TARZAN FINDS A SON! (director: Richard Thorpe; screenwriters: Cyril Hume/from the stories by Edgar Burroughs Rice; cinematographer: Leonard Smith; editors: Gene Ruggiero/Frank Sullivan; cast:Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan), Maureen O’Sullivan (Jane), John Sheffield (Boy), Henry Stephenson (Sir Thomas Lancing), Ian Hunter (Austin Lancing), Frieda Inescourt (Mrs Lancing), Henry Wilcoxon (Mr Sande), Laraine Day (Mrs. Richard Lancing), Morton Lowry(Mr. Richard Lancing); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sam Zimbalist; MGM; 1939)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This was the fourth of the Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan six Tarzan films they made together for MGM. It started in 1932 and ended in 1942, when O’Sullivan dropped out of the series and Weissmuller continued on with RKO. O’Sullivan was to be killed off in this film, but fans at a screen-test objected as did Tarzan creator Edgar Burroughs Rice. Thereby another ending was shot to show Jane was just fine from a spear attack. Maureen wanted out because she just married director John Farrow and wanted to raise a family. It took a big raise from MGM to retain her services for at least two more pictures.
Director Richard Thorpe (“Night Must Fall”/”Ivanhoe”/”Jailhouse Rock”) directs, but weakly films the action sequences, while Cyril Hume writes the crowd-appealing but quite silly screenplay.
Because of the new Production Code, the not properly married jungle couple of Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) and Jane Parker (Maureen O’Sullivan) weren’t permitted by the censors to have their own child. So they got their son the following way: Richard Lancing, the Earl of Greystoke (Morton Lowry), and his wife (Laraine Day) are flying over the African wilderness on their way to Capetown when their plane crashes from engine trouble caused by turbulence and the only survivor is their baby son. Cheetah, Tarzan’s friendly chimp, brings the infant to Tarzan and Jane’s treehouse. Tarzan names him Boy (Johnny Sheffield, who was seven at the time) and they raise him in the jungle, where he’s a wild but happy kid who loves playing in the jungle and swinging from the vines like his father. Five years later a search party arrives from London, led by a safari hunter (Henry Wilcoxon), that includes Lancing’s distant cousin, the venal Austin Lancing (Ian Hunter), and his snooty wife (Frieda Inescourt), and Lancing’s uncle, the kindly Sir Thomas Lancing (Henry Stephenson). They are there to verify the death of Lancing’s child, which is the only way any of the Lancings can get their hands on his huge inheritance and divide it up in three. When they realize Boy is their missing relative, the couple decide to take the child back to London over the objections of Sir Thomas. The couple intend to make him their ward and steal the money from him. Foolishly Jane falls for their lies that they have the child’s welfare at heart and for the balderdash that being raised as a rich boy in a civilized country is better than living in the jungle. So she hands Boy over to them after she lures Tarzan into a trap. But before the search party can get Boy out of the jungle, they are captured by a hostile tribe of cannibals. Boy is able to sneak out of captivity and get Tarzan to rescue them in time by causing an elephant stampede. Tarzan sends the greedy relatives back to London, Jane apologizes to Tarzan and the jungle couple keep Boy as their son.
REVIEWED ON 4/25/2011 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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