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TARZAN AND HIS MATE (directors: Cedric Gibbons/Jack Conway; screenwriters: Leon Gordon/James K. McGuinness/Howard Emmett Rogers/based on the story by Edgar Rice Burroughs; cinematographers: Charles G. Clarke/Clyde De Vinna; editor: Tom Held; music: William Axt/Paul Marquardt/George Richelavie/Fritz Stahlberg; cast: Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan), Maureen O’Sullivan (Jane Parker), Neil Hamilton (Harry Holt), Paul Cavanagh (Martin Arlington), Forrester Harvey (Beamish), Nathan Curry (Saidi), William Stack (Pierce); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Bernard H. Hyman; MGM; 1934)
“The best film in the Tarzan series.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Tarzan and His Mate was directed by Irish emigrant Cedric Gibbons, who was better known as the head of MGM’s art department from 1924 to 1956. His other notable achievement was as the designer of the Oscar statuette. Tarzan and His Mate was Gibbons’ one and only outing as a director. Reports claim that Gibbons was removed early on as director but still received credit. He was replaced by an uncredited Jack Conway, and also possibly by James C. McKay–as Maureen O’Sullivan said in her autobiography. The reasons for the change vary between Gibbons was needed back in the art department to MGM afraid of being rebuked for his daring level of eroticism presented in the pre-code film (like the nude swimming scene with Maureen O’Sullivan-with O’Sullivan’s swimming double, Josephine McKim, doing the honors-and that O’Sullivan’s Jane pranced around in the jungle wearing only a loincloth and giving off strong hints she was living in sin with Tarzan).

This was the second of the Tarzan films starring Johnny Weissmuller and is the best film in the Tarzan series. The first being 1932’s Tarzan the Ape Man, the smash box office hit. The 1934 film was briskly paced, beautifully photographed, the action scenes are brutal and plentiful, Tarzan’s fights with lions, leopards, crocodiles, rhinos and other jungle animals are well-choreographed and there’s the memorable Tarzan signature cry that puts the icing on the cake in this entertaining film.

The writers include Leon Gordon, James K. McGuinness and Howard Emmett Rogers; it’s based on the pulp story by Edgar Rice Burroughs, that first went public in 1912.

The story picks up with English girl Jane Parker (Maureen O’Sullivan), who jilted about a year ago in the jungle her big hunter English fiancee Harry Holt (Neil Hamilton) to live a carefree life as the lover of apeman Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) in the African jungle with his ape friends. At an African river village Harry joins ivory poacher Martin Arlington (Paul Cavanagh) on a safari to the Mutia Escarpment in search of the legendary ancient elephant’s graveyard. But Harry, besides wishing to get rich from the ivory, also wants to bring Jane back to England. After much danger, such as attacks by cannibals and a vicious gorilla attack on their hunting party on a mountain cliff, Harry meets Jane after Tarzan arrives to halt the attack. But Harry has no luck convincing Jane to return with him, even as he bears gifts of elegant silk dresses. Later when Tarzan doesn’t allow the greedy Martin to leave with the ivory, by initiating an elephant stampede, Martin wants the ivory so much he attempts to kill Tarzan but only wounds him even though he believes he killed him. The expedition believes the crocodiles got Tarzan and leave with Jane and the ivory, only to be attacked by hostile tribesmen and then man-eating lions. In the end, Tarzan returns with the baby chimpanzee Cheeta, his pet, to rescue Jane, after the greedy ivory hunters are killed by the lions.

For those fans of undefeated Olympic Gold Medal swimming champ Johnny Weissmuller, his other Tarzan films are: Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), Tarzan Escapes (1936), Tarzan Finds a Son (1939), Tarzan’s Secret Treasure (1941), Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942), Tarzan Triumphs (1943), Tarzan’s Desert Mystery (1943), Tarzan and the Amazons (1945), Tarzan and the Leopard Woman (1946), Tarzan and the Huntress (1947) and Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948). The aging and unskilled but popular actor Weissmuller went on to do the Jungle Jim series.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”