabled children, to be used in fundraising exhibitions. They are now housed at the International Swimming Hall of Fame museum. In March of , he married for the fifth and final time. He had met Maria Bauman Mandell a couple of years earlier at a charity luncheon in L. At that time they were both in marriages that were ending and so struck up a platonic friendship. Maria was born in Germany and had moved to the US in with her young daughter.

Her first husband had been killed on the Russian front while she was pregnant, and she later became part of the underground resistance movement. Unfortunately, he quickly had it pulled out of circulation when a misguided judge ordered all proceeds from the book sales be given to an erroneous claimant on his old movie royalty payments. Johnny was given the title of Founding Chairman of the Board, and moved to Florida to be a more permanent part of it.

He poured his heart into the endeavor, and the struggling organization would have floundered without his presence and reputation drawing donations from individuals and organizations. During the eight years he spent there he raised over a million dollars for construction and swimming programs. He would take almost daily swims in the Hall of Fame pool, and spent many afternoons there interacting with all of the young swimmers and divers. He appeared in magazines and on television and radio to promote the SHOF and swimming for all ages, but especially for children.

He got other stars to appear for us. Probably my biggest thrill in life was a trip to Jamaica with Johnny to promote the upcoming British Commonwealth Games Something often overlooked about Weissmuller was his lifelong commitment to fitness and healthy food for all. The stores were ahead of their time and played a key part in the health food movement.

Every store opening he appeared at was mobbed, like the St. Louis one where over fans showed up. All good things which Mother Nature intended us to have but which modern living makes it hard to get. In years to come, the environment will be so tough on our systems that only the very healthy will survive well In , Weissmuller and four other great Olympians were honored to be part of a sterling silver commemorative set of medals depicting great moments in Olympics history. He was also featured that year in the Associated Press book The Sports Immortals , on the careers of the 50 athletes they deemed to be the greatest of all time.

In the latter part of Johnny and Maria moved to Las Vegas in order to be closer to his children and grandchildren, who lived there and in California.

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He played golf with high rollers and hung out with fans at the hotel. Many of his old celebrity pals performed or vacationed in Vegas, so he was able to reconnect with a lot of them at that time. In August of , he suffered a major stroke while in Los Angeles for a fundraiser. He needed fulltime care and thus lived for the next two years at the Country Home and Hospital, a convalescent home for veteran actors in California. Aired pm ET. Tulsi Gabbard D-HI.

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