biography

Born in Freidorf, Austro-Hungary on June 2, 1904 (he often claimed to have been born in Windber, Pennsylvania), Johnny Weissmuller emigrated with his parents to the U.S. as an infant. The family eventually wound up in Pennsylvania, where his father Peter Weissmuller worked as coal miner, but the family moved again to Chicago. A sickly youth, Johnny Weissmuller took up swimming in Lake Michigan to build strength. By the time he entered the University of Chicago in 1922, the 6'3" young man had become an excellent swimmer, ultimately leading him to the Olympic Games in 1924 and 1928. He won five gold medals and set numerous world records.

Johnny WeissmullerJohnny Weissmuller

LEFT: Weissmuller at the 1924 Paris Olympics, where he won three gold medals. RIGHT: In his most famous role as Tarzan. You'll find even more photos of Johnny Weissmuller in the Johnny Weissmuller Gallery

After appearing in a couple of small film roles, Weissmuller signed with BVD and worked as a print model for swimsuits and underwear, instantly becoming a hit with admiring female fans. Louis B. Mayer of MGM Studios signed Weissmuller to a long-term contract in 1932, but in doing so Mayer forced Weissmuller to divorce his second wife, Bobbe Arnst. (Mayer feared that female audiences wouldn't swoon over Weissmuller were it known he was a married man.) Mayer sweetened the deal by paying off Arnst to dissolve the year-old marriage. The next year Weissmuller married fellow MGM contract player Lupe Velez. The union was always fodder for gossip columns, and they divorced in 1938. Weissmuller remarried in 1939 to Beryl Scott, and the couple had a son and two daughters before the marriage ended in 1945.

Lupe Velez and Johnny WeissmullerJohnny WeissmullerJohnny WeissmullerJohnny Weissmuller

LEFT: With third wife Lupe Velez. CENTER A and B: Early 1930s MGM stills. RIGHT: Weissmuller with western actor George O'Brien

In 1942, MGM's option with Edgar Rice Burroughs expired, so Weissmuller and the series headed over to RKO Studios, where he made six more Tarzan films before retiring from the role in 1948 when Lex Barker replaced him in the role of Tarzan. Weissmuller then fielded an offer from Columbia Studios, where he starred in fifteen low-budget Jungle Jim films between 1948 and 1954 and a short-lived syndicated TV series from 1955 to 1956. Columbia's Jungle Jim series was based on the popular comic strip by Alex Raymond.

the films of johnny weissmuller

Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) Get It Here at Movies Unlimited

C. Aubrey Smith, Maureen O'Sullivan, Neil Hamilton, and Johnny WeissmullerJohnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'SullivanMaureen O'Sullivan, Neil Hamilton, and Johnny Weissmuller

From Weissmuller's first Tarzan film, MGM's Tarzan the Ape Man. The film was an immediate smash hit with filmgoers and critics alike, and Weissmuller forever was identified with the role of Tarzan. LEFT: With C. Aubrey Smith, Maureen O'Sullivan, and Neil Hamilton. CENTER: With Maureen O'Sullivan. RIGHT: With Maureen O'Sullivan and Neil Hamilton

Tarzan and His Mate (1934) Get It Here at Movies Unlimited

Maureen O'Sullivan and Johnny Weissmuller

From Tarzan and His Mate with Maureen O'Sullivan. Note the then-daring costumes

Tarzan Escapes (1936) Get It Here at Movies Unlimited

Maureen O'Sullivan and Johnny WeissmullerHerbert Mundin and Johnny Weissmuller

From Tarzan Escapes, the third entry in the series with Johnny Weissmuller. LEFT: With Maureen O'Sullivan. RIGHT: With Herbert Mundin

Tarzan Finds a Son! (1939) Get It Here at Movies Unlimited

Maureen O'Sullivan and Johnny Weissmuller

From Tarzan Finds a Son! with Maureen O'Sullivan. This film marks the first appearance of Johnny Sheffield in the role of Boy

Tarzan's Secret Treasure (1941) Get It Here at Movies Unlimited

Johnny Weissmuller, Johnny Sheffield, and Maureen O'Sullivan

Still from Tarzan's Secret Treasure with Johnny Sheffield and Maureen O'Sullivan

Tarzan's Desert Mystery (1943) Get It Here at Movies Unlimited

Johnny Sheffield

With Johnny Sheffield in RKO's Tarzan's Desert Mystery

Tarzan Triumphs (1943) Get It Here at Movies Unlimited

Johnny Weissmuller and Frances Gifford

From RKO's Tarzan Triumphs with Frances Gifford

Tarzan and the Amazons (1945) Get It Here at Movies Unlimited

Johnny Weissmuller

From Tarzan and the Amazons; this was Brenda Joyce's first outing as Jane

Tarzan and the Huntress (1947) Get It Here at Movies Unlimited

Johnny Sheffield with Johnny Weissmuller and Brenda Joyce

With Johnny Sheffield and Brenda Joyce in Tarzan and the Huntress

Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948) Get It Here at Movies Unlimited

Johnny Weissmuller

Tarzan and the Mermaids was Weissmuller's swansong as Tarzan

Jungle Jim (1948)

Johnny WeissmullerLita Baron, Johnny Weissmuller, and Virginia Grey

LEFT: Weissmuller as the title character in Columbia's Jungle Jim. RIGHT: With Lita Baron and Virginia Grey

Jungle Jim In the Forbidden Land (1952)

Johnny Weissmuller and Sheila Ryan

With Angela Greene in Jungle Jim In the Forbidden Land

Voodoo Tiger (1952)

Johnny Weissmuller

From Columbia's Jungle Jim adventure Voodoo Tiger

Valley of Head Hunters (1953)

Johnny Weissmuller

Jungle Jim wrestles with a paunchy headhunter in Valley of Head Hunters

Devil Goddess (1955)

Johnny Weissmuller, Angela Stevens, and Selmer Jackson

With Angela Stevens and Selmer Jackson in Columbia's Devil Goddess, the final Jungle Jim feature

later years

Weissmuller's syndicated TV series Jungle Jim did not ignite audiences and was canceled after 26 episodes. Now more than 50 years old, he grew weary of acting and returned to the Chicago area to start a swimming pool business in 1956. He made only a handful of film and TV appearances in the ensuing years. In the mid 1960s, he moved to Florida to tend to some business interests that eventually soured. He then left Florida for Las Vegas in the early 1970s where he worked as a greeter in a casino. Weissmuller's health began to decline in the mid 1970s, and in 1977 he suffered a series of strokes and spent about 18 months convalescing in the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital. His wife, Maria, moved him to Acapulco in 1979, where he passed away on January 20, 1984, at the age of 79. He was survived by his fifth wife, son Johnny Weissmuller, Jr. (1940-2006), and daughter Wendy. Weissmuller's daughter Heidi died in a car crash in 1962 at the age of 18.

johnny weissmuller films available from movies unlimited

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Glorifying The American Girl [DVD](1929) DVD
The legendary Flo Ziegfeld "personally supervised" and appears briefly in this early Hollywood musical. Featured are 75 glorified beauties, music composed by Irving Berlin, wonderful costumes and choreography, and an all-star cast that includes Rudy Vallee crooning "Vagabond Lover," Helen Morgan singing "What Wouldn't I Do for That Man?," Eddie Cantor performing his "Cheap Charlie" skit, and more. With Mary Eaton, Noah Beery, Billie Burke, and a cavalcade of screen icons. Standard; Soundtrack: English. Plays All Regions.
The Tarzan Collection [DVD] DVD
Johnny Weissmuller swings as the jungle hero, and Maureen O'Sullivan is his true love, Jane, in six classic MGM Tarzan actioners. See how the pair first met in "Tarzan, The Ape Man" (1932); ivory hunters threaten their idyllic life in "Tarzan and His Mate" (1934); Tarzan must rescue Jane from poachers in "Tarzan Escapes" (1936); the tree-dwelling duo take in an orphan boy who they name...well, Boy, in "Tarzan Finds a Son!" (1939); gold seekers take Jane and Boy hostage in "Tarzan's Secret Treasure" (1941); and the ape man takes the Big Apple by storm in "Tarzan's New York Adventure" (1942). Also includes a bonus disc filled with special features. 8 1/2 hrs. on four discs. Standard; Soundtrack: English.
The Tarzan Collection, Vol. 2 [DVD] DVD
Jungle hero Johnny Weissmuller moved from MGM to RKO for his next six swinging action sagas. First, "Tarzan Triumphs" (1943) over Nazis who attempt to conquer a lost civilization; the search for a plant that will yield a malaria serum leads Tarzan and Boy (Johnny Sheffield) back into conflict with German agents, in "Tarzan's Desert Mystery" (1943); Tarzan and Jane (Brenda Joyce) help defend a female tribe from some nosy archeologists, in "Tarzan and the Amazons" (1945); a bizarre African cult must contend with an angry ape man when they attack Jane and Boy, in "Tarzan and the Leopard Woman" (1946); the jungle king goes up against poachers out to repopulate a zoo, in "Tarzan and the Huntress" (1947); and Weissmuller plays Tarzan for the last time in "Tarzan and the Mermaids" (1948), rescuing a young girl from a pearl trader posing as a tribal god. 7 1/4 hrs. total on three discs. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono; Subtitles: English, Spanish, French.
Greatest Classic Films Collection: Tarzan, Vol. 1 [DVD] DVD
Two-disc set includes "Tarzan, The Ape Man" (1932), "Tarzan and His Mate," "Tarzan Escapes," and "Tarzan Finds a Son!"
Greatest Classic Films Collection: Tarzan, Vol. 2 [DVD] DVD
Two-disc set includes "Tarzan's Secret Treasure," "Tarzan's New York Adventure," "Tarzan and the Amazons," and "Tarzan and the Leopard Woman."
Stage Door Canteen [DVD](1943) DVD
The greatest collection of stars in an "All Out for Victory" musical blockbuster. The story is a simple soldier-meets-USO-girl love story, but what a supporting cast! Katharine Hepburn, Helen Hayes, George Raft, Paul Muni, Harpo Marx, Ed Wynn, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, and more, with music by Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Guy Lombardo, and their orchestras. 131 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English.
Swamp Fire [DVD](1946) DVD
Screen Tarzans Johnny Weissmuller and Buster Crabbe find themselves on opposite sides of the law and rivals for Virginia Grey in this rarely seen actioner set in the Louisiana bayou. Look for a young David Janssen among the alligators. 69 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English mono; scene access. Plays All Regions.
Mark Of The Gorilla [DVD](1950) DVD
It's monkey business for Jungle Jim (Johnny Weissmuller) in this action-packed tale that follows the dashing adventurer on a daring mission to stop a band of treasure hunters who disguise themselves as gorillas in order to scare the natives while they search for a fortune in hidden Nazi gold. Trudy Marshall, Suzanne Dalbert, Onslow Stevens also star. 68 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono.
Pygmy Island [DVD](1950) DVD
Johnny Weissmuller dons more than his usual amount of clothing in this Jungle Jim adventure, as Jim endeavors to locate an airman missing in the wilderness. The search leads him to perils involving crocodiles, crazed elephants, and a tribe of angry little people. Ann Savage, David Bruce, and Billy Barty co-star. AKA: "Jungle Jim in Pygmy Island." 69 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono.
Fury Of The Congo [DVD](1951) DVD
This terrific Jungle Jim outing starring Johnny Weissmuller finds the intrepid hero coming to the rescue of a pilot only to be confronted by Congo-based sandstorms, leopards, and devious criminals while investigating a strange narcotics factory. Jim soon unearths a dastardly plot to create a new drug from the glands of a tribe's sacred animal. With Sherry Moreland, Lyle Talbot. 69 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono.
Jungle Manhunt [DVD](1951) DVD
Thrilling entry in the popular Jungle Jim series has the daring Jim heading off into the dense forest (where else?) to lead the search for missing gridiron star Bob Miller (real-life football player Bob Waterfield). But Jim's mission doesn't go quite as planned and soon he's battling a tribe of skeleton men, squashing an artificial diamond manufacturing ring, and facing off against dinosaurs. Johnny Weissmuller, Sheila Ryan, Rick Vallin, and Lyle Talbot star. 65 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono.
Jungle Man-Eaters [DVD](1954) DVD
In this action-packed adventure, Jungle Jim (Johnny Weissmuller) squares off against a relentless smuggler who is determined to control the world's diamond trade. Accompanied by a Scotland Yard inspector, the policeman's ladyfriend, and a tribal chieftain, Jim sets out to stop the bad guy-battling lions, bulls, and a crocodile along the way. With Karin Booth, Richard Stapley, Bernie Hamilton. 67 min. Widescreen (Enhanced); Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono; theatrical trailer.
Jungle Moon Men [DVD](1955) DVD
Considered part of the Jungle Jim series, this exciting actioner actually features Johnny Weissmuller starring as "himself." Here, Johnny and an Egyptologist (Jean Bryon) encounter a tribe of moon-worshipping pygmies who are led by an evil high priestess (Helene Stanton) who has discovered the secret of eternal life. With William Henry, Myron Healy, Billy Curtis. 70 min. Widescreen; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono.
The Phynx [DVD](1970) DVD
Barely released in its day, this bizarre psychedelic spy spoof follows The Phynx, a fake rock band whose computer-picked members (Ray Chippeway, Dennis Larden, Michael A. Miller, Lonny Stevens) are tapped by a secret government agency to tour behind the Iron Curtain and free American celebs kidnapped to Albania. Among the star-studded cameos are Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan, James Brown, Dick Clark, Richard Pryor, Colonel Sanders, Ed Sullivan, Bowery Boys Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall, and the Lone Ranger and Tonto! 81 min. Widescreen; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono.

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johnny weissmuller photos available

filmography

FILM
Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976)
The Phynx (1970) with Clint Walker, Michael Ansara, George Tobias, Joan Blondell, Martha Raye, Ultra Violet, and Pat McCormick
Devil Goddess (1955) with Angela Stevens
Jungle Moon Men (1955) with Jean Byron and Myron Healey
Cannibal Attack (1954) with David Bruce
Jungle Man-Eaters (1954) with Karin Booth, Richard Wyler, and Bernie Hamilton
Savage Mutiny (1953) with Angela Stevens
Killer Ape (1953) with Carol Thurston, Nestor Paiva, and Ray "Crash" Corrigan
Valley of Head Hunters (1953) with Christine Larsen and Don Blackman
Jungle Jim In the Forbidden Land (1952) with Angela Greene
Voodoo Tiger (1952) with Charles Horvath, Jean Byron, and Robert Bray
Fury of the Congo (1951) with Lyle Talbot and Sherry Moreland
Jungle Manhunt (1951) with Lyle Talbot and Sheila Ryan
Mark of the Gorilla (1950) with Trudy Marshall
Captive Girl (1950) with Buster Crabbe
Pygmy Island (1950) with Ann Savage, David Bruce, and Steven Geray
The Lost Tribe (1949) with Myrna Dell and Elena Verdugo
Jungle Jim (1948) with George Reeves, Virginia Grey, and Lita Baron
Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948) with Brenda Joyce, George Zucco, and Linda Christian
Tarzan and the Huntress (1947) with Brenda Joyce and Johnny Sheffield
Swamp Fire (1946) with Buster Crabbe and Virginia Grey
Tarzan and the Leopard Woman (1946) with Brenda Joyce, Johnny Sheffield, and Acquanetta
Tarzan and the Amazons (1945) with Johnny Sheffield and Brenda Joyce
Stage Door Canteen (1943)
Tarzan Triumphs (1943) with Johnny Sheffield and Frances Gifford
Tarzan's Desert Mystery (1943) with Johnny Sheffield, Nancy Kelly, Otto Kruger, Lloyd Corrigan, and Robert Lowery
Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942) with Maureen O'Sullivan, Elmo Lincoln, Johnny Sheffield, Virginia Grey, Charles Bickford, Paul Kelly, and Chill Wills
Tarzan's Secret Treasure (1941) with Johnny Sheffield, Maureen O'Sullivan, Reginald Owen, Barry Fitzgerald, and Tom Conway
Rodeo Dough (1940) with Gene Autry, Tom Neal, and Roy Rogers
Tarzan Finds a Son! (1939) with Johnny Sheffield, Maureen O'Sullivan, Henry Wilcoxon, and Laraine Day
Tarzan Escapes (1936) with Maureen O'Sullivan and Benita Hume
Tarzan and His Mate (1934) with Maureen O'Sullivan, Neil Hamilton, and Paul Cavanagh
Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) with Neil Hamilton, Maureen O'Sullivan, and C. Aubrey Smith
Glorifying the American Girl (1929) with Eddie Cantor, Helen Morgan, and Rudy Vallee

TELEVISION SERIES
Jungle Jim, 1955-1956 syndicated TV series. About 26 episodes were produced

johnny weissmuller links

The Johnny Weissmuller Gallery at Brian's Drive-In Theater
You'll find more Tarzan-era photos of Johnny Weissmuller here.

Geoff's Johnny Weissmuller Web Site
A terrifically comprehensive site devoted to Johnny Weissmuller, Geoff's pages are chock-full of biographical information, filmography, history, and more. The extensive biographical section on Weissmuller is particularly impressive and well researched.

Matt's Tarzan Movies Guide
Another site for Tarzan fans which includes pages devoted to Johnny Sheffield's Bomba series and Johnny Weissmuller's Jungle Jim series.

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Watch Johnny Weissmuller's 1946 film Swamp Fire
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This page premiered December 12, 1999.