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TARZAN FINDS A SON!
Working Title: Tarzan in Exile
Starring Johnny Weissmuller ~ No. 4
A young couple are killed in a plane crash in the jungle. A monkey brings
the infant survivor of the crash to Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) and Jane
(Maureen O'Sullivan) who name the child, Boy. Five years later, a search
party (Ian Hunter, Henry Wilcoxen, Frieda Inescort and Henry Stephenson)
come looking for the child who is heir to a fortune. They wound an elephant
after which they get into a scrape with the Gaboni tribe but Tarzan arrives
to call off the natives. Jane cooks them a meal of ostrich egg and tells
them that they buried that there were no survivors of the plane crash.
Boy appears in many of the scenes: swimming, playing with the animals,
impressing the visitors and being rescued from a spider web, a waterfall
and a rhino by Tarzan. The party learn that Boy is their relative and insist
on taking him back with them. Tarzan steals their guns at night and tosses
them into a pool while Cheetah awakens the party by taking their photo
with a camera he has found. They refuse to leave without their guns so
Tarzan dives for the guns but he is left stranded.. Against Tarzan's advice
Jane is persuaded to help lead them out of the jungle so that they can
return Boy to civilization. Sir Thomas, the only good guy in
the party, is killed by his nephew while trying to warn Jane that she has
been duped. Refusing to follow the route chosen by Jane the party is then
captured by the savage Zambele tribe. Jane helps Boy escape and he runs
through many jungle obstacles to get back to Tarzan. He is unsuccessful
in getting a rope to Tarzan in the pool so he gets elephants to push a
dead tree down to the stranded apeman. Tarzan and Boy, the great apes and
an elephant herd.all race to the village to rescue the surviving members
of the party. Jane has been seriously wounded by a native spear.
In the original script she dies from the wound but following a barrage
of protests from fans... and ERB... the studio resurrected her and had
her recover in Tarzan's arms. The Tarzan family return to their idyllic
life in the jungle.
|Director: Richard Thorpe
Producer: Sam Zimbalist
Writers: Edgar Rice Burroughs (characters) ~
Cyril Hume (screenplay)
Johnny Weissmuller: Tarzan
Maureen O'Sullivan: Jane
Johnny Sheffield: Boy (as John Sheffield)
Ian Hunter: Mr. Austin Lansing
Henry Stephenson: Sir Thomas Lancing
Frieda Inescort: Mrs. Lancing
Henry Wilcoxon: Mr. 'Sandee' Sande
Laraine Day: Mrs. Richard Lancing
Morton Lowry: Mr. Richard Lansing
Gavin Muir: Pilot (uncredited)
Baby X: Boy as a younger child. (uncredited)
|Original Music by William Axt ~ Sol Levy
Cinematography by Leonard Smith
Film Editing by Gene Ruggiero ~ Frank Sullivan
Art Direction by Cedric Gibbons
Assistant Director: Dolph Zimmer
Art Department: Urie McCleary (associate art
director) ~ Glen Barnes (set designer uncredited)
Sound recording director: Douglas Shearer
Stunts: Harry Monty ~ Johnny Sheffield (uncredited)
Voice Double for Tarzan's Yell: Delos Jewkes
82 min ~ B&W (Sepiatone) ~ Mono (Western Electric
Technical Specs: (8 reels) 35mm negative &
print ~ Spherical ~ Aspect ratio 1.37 : 1
Production Companies: Loew's Inc.~ Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Distributors: Loew's Inc. ~ Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Production Date: January 9, 1939
Copyright Holder: Loew's, Inc.; 8 June 1939;
Other Companies: The Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus
provided elephants for stampede
Release Dates: USA June 16, 1939 ~ Canada July
12, 1939 (Toronto)
The working title of the film was Tarzan in Exile -- referring
to Tarzan's self-imposed exile following the death of Jane.
In the original script Jane was to have died (Maureen O'Sullivan
wanted out of the Tarzan series). Fan protest forced a last-minute rewrite
in which Jane recovers from her near-fatal wound, admitting she had been
wrong to disobey Tarzan. She was offered raise and stayed on for one more
film in the series.
Most of the film was filmed on studio sets with almost all
the location footage taken from other films including Baboona (1935),
Horn (1931), Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), and Tarzan
and His Mate (1934).
For the many swimming and underwater sequences, Weissmuller
and Sheffield were sent with Baby Bea the elephant and a large sea turtle
to Crystal Springs, Silver Springs, and Wakulla Springs, Florida, USA.
Pregnant Maureen O'Sullivan stayed in Hollywood and a double
was hired to do her Florida swimming scenes.
At the conclusion of the Florida shoot, Johnny
Weissmuller presented his loin cloth, signed by cast and crew, to Wakulla
Springs co-owner "Shorty" Davidson.
In response to Maureen O' Sullivan's refusal to do more Tarzan
films screenwriter Cyril Hume was directed to write Jane out of the film
series. Hume suggested that they add a son so as to retain the family
audience after Jane's death. Fearing that the Legion of Decency would object
to a child out of wedlock he had them find a child survivor of a plane
Weissmuller's personal choice for the role of Tarzan's adopted
son, Boy, was five-year-old Johnny Sheffield, son of British actor Reginald
When Burroughs learned of the planned death of Jane he wired
MGM from Hawaii, threatening to sue. There was nothing in Burroughs' contract
with the studio to prevent this script decision but the backlash from fans
was so overwhelming that they changed the script.
August 29, 1939: ERB, who was highly critical of the plans
to eliminate Jane in Tarzan Finds a Son, wrote producer Zimbalist
voicing approval for the job he had done.
Stephenson: Born Henry S. Garroway in Granada,
British West Indies on April 16, 1871 and died on April 24, 1956 in San
He was educated in England and began his career on the
stage in London before moving to New York. He made a few silent films before
the sound era, but then became firmly established as one of Hollywood’s
finest character actors and had a long career.
Filmography Highlights: What Every Woman Knows
(1934) ~ Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) ~ Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936) ~
Charge of the Light Brigade, The (1936) ~ The Prince and the Pauper (1937)
~ The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939) ~ Down Argentine Way (1940)
~ Mr. Lucky (1943) ~ Tarzan and the Amazons (1945) ~ The Return of Monte
Cristo (1946) ~ Of Human Bondage (1946) ~ Oliver Twist (1951) ~ Challenge
to Lassie (1949)
Inescort: Born Frieda Wrightman on June 29, 1901 in Edinburgh,
Scotland and died (multiple sclerosis) on February 26, 1976 at Woodland
Hills, California. Her father was a journalist and her mother an actress
named Elaine Inescort. Her parents separated when Frieda was very young.
Frieda attended a number of boarding schools, finally graduating from a
London convent school. She took her mother's madien name because she felt
close to her mother and was fascinated by the stage. She worked at Putnam's
Publishing House for awhile where she met Ben Ray Redman -- a critic for
The New York Herald -- whom she married in 1926 appeared in serveral successful
Broadway plays: Escape, The Merchant of Venice (as Portia), Pygmalion,
Major Barbara, and Springtime for Henry. Sadly, Elaine couldn't handle
her daughter's success and this led to their estrangement. They moved to
Los Angeles when Redman took a job with Universal Pictures. Sam Goldwyn
signed her to a film contract after she was seen performing in the play,
Merrily We Roll Along. Her role in The Dark Angel (1935)
was the start of a long string of films. She interspersed her film with
the occasional Broadway role and later appeared on numerous television
shows such as: Meet Corliss Archer, Perry Mason, Bourbon Street Beat, Wagon
Train and The Rebel. She retired from acting in the early '60s when the
effects multiplesclerosis started to cripple her. It was also at this time
that her husband who was battlein depression committed suicide. She spent
her last years in in the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills.
Filmography Highlights: Hollywood Boulevard (1936)
~ Mary of Scotland (1936) ~ Tarzan Finds a Son! (1939) ~ Letter, The (1940)
~ Pride and Prejudice (1940) ~ Courtship of Andy Hardy (1942) ~ A Place
in the Sun (1951) ~ Casanova's Big Night (1954) ~ Darby's Rangers (1958)
~ She-Creature (1956) ~ The Eddy Duchin Story 1956) ~ The Crowded Sky (1961)
Hunter: Born in Capetown, South Africa on June 13, 1900 and died in
London, England on September 23, 1975. Hunter was a smooth, pleasant-looking,
fair-haired British leading man with patrician good looks and Leslie Howard-like
panache who sustained productive film careers in both England and Hollywood
for most of his four-decade career opposite more florid women stars.
He was married to Catherine Casha 'Pringle' (1917 - ?)
and they had two sons. Ian Hunter's acting career spanned many years and
Filmography Highlights: Not for Sale (1924) ~ Sign
of Four, The (1932) ~ A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935) ~ Adventures of
Robin Hood (1938) ~ The Little Princess (1939) ~ Maisie (1939) ~ Tarzan
Finds a Son! (1939) ~ .Broadway Serenade (1939 ~ A Yank at Eton (1942)
~ Smilin' Through (1941) ~ Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941) ~ Billy the Kid
(1941) ~ Ziegfeld Girl (1941) ~ .Andy Hardy's Private Secretary (1941)
~ "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (1955) TV Series ~ The Bulldog Breed,
The (1960) ~ Robin Hood: The Movie (1991)
Wilcoxon: Born in Dominica, British West Indies on September 8, 1905
and died in Los Angeles on March 6, 1984 of cancer and heart failure. He
was raised and educated in the West Indies before moving to England where
he took to the London stage. A Paramount talent scout was impressed with
his appearance in The Barretts of Wimpole Street and he was given the lead
role as Mark Antony by Cecille B. DeMille in Cleopatra (1934).
This was the start of long relationship with DeMille,
he would become a familiar DeMille character actor and DeMille's associate
producer in the later years of DeMille's career. After DeMille died he
worked sporadically and accepted minor acting roles. On television,
he appeared in Gunsmoke, Cagney and Lacey, Marcus Welby, M.D., The Wild
Wild West, It Takes a Thief and The F.B.I. Wilcoxon died in 1981 from cancer.
Filmography Highlights: The Perfect Lady (1931)
~ Cleopatra (1934) ~ The Crusades (1935) ~ The Last of the Mohicans (1936)
~ Tarzan Finds a Son! (1939) ~ That Hamilton Woman (1941) ~ Mrs. Miniver
(1942) ~ Dragnet (1947) ~ Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, A
(1949) ~ Samson and Delilah (1949) ~ The Miniver Storye (1950) ~
The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) ~ Scaramouche (1952) ~ Ten Commandments
(1956) ~ Man in the Wilderness (1971) ~ Caddyshack (1980) ~ The Man with
Bogart's Face (1980) ~ Sweet 16 (1981)
Gavin Muir: Born in Chicago, Illinois on
September 8, 1900 and died in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on May 24, 1972.
Muir was a US character player, educated in England, who appeared in Hollywood
films from the mid-'30s through the '60s. He customarily affected a British-style
accent in his portrayals of effete, shifty types. He had a long career.
Despite his good looks, he was more believable in the many villainous roles
Filmography Highlights: Artistic Temper (1932)
~ Charlie Chan at the Race Track (1936) ~ Lloyd's of London (1936) ~ Wee
Willie Winkie (1937) ~ Tarzan Finds a Son! (1939) ~ A Yank in the R.A.F
(1941) ~ Captains of the Clouds (1942) ~ Eagle Squadron (1942) ~ Hitler's
Children (1943) ~ Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943) ~ Sherlock Holmes
and the House of Fear (1945) ~ Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man
(1951) ~ King of the Khyber Rifles (1953) ~ Escape to Burma (1955) ~ "The
Betty Hutton Show" (1959) TV Series ~ Night Tide (1963)
Day: Born in Roosevelt, Utah on October 13, 1917. She was born
into a prominent Mormon family in Utah. Laraine Day's acting career began
after her parents moved to Long Beach, California, where she joined the
Long Beach Players. She first appeared in The Law Commands
in 1937 in a bit part, then did leads in several George O'Brien westerns
working under the name Laraine Johnson.
She achieved popularity playing the part of Nurse Lamont
in MGM's "Dr. Kildare" series. She had leads in several medium-budget films
for various studios, but never achieved major stardom. She was married
for 13 years to baseball manager Leo Durocher, and took such an active
interest in his career and the sport of baseball in general that she became
known as "The First Lady of Baseball." She hosted "Daydreaming with Laraine",
a television interview/gossip show and worked in many other popular shows
from 1951 through 1984. Her role in Tarzan Finds A Son! as
Johnny Sheffield's real mother was very brief.
Filmography Highlights: Stella Dallas (1937) ~
Calling Dr. Kildare (1939) ~ Tarzan Finds a Son! (1939) ~ Yank on the Burma
Road (1942) ~ Mr. Lucky (1943) ~ Bride by Mistake (1944) ~ I Married a
Communist (1950) ~ Return to Fantasy Island (1978) (TV)
Laraine Day portrayed Mrs. Richard Lancing, who, with
her husband (played by Morton Lowry) perishes in a plane crash in the opening
scene of “Tarzan Finds a Son!” (1939). Cheta the chimp finds the Lancings’
infant alive in the wreckage and delivers the babe to Tarzan and Jane to
raise as “Boy”.
Born Laraine Johnson in Roosevelt, Utah on October 13,
1920, Day later moved with her family to Long Beach, California, where
she began appearing onstage at the Long Beach Playhouse. Spotted by a studio
scout, she contracted with Goldwyn and Paramount, but won no recognition
until moving to MGM, which cast her as Nurse Mary Lamont in the Dr. Kildare
series, starring Lew Ayres. Despite steadily working in the film industry
opposite stars like Lana Turner, Cary Grant, Kirk Douglas, and John Wayne,
she never became a breakout star.
Day’s three husbands included Leo Durocher, the manager
of the New York Giants baseball team. She avidly supported the team, earning
the sobriquet “The First Lady of Baseball” and penning a memoir, “Day with
the Giants” (1952), also appearing in a television broadcast of the same
name. A committed patriot, her second book was titled “The America We Love”
Day passed away at her daughter’s home of undisclosed
causes on November 10, 2007. Her Hollywood Walk of Fame star is located
at 6674 Hollywood Boulevard; she was among the original 1,558 celebrities
to receive stars at the landmark’s February 8, 1960, launch.
Larry Tetzlaff: Nineteen-year-old Tetzlaff was one of Weissmuller’s
stand-ins in Florida.
Weissmuller left a great impression on the young Tetzlaff
who went on to become a well-known conservationist, zoologist, showman,
animal trainer, TV star, author, lecturer, motion picture producer, herpetologist,
and owner of safari parks.
He led numerous expeditions to Australia, Africa and South
America and brought back exotic animals that he supplied to zoos. He even
developed the Tiglon - a crossbreed of lions and tigers.
The New York Times
the escapist heaven of the cinema, there is only one Tarzan, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's
is the profit. For this Tarzan, time does not exist: Johnny Weissmuller
is merely his current incarnation. But the question of issue was bound
to arise sooner or later, and Metro seems to have answered it in the handsomest
and most hygienic fashion with the chapter self-explanatorily entitled
"Tarzan Finds a Son," at the Capitol. The child, and a darned convenient
brat he is for plot purposes, is dropped from the African
skies not by the stork, but buy an Imperial Airways liner which crashes
in the jungle not far from the arboreal penthouse of the Tarzans, with
its elephant-operated lift, its chimpanzee house maid, its one ape-power
revolving fan, its couches upholstered in Zebra-hide, like El Morocco.
To get milk for that first bottle, Tarzan, the fleet-footed,
runs down and catches a she-antelope; the poor thing, not unnaturally amazed
by such phenomenal track prowess, finally just gives in quietly. In no
time at all, a cunning rattle and a swinging cradle have been devised by
the doting foster-parent, and before you can say "Boy" (which is the name
Tarzan paternally bestows upon him) the lad is swinging expertly about
on the jungle creepers, like a chimp off the old block. And that's when
the safari five years later, that is with Ian Hunter and all those people
with Mayfair accents, shows up looking for news of the passengers on that
ill-fated plane. Need we add that "Boy" is the heir to a title and vast
estates back home? Of course we needn't.
Nor need we bore you with our feeble efforts to depict
how complete a cad Ian Hunter turns out to be; you know how disagreeable
people can become when they see any prospect of losing an inheritance.
Enough to report that the rest of the picture is a circus, a water (and
an underwater) carnival, a rodeo, with Tarzan in a big rhino bustin' scene,
a teeming jungle film, perfectly silly, of course, but for the purposes
of the young and of the obstinately unadult, as much fun as a barrel of
It seems almost priggish to breathe a word of criticism
against so disarming a production, yet Metro might be gently chided for
such monstrosities as a lion in a tree, apes riding elephants to the rescue.
Also, you would think Tarzan's language might have improved a bit after
all these years of exposure to Maureen O'Sullivan's impeccable diction,
but it hasn't. He still grunts like a Creek Indian, and articulates in
a minimum of words, without conjunctions.
Finds a Son" carries more credulity and believable jungle adventure than
the long list of preceding Tarzan features unwound at intervals during
the past 20 years. Ape-man's chummy attitude with the wild beasts of the
jungle, and his tree-swinging acrobatics elaborated on previously, have
been minimized here.
Picture is a cinch setup for the kids and may catch on
for nominal bids in the action houses. It's under a handicap due to absurdities
and wildly impossible situations identified with Tarzan and spread pretty
thick in the several preceding Tarzan features and serials turned out in
Tarzan and the missus save a baby in a wrecked plane that
crashes in the jungle. At age of five, Tarzan is proudly teaching his accepted
son the jungle lore, when a searching party arrives to establish death
of the baby, who has come into heavy inheritance in England. Ian Hunter
and Frieda Inescort are out to grab the inheritance for themselves, and
start plotting death of Tarzan and snatch of the youngster. But while they
are at cross-purposes with
Tarzan, the Missus consents to trip of the kid to the
outside and accompanies the party through a savage tribe domain. Natives
capture the safari and start a wild celebration of death in their village.
Boy escapes through stockade to bring Tarzan and herd of elephants to completely
wreck the village in a wild stampede that routs the savages.
There are animal thrills and stunts aplenty throughout
the picture. Stock shots of wild life have been neatly intercut; while
a fight between hyenas and leopards in the jungle is a thriller. Naturally
youngster's wanderings from the jungle home provide opportunity for the
kid to be chased and he is on several occasions by rhinos, alligators,
lions and hyenas. Youngster also goes perilously near the falls for a rescue
by Tarzan; and at another point is saved in the
nick of time from the web of a tarantula tribe.
Underwater episodes in which Tarzan and Boy play for long
periods is exceptional and highly interesting. For added interest, baby
elephant pal of the boy is along for some splashing, and this episode is
a top spot in the picture.
Johnny Weissmuller has made three previous Tarzan features,
and athletically runs and swims through as the ape-man in okay fashion.
Miss O'Sullivan is the jungle wife, and gets in some good dramatic work
in battling against herself to give up the youngster to the outsiders.
Tarzan's boy, little John Sheffield, does nicely and performs his chores
athletically. Kid takes direction easily, and might get over in other pictures
aside from the Tarzan group.
Balance of cast is nicely set up for what they have to
Productionally, picture is top grade in all technical
departments. African jungle locale is one of the best jobs of its kind
turned out in Hollywood for some time. Camera work throughout is excellent
same goes for the sound department, which blended the jungle sounds for
background effects on the sound track. The underwater shots, taken in Florida,
will merit attention from technical standpoint.
With a minimum of dialog, and script concentrating on
action and animal antics, picture is a likely setup for good biz in the
foreign field; requiring minimum of voice dubbing..
Richard Thorpe's direction moves along at a speedy pace,
and he takes fullest advantage of cute antics of the ape Cheta, and the
baby elephant for some elemental comedy.
From "Argonotes, The Readers'
Viewpoint" in the September 9, 1939 issue of Argosy
An open letter to Hollywood from a confused but eager-to-be-enlightened
The Hon. Mr. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
In a restless moment the other sultry night,
we went to see your film, Tarzan Finds a Son. That was the one, in case
you don't remember, in which the Lord of the Jungle had a baby laid on
his doorstep by a careless aeroplane.
When some English rascals came along to
take him back to London, Tarzan -- for some reason which was never entirely
clear -- refused to give him up. (The English rascals only wanted him for
his money; otherwise they wouldn't have been caught dead with him around
the house, and I don't blame them.)
The picture ends on a distinctly somber
note: Tarzan gets to keep the boy -- and I'll bet he regrets that by now;
and Ian Hunter, who has hitherto escaped the bitter fate of cinematic marriage
to people like Kay Francis and Jeannette MacDonald, is more or less dismantled
by bloodthirsty savages.
All this merely to refresh your memory.
What we're really trying to get straightened out are the baffling blood-ties
of the Greystoke clan. We distinctly remember, when Mr. Burroughs first
started to write about Tarzan in this magazine, that Tarzan was the missing
Earl of Greystoke, sole male survivor of that distinguished and fantastically
But in Tarzan Finds a Son, the other characters
keep murmuring that Boy (Tarzan called him that -- I should have preferred
Little Scorpion) is the nephew of Lord Greystoke. Tarzan's nephew, do you
mean? But in that case Tarzan would have had just as much right to be his
guardian as Ian Hunter and Frieda Inescourt, who played lesser Greystokes.
Or is this entirely some other branch of
the family? Do all Greystokes become Missing Heirs the moment they get
near the Africa jungles? Can't any of those people ever get where they're
going without being abducted by gorillas or wrecked in a plane? The Dithering
Greystokes, that's the way we'll have to think of them. Why, they can't
even cross Picadilly Circus without becoming hopelessly lost. So whatever
makes them think they could cope with the Dark Continent?
At this rate, the Greystokes are going to
be in a dandy spot to hold a Big Family Get-Together just west of Mombesi.
We'll try to make it if we can possibly get there. Meanwhile, could you
straighten the Greystoke genealogy out for us a little?
Hamilcar Ishwerwood (né Greystoke)
Contributed by Steven Utley
Presenting a loincloth to Wakulla Springs owner Shorty
TARZAN IN EXILE COLLECTORS'
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RELATED SITES IN ERBzine
Finds A Son! Colour Stills and Large B/Ws
On Location at Wakulla and Silver Springs Florida
our related article reprints on Tarzan Finds A Son!
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