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Issue 0628

Starring Johnny Weissmuller ~ No. 12
RKO 1948 ~ 68 minutes

Varga (Fernando Wagner), a villainous white pearl thief posing as the god Balu has chooses a lovely young native girl, Mara (Linda Christian) to be his bride. She escapes the island of Aquatania and meets Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) and Jane (Brenda Joyce) who agree to help her and she gives Jane a rare black pearl. She is recaptured, however, and taken back to the island. Tarzan goes to her rescue. Tiko (Gustavo Rojo) to whom Mara is betrothed meets Jane. Benji (John Laurenz), the singing mailman takes Jane's pearl to the region's commissioner, who decides to visit the island, picking up Jane and Tiko along the way. They are captured and Varga's henchman, Palanth (George Zucco), in his role as high priest, is about to sentence them to death when Tarzan, disguised as Balu, arrives to have them released. Tiko and Mara are about to be married when the real Balu appears and all the outsiders are ordered to be thrown to their deaths into the sea. Tarzan unmasks the false god and the two villains meet the fate they had tried to impose upon the others. 
Johnny Weissmuller: Tarzan
Brenda Joyce: Jane
George Zucco: Palanth, the High Priest
Andrea Palma: Luana, Mara's Mother
Fernando Wagner: Varga, Pearl Trader
Edward Ashley: Commissioner
John Laurenz: Benji
Gustavo Rojo: Tiko, Mara's Fiance
Matthew Boulton: British Inspector-General
Linda Christian: Mara

Producer: Sol Lesser
Director: Robert Florey
Writer: Edgar Rice Burroughs (characters)
Writer: Carroll Young  and Albert DePina (uncredited)

Associate Producer: Joseph Noriega
Assistant Producer: Julian Lesser
Original Music & Music Director: Dimitri Tiomkin
Songs: John Laurenz
Cinematography: Jack Draper ~ Gabriel Figueroa ~ Raúl Martínez Solares 
Art Direction: McClure Capps
Costume Design: Norma Koch
Production Management: Antonio Guerrero Tello ~ Ray Heinz ~ John Mari 
Assistant Director: Bert Briskin ~ Jaime Contreras ~ Moisés Delgado
Art Department: Gunther Gerszo
Sound Department: James L. Fields ~ Rafael Ruiz Esparza
Stunts: Ángel García stunt double: Johnny Weissmuller 
Stunts: Paul Stader
Associate Director: Miguel M. Delgado
Associate Editors: John Sheets ~ Merrill G. White 
  • This was the first time Tarzan had appeared without Boy since 1939. 
  • Tarzan and the Mermaids was Weissmuller's last appearance as Tarzan
  • It was filmed in Mexico. Interior and underwater tank shots for Mermaids were filmed at the Churubusco Studios in Mexico City. Exterior scenes were shot at several locations in and around Acapulco on Mexico's Pacific coast.
  • The exteriors of Balu’s temple were shot at the Aztec ruins of San Juan de Teotihuacán.
  • Tthe film was in black and white and did not take advantage of the full beauty of the Mexican locations
  • The film shoot experienced numerous problems in Mexico: Sol Lesser suffered a heart attack  and had to return to Los Angeles ~ inexperienced Mexican crew ~ bad weather, including a hurricane that destroyed the sets
  • The battle with the giant octopus was recycled in Tarzan and the She-Devil (1953)
  • At 44, the ex-Olympian, one of Hollywood's most active 'party animals', was long past the slim athleticism of his youth, and looked tired 
  • Johnny Sheffield, 'Boy', had grown to manhood, so he was written out of the script, under the pretext of being 'away at school'
  • Monogram Studios immediately signed Johnny Sheffield to star in their series of Bomba, The Jungle Boy films
  • Sol Lessor's million dollar budget could not overcome an idiotic script, shooting beautiful Acapulco in black and white, a hurricane that destroyed some sets, poor acting and the many other failings of this production.
  • Johnny Weissmuller fell in love with Acapulco, Mexico and he later became a part-owner - with John Wayne - of the Los Flamingos hotel in “Old Acapulco.”
  • The filming of Mermaids more of less coincided with Acapulco’s Hollywood heyday when such stars as John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Richard Widmark, Errol Flynn, Red Skelton, Elizabeth Taylor and Lana Turner visited the resort every winter, adding panache and glamour to the scene
  • Johnny Weissmuller's stunt double Angel Garcia was reportedly killed while diving from the cliffs at Acapulco.
  • Weissmuller went on to make several Jungle Jim movies for Columbia, His film career ended in 1956 following a brief stint in television. A number of entrepreneurial projects didn’t pan out; his money evaporated. He had married five times. His third wife, Lupe Velez, the Mexican Spitfire, the most tempestuous of his unions, divorced him in 1938. She committed suicide six years later at 34.
  • In 1973, in the final ravages of fame that also befell actor George Raft and boxing great Joe Lewis, Weissmuller worked as a greeter at Caesar’’s Palace in Las Vegas. A broken hip led to a series of illnesses and he went back to Acapulco to retire at his round-house in the Hotel Los Flamingos. He died in his sleep on January 20,1984, five months before his 80th birthday. 
  • Weissmuller died of pulmonary edema (water in the lungs) at his home in Acapulco on January 20, 1984.
  • Johnny is buried in the Jardines del Tiempo (Gardens of Time) cemetery just outside of Acapulco
  • Co-star Linda Christian was the only person from Johnny's Hollywood days to attend his 1984 funeral in Acapulco
  • Former actor John Gavin attended the funeral in his official capacity as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico
  • In accordance with his wishes, a recording of Weissmuller's famous Tarzan cry was played as his coffin was lowered into the ground.
  • Johnny's name is incorrectly spelled on the plaque at the cemetery: "Weismuller"
  • The first Tarzan movie, Tarzan of the Apes (1917) starring Elmo Lincoln was shot at the Atchafalaya River delta near Morgan City, Louisiana. A tourist attraction at 725 Myrtle Street now commemorates the spot. 
  • After Mermaids, Johnny wanted more money to carry on with the series but producer Sol Lesser felt he was too out of shape and hired Lex Barker as a replacement 
  • Sam Katzman of Columbia Studios hired Johnny to star in a film based on Alex Raymond's comic strip character, Jungle Jim. It was a hit and Johnny starred in 20 Jungle Jim films between 1948 and 1956. This led to a two-year syndicated television series.
  •  This was the first Tarzan film to make extensive use of singing and dancing. It features a musical score by the brilliant film composer, Dimitri Tiomkin.


    Johnny Weissmuller ~ Brenda Joyce ~ Robert Florey (director)
    (Some sources claim this to be ERB but we have no record of ERB being in Acapulco after returning from the Pacific.)

    Linda Christian, Johnny Weissmuller and George Zucco

    Linda Christian: Born Blanca Rosa Welter November 13, 1924 in Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico and was Sister of actress Ariadna Welter.. She married Edmund Purdom (1962 - 1963) (divorced) and Tyrone Power (January 27, 1949 - August 7, 1956) (divorced) She had two daughters with Power, actresses Taryn Power and Romina Power. Linda spent her early years in Mexico, Venezuela, Holland and the Middle East as her father was a Dutch petroleum engineer who was assigned a variety of job postings. She attended universities in Mexico, Venezuela, Palestine, South Africa, Holland and Italy and worked at a variety of jobs such as a plastic surgeon's assistant and an emplyee of the British Censorship Bureau in Palestine before entering the  entertainment field. Linda Christian became a well-known model, an accomplished swimmer and  had a number of minor roles with MGM before Mermaids. Her modelling fame, swimming prowess, good looks, and even a bit of pull from the President of Mexico, all convinced RKO and Lesser that she was a perfect choice for the role of the beautiful island girl, Mara. She has the distinction of being the very first James Bond girl, playing "Valerie Mathis"  in the "Climax!" television adaptation of the Bond novel Casino Royale in 1954. She also appeared on the Dick Powell Show and Alfred Hitchcock Hour in the early '60s.
    Filmography Highlights: Up in Arms (1944)(as a Goldwyn Girl) ~ Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948) ~ Show Boat (1951) ~ Slaves of Babylon (1953) ~ The V.I.P.s (1963) ~ The World's Gold (1967)
    George Zucco: Born on January 11, 1886 in Manchester, England and died on May 28, 1960 in Hollywood, California. He married Frances Hawke and is father of actress Frances Zucco. He started his theatrical career in Canada in 1908 and toured the U.S. in vaudeville with wife Frances before returning to work on stage and films in England. He moved to Hollywood in the mid-'30s where he started a long career acting in over 100 films often playing doctors, judges, professors or villains.

    Partial Filmography: The Dreyfus Case (1931) ~ The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1936) ~  London by Night (1937) ~ Suez (1938) ~ The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) ~ The Cat and the Canary (1939) ~ Topper Returns (1941) ~ My Favorite Blonde (1942) ~ The Black Swan (1942) ~ Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943) ~ Captain from Castile (1947) ~ Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948) ~ The Pirate (1948) ~ Joan of Arc (1948) ~ The Secret Garden (1949) ~ Madame Bovary (1949) ~ The Barkleys of Broadway (1949) ~ Madame Bovary (1949) ~ David and Bathsheba (1951) ~ Doom of Dracula (1966)
    Edward Ashley: Born Edward Ashley Cooper on August 12, 1904 in Australia and died May 5, 2000 in San Diego, California. He had a number of leading man roles in British films in the '30s before coming to Hollywood to work as a supporting player in many films of the '40s and '50s. He also had a role in Tarzan's Peril, the 1951 Lex Barker film. He later worked on manyUS television shows.

    Filmography Highlights: Men of Steel (1932) ~ Pride and Prejudice (1940) ~ Maisie Was a Lady (1941) ~ The Black Swan (1942) ~ The Pied Piper (1942) ~ Nocturne (1946) ~ Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947) ~ Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948) ~ Tarzan's Peril (1951) ~ Macao (1952) ~ El Alaméin (1953) ~ The Court Jester (1956) ~ Darby's Rangers (1958) ~ King Rat (1965) ~ Herbie Rides Again (1974) ~ Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976) ~ Waxwork (1988)

    Dimitri Tiomkin:Dimitri Tiomkin: Born on May 10, 1899 in St. Petersburg, Russia and died on November 11, 1979 in London, England.from complications of a hip fracture. He was one of the most prolific and most respected Hollywood composers.  He was educated at the St. Petersburg Conservatory and went on to gain fame as a pianist and conductor in Russia. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1925 where he spent the rest of his life creating memorable scores for some of Hollywood's greatest films and received 23 Oscar nominations. He published his autobiography, "Please Don't Hate Me," in 1959.
    Filmography Highlights: Mad Love (1935) ~ Lost Horizon (1937) ~ Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) ~ The Corsican Brothers (1941) ~  The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1944) ~ It's a Wonderful Life (1946)(rejected by Capra and not heard until the late '80s) ~ Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948)(Suite 4:30) ~ High Noon (1952 ~ The High and the Mighty (1954) ~ Giant (1956) ~ The Alamo (1960) ~ The Guns of Navarone (1961) ~ Town Without Pity (1961) ~ 55 Days at Peking (1963) 

    "Tarzan and the Mermaids" is standard Johnny Weissmuller, differing only from other jungle epics in that this one was produced in Mexico. Also, it introduces Linda Christian to U.S. audiences and is faster-moving than others in the Tarzan group. Robert Florey gets credit for keeping an implausible story moving swiftly with a minimum of dull, hokey interruptions. Sol Lesser moved his company into the Churubusco Studios just outside of Mexico City to film the picture. They also went on location at Acapulco, Mexico's west coast watering resort, for many exteriors. 

    Miss Christian hints possibilities. She's comely and has the physical attributes to measure up for the screen. Thin story is strictly one of those things about a forbidden island in mythical Aquatania where a white trader and his undercover cutthroat employ a fake tribal god to keep the natives subjugated in order to grab pearls. The crooks want Miss Christian as a bride for this god, but she has other ideas. Here's where Tarzan comes in, and where the film gets its tag. He fishes her out of the river accidentally and tells his wife he has bagged a mermaid. Tarzan ultimately unfrocks the phoney tribal priest and his helper but not until after the familiar exciting climax. Weissmuller gets more chances than customary to show his prowess in the water. 

    Brenda Joyce is his very attractive spouse. John Laurenz, as jungle mail carrier, is a pleasing addition with his guitar-strumming and warbling. George Zucco, as high priest, heads the support. Two photographers, Gabriel Figueroa and Raul Martinez Solares, helped Jack Draper on the lensing. Result is some spectacular camera work, probably the best on any Tarzan film.

    Variety II
    "Tarzan and the Mermaids" has everything that has made the Tarzans a hardy perennial these many years and a bit more. Settings and scenery are spectacular and the thrills include, in addition to the customary jungle action, skin diving and swimming sequences, an underwater battle between Johnny Weissmuller and an octopus and a generous display of slightly-garbed femme shapeliness...  Results, especially the underwater shots are alone worth the price of admission. Tarzans are invariably good box office and this one promises to outgross its predecessors.

    The Toronto Star
    Tarzan outdoes himself in his newest cinematic exploit, "Tarzan and the Mermaids," with Johnny Weissmuller again in the role of Edgar Rice Burroughs' ape-man and with Brenda Joyce once more portraying Jane. This time Tarzan's adventures bring him into contact with a tribe of amphibious coastal natives, a plot device which gives full scope to Weissmuller's championship swimming abilities. He does more swimming in this than in previous Tarzan films. His underwater rescue of the mermaid heroine and his submerged struggles with an octopus and with a gang of desperate armed natives are thrill episodes. 

    The numerous aquatic scenes make the film very different from its predecessors, but the chimpanzee. Cheta's hamming, and Jane's loyalty remain constant. Linda Christian, features as chief "mermaid" seeking to escape from the brutal white trader who poses as the natives' god, and John Laurenz as a comic singing jungle postman, are excellent in their roles. Edward Ashley, Fernando Wagner, George Zucco and Gustavo Rojo stand out  among the supporting players. Robert Florey has directed the picture with full appreciation of its dramatic value. Much of the Sol Lesser production, including the colorful water scenes, were filmed around Acapulco on Mexico's west coast, with the result that its scenes are spectacular. Note. The above review was lifted directly from the pressbook, which explains its glowing tribute. 

    Photos: © Dorothee Flippo
    Johnny Weissmuller's grave lies here in the Jardines del Tiempo
    (Gardens of Time) cemetery just outside of Acapulco, Mexico.

    Weissmuller's white marble grave can be seen to the left of this “Tarzan” stela.
    Johnny Weismuller [sic]
    An homage to him who chose to live and rest
    in his beautiful port of Acapulco.
    2 June 1904 - 20 Jan. 1984

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    Geoff St. Andrews' Johnny Weissmuller Site: The Original Script Differences
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