In the first sequel to Tarzan, the Ape Man, Harry Holt returns to Africa to head up a large ivory expedition. This time he brings his womanizing friend Marlin Arlington. Holt also harbors ideas about convincing Jane to return to London.
When Holt and Arlington show Jane some of the modern clothes and perfumes they brought from civilization, she is impressed but not enough to return. Tarzan wrestles every wild animal imaginable to protect Jane but when he disallows the expedition from plundering ivory from the elephant burial grounds, it is he who takes a bullet from Arlington\'s gun.
Jane eventually believes that Tarzan is dead but he is nursed back to health by the apes. As Jane and the returning expedition are attacked by violent natives, we wonder if Tarzan can rescue them yet again.
Johnny Weissmuller ... Tarzan
Maureen O\'Sullivan ... Jane Parker
Neil Hamilton ... Harry Holt
Paul Cavanagh ... Martin Arlington
Forrester Harvey ... Beamish
Nathan Curry ... Saidi
Director: Cedric Gibbons / Jack Conway (co-director) (uncredited) / James C. McKay (uncredited)
TARZAN AND HIS MATE (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1934), directed by Jack Conway (credited to MGM art director Cedric Gibbons), a sequel to the successful TARZAN THE APE MAN (1932), remains a highly acclaimed entry in the series. As with its predecessor, the character of Tarzan (and now Jane) do not appear until late into the story, in this instance 23 minutes from the start of the movie. Hailed by many as the best of the entire series, it\'s noted solely not only for its action and adventure, but for its sexual innuendos, Jane\'s two-piece jungle wear, as well as the most eye-opening sequence of all, the underwater swimming of Tarzan (still sporting his loincloth) with Jane, in long shot and shown from her back, completely in the nude. This now famous sequence which was later removed, especially from commercial television, has amazingly survived over the years and now restored, elevating the standard 93 minute print back up to its near theatrical length of 105 minutes. Johnny Weissmuller, the Olympic swimming champion chosen to play Edgar Rice Burrough\'s literary jungle hero, reprises his role, with an added bonus with mono-syllable ideologue. Unlike his co-star, Maureen O\'Sullivan, Weissmuller\'s movie career became limited solely to playing Tarzan while O\'Sullivan ventured in other screen roles without losing her identity as Jane.
In the conclusion of TARZAN THE APE MAN, Jane\'s father (C. Aubrey Smith) dies in Mutia Escartment, Harry Holt (Neil Hamilton) returns to England without his love, Jane, who has chosen to remain in the jungle with Tarzan. The sequel opens with Harry returning to Africa, accompanied by his assistant, Marlin Arlington (Paul Cavanaugh), to secure the ivory fortune at the elephant burial ground. En-route through the jungle, their safari meets up with danger as they are attacked by murderous natives and gorilla tribes. In time the safari is saved by the jungle call of Tarzan, who then escorts Harry to his mate, Jane. While Harry\'s intentions are honorable, with the hope of having Jane return home to England with him, Arlington\'s is not, plotting to do away with Tarzan and causing trouble for everyone concerned.
The supporting players consist of Forrester Harvey reprising his role as Beamish; Doris Lloyd, who also appeared in TARZAN THE APE MAN, assuming another part, that of Madame Feronde; Paul Porcasi as Monsieur Gironde; Desmond Roberts as Henry Van Ness; William Stack as Pierce; and Nathan Curry as Saidi.
The behind the scenes look to the making of TARZAN AND HIS MATE is as interesting as the movie itself. According to sources, there were complications during production, former silent screen matinée idol Rod LaRocque was replaced by Paul Cavanaugh, Jack Conway took over for Cedric Gibbons in the director\'s chair, having to film much of the movie all over again, as well as technical problems and script revisions. In spite of everything, it finally was completed, being the classic is has become.
A pre-code movie if ever there was one, TARZAN AND HIS MATE was obviously made for the adult masses. It would be another decade before the Tarzan films reverted more to the appeal of children like a Saturday afternoon matinée. Villains are the main factor in much of the series, and Paul Cavanaugh\'s performance, which might have gone to resident MGM bad guy John Miljan, plays a convincing one. His evilness speaks through his shifty eyes, especially on how he looks at the carefree Jane in her most abbreviated jungle attire as she sucks out snake poison from his forearm. He even forces his intentions on Jane by kissing her on the lips. Another interesting mention is the death of Tarzan\'s pet monkey, Cheta, midway through the story, while attempting to save Tarzan from a vicious rhinoceros. However, Cheta\'s offspring, mourning for its mother, is then adopted by Jane, who calls this one Cheta, too.
Action scenes are plentiful, bringing out many highlights, including some well constructed ones including Tarzan\'s battle against a 14-foot crocodile, he defeating the natives, and leading elephant stampedes. Jane also shows off her courage and skill while facing the dangers of the jungle as she plays dead while being surrounded by lions. Besides the recognized Tarzan yell, Jane gives out her jungle call as well, normally as a distress signal, in the more operatic sounding level, along with Jane\'s leap from the tree-top into the arms of Tarzan below - acrobatic style. With much of these ingredients and fast pace action, TARZAN AND HIS MATE is in many ways close to being superior to TARZAN THE APE MAN.
The release of TARZAN THE APE MAN, in 1932, caused a sensation. It may be hard to believe, 70 years later, but the film had much of the same kind of impact as THE MATRIX, or THE LORD OF THE RINGS has achieved, at a time when movies and radio were the major sources of entertainment. Tarzan became an instant pop icon, the \'noble savage\' that every woman fantasized about, and every man wished he could be. The only person unhappy about the situation was Edgar Rice Burroughs, who, while he\'d agreed to MGM\'s creative liberties, and enjoyed his hefty royalty checks, felt the \'dumbed down\' version of his character (with no plans to allow him to \'grow\') was unfaithful to his vision (he would start a production company, and soon be making his own \'Tarzan\' films). MGM, realizing the value of it\'s newest \'star\', knew the sequel would have to be even more spectacular than the original...and TARZAN AND HIS MATE delivered!
The film had an interesting back story; Cedric Gibbons, MGM\'s legendary Art Director, had gotten a commitment from the studio to direct the sequel, prior to the release of TARZAN THE APE MAN, despite the fact that he\'d NEVER directed before (the studio hadn\'t anticipated the film\'s impact, and didn\'t think a novice director would matter much on a \'novelty\' film...and they wanted to keep their Oscar-winning department chief happy). Gibbons, a prodigiously talented and imaginative visual artist, loved the freedom of pre-Code Hollywood, and decided to have TARZAN AND HIS MATE \'push the envelope\' to the limit...Tarzan and Jane would frolic in a nude swim, and Jane would appear TOPLESS through most of the film. Maureen O\'Sullivan said in an interview shortly before her death, in 1998, that while a double was used for the swim, she trusted the studio, and did \'a couple of days\' of filming sans top...but it became too much of a headache trying to strategically place plants and fruit to block her nipples, and the idea was abandoned (the film shot those days would be worth a fortune!) She did do a nude silhouette scene in a tent, flashed her breasts at the conclusion of her \'swim\', and donned a revised \'jungle\' costume that was extremely provocative, very thin, and open at the sides...and the resulting outcry would help \'create\' the Hays Office, and the self-censorship that would soon engulf the entire industry.
MGM yanked Gibbons from the production (the \'official\' reason given was his workload as Art Director), and veteran Jack Conway was listed as the new director, to appease the critics...although James C. McKay actually directed the film, as Conway was busy on 3 other projects, including VIVA VILLA!
The film incorporated the best elements of the original (safaris, murderous tribes, Tarzan fighting jungle beasts to the death to save Jane), and actually improved on the storytelling. Harry Holt (Neil Hamilton), from the first film, returns to Africa for ivory from the \'Elephants\' Graveyard\', and to try to seduce Jane into returning to England, with gifts of silk dresses, underwear, and perfume. He brings with him Martin Arlington (Paul Cavanagh), a crack shot and inveterate womanizer, who sneers at Holt\'s chivalrous pursuit of Jane, and stalks her as a potential \'conquest\', to be had by any means (including killing Tarzan, if and when he can get away with it without being seen).
Tarzan barely tolerates the intrusion into his happy life with Jane, and puts his foot down, refusing to allow the hunters into the Graveyard. Arlington finds his opportunity, catching the Ape Man alone, and shoots him, then returns to the camp with a fabricated story of his demise. Now Jane has no reason to remain in the jungle, and she can direct them to the Graveyard, before her long voyage back to England, comforted by the oh-so-sympathetic Arlington. But a savage tribe and hideous torture await the group...can Tarzan, being nursed back to health by his ape \'family\', recover in time to save Jane?
While stock footage is again used extensively, the racial stereotypes of the 30s are apparent, and the gorillas are obviously actors in ape suits, TARZAN AND HIS MATE achieves a level of sophistication unsurpassed in any other \'Tarzan\' film, as well as a sexiness that even Bo Derek\'s blatantly erotic TARZAN, THE APE MAN couldn\'t touch. Johnny Weissmuller was in peak condition, physically, Maureen O\'Sullivan was never more beautiful, and \'Africa\' never looked more romantic, and dangerous.
TARZAN AND HIS MATE was a triumph (although it would be drastically edited for many years), and remains THE classic of the series, to this day!
Maureen O\'Sullivan turns in a stunning performance as \"Jane\", Tarzan\'s love interest. O\'Sullivan\'s Jane set a new standard for female lead characters - strong, independent, intelligent, and not afraid to accept new challenges and face new dangers. This is remarkable given that, at the time the film was made, the typical American view was that a woman\'s place was in the kitchen, yet here we see an attractive, diminutive, well-bred Englishwoman living in the jungle under harsh conditions and loving every minute of it. Several times during the film, a band of explorers try to convince Jane to return to civilization and conform to society\'s standards, and part of the film\'s plot revolves around her decision as to whether or not she should leave Tarzan and the jungle life and return to America, which has led some to draw parallels between women deciding between the workplace (a man\'s world at the time) and the home (a woman\'s world at the time) and the film\'s world of the jungle and then-modern society.
Johnny Weismuller is cast perfectly for this role. The fact that he\'s an Olympic swimmer lends credibility to his role as a muscular he-man living with the apes. While some people have criticized his lack of acting ability (confusing his limited lines to be equivalent with limited acting ability), I\'ve come to the conclusion that he\'s a natural actor - one who can express a range of emotion with very few words - which is exactly what Tarzan should be. As an athlete, Weismuller is used to expressing himself physically - Weismuller\'s Tarzan is a man of few words and limited grammar, but his eyes and body language express exactly what he\'s feeling and thinking. While Jane is the speaker who does, Tarzan is the doer who speaks. Jane is the civilized communicator who is not afraid to dive into a crocodile-infested river. Tarzan is the noble savage who dives into a river and only speaks to clarify what his eyes and hands are saying.
The plot is basically this: a band of explorers venture into the jungle to search for the legendary elephant graveyard to find their fortune in ivory elephant tusks. They meet Jane and befriend her, hoping that she and Tarzan will help them in their search. She convinces Tarzan to guide the hunters, although Tarzan does not feel comfortable with the venture, believing that the hunters should not be violating the sanctity of the animals\' graveyards (and the unspoken law of the jungle). Indeed, at one point the hunters wound an innocent animal to track it to a grave. Tarzan decides that the hunters are evil and leaves their safari, though Jane continues on as the hunters provide her with a taste of the civilized life she left behind.
We see the conflict in Tarzan between his love for Jane and his love for the animals. We see the conflict in Jane between her love of Tarzan and her memories of civilization. The decisions that the two must make as the movie progresses have been interpreted by some as having hidden meanings and that the film producers were using the Tarzan vehicle to make statements about modern society. But I\'ll let you watch the film yourself and make your own decisions.
One last thing: this is the only film in the series (other than the \"Tarzan\" film made by John Derek and starring Bo Derek) in which Jane wears a two-piece leather costume. It\'s also the only installment (other than the \"Tarzan\" film by the Dereks) in which Jane becomes nude (but in a non-sexual scene). Trying to persuade Jane to return to civilization, the hunters give Jane a formal evening gown, which she wears to dinner and all through the night. The next morning, as she climbs out of bed still wearing it, Tarzan picks her up and carries her out onto a tree limb over the river. He dumps her into the water while holding onto the dress, so that she falls into the river naked. Tarzan makes no long soliloquy here - he\'s just expressed his opinion on the whole matter of civilized society quite succinctly.
See the film. It\'s the only \"Tarzan\" film worth watching (well, in addition to \"Greystoke\" with Christopher Lambert).
* The \"African\" elephants were actually Indian elephants fitted with prosthetic tusks and ears, as MGM already owned several Indian elephants and considered them easier to handle.
* Cedric Gibbons was replaced as director due to other duties as the head of MGM\'s art department. He was officially replaced by Jack Conway. Maureen O\'Sullivan recalled that the actual direction was carried out by James C. McKay (uncredited as director), who was only billed as the animal director. Betty Roth (wife of animal supervisor Louis Roth) doubled for O\'Sullivan for some close-up lion scenes at the end of filming due to O\'Sullivan\'s absence for an appendectomy.
* Maureen O\'Sullivan does not appear as Jane during the film\'s famous nude swimming sequence. O\'Sullivan is instead doubled by Josephine McKim, a member of the 1924 and 1928 U.S. Womens\' Olympic Swim Teams and one of the four U.S. swimmers on that team to win the 1928 gold medal in the 400-Meter Freestyle Relay.
* 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.
* The infamous nude swimming scene was originally filmed in three different versions: with Jane wearing her traditional costume, with Jane topless and with Jane fully nude. US states were empowered at that time to enact individual censorship laws, and three different versions of the scene were filmed in order to allow individual states to select the version of the scene which best conformed to its laws. All three versions were eventually removed from the film due to protests from conservative religious groups, particularly the powerful Catholic Legion of Decency. The nude version of the scene was discovered in the vaults of Turner Entertainment during the late 1990s following its purchase of the MGM film library, and was restored to most subsequent versions of the film on the direct orders of Turner Entertainment chairman Ted Turner. In the restored version of the scene, Tarzan is depicted wearing his traditional loincloth while Jane appears fully nude, her costume having been torn off when Tarzan playfully tosses her from a tree to the water below. The scene as it exists today is approximately four minutes in duration.