Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #179
The villainy in “Tarzan’s Desert Mystery” (1943) was supplied
by Otto Kruger and Joe Sawyer, as German agent Paul Hendrix (Heinrich)
and his henchman, Karl Straeder.
A native of Toledo, Ohio, Kruger was born September
6, 1885. His ancestry was Dutch; his great-uncle Paul Krüger served
as President of South Africa. An accomplished musician who conducted a
symphony at age 12, Otto enrolled in Columbia University to study music,
but decided to pursue drama, debuting on Broadway in 1915, often portraying
sophisticated leading men onstage.
A versatile character actor, he made his first film
appearance that year, but didn’t work steadily in the medium until he signed
a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1932. Kruger married his Broadway
co-star Susan MacManamy in 1919 after a one-week courtship, and had one
daughter, actress Ottilie. Kruger logged more than 100 film and television
credits, including that of Judge Percy Mettrick in “High Noon” (1952).
A stroke forced his retirement from acting following
his role in “Sex and the Single Girl” (1964). He died on his 89th birthday,
September 6, 1974 at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital in Woodland
Sawyer was born Joseph Sauers on August 29, 1906 in
Guelph, Ontario, Canada. He usually played tough-guys, cops, or heavy roles,
accruing more than 200 film and television credits. Sawyer attended Hollywood
High School and USC, and launched his dramatic pursuits by taking night
classes in drama at the renowned Pasadena Playhouse, while working his
day-job as an appraiser for a building and loan association.
A workaholic who refused to be idle, he continued designing
and building homes throughout his acting career, commuting from the Corriganville
set of ABC-TV’s “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin” (he played Sergeant Biff
O’Hara) to oversee construction of a Santa Paula housing tract. Sawyer
pulled double duty as a Tarzan villain, previously portraying duplicitous
safari guide Olaf Punch in “Tarzan’s Revenge” (1938) opposite Glenn Morris
and Eleanor Holm.
Sawyer married twice, and had five children with his
second wife, June Golden. He retired to Indio, California, later relocating
to Ashland, Oregon, where he died of liver cancer on April 21, 1982.