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Tarzan and His Mate

Tarzan and His Mate(1934)

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In the opening onscreen cast list, Johnny Weissmuller's name appears last as "and Johnny Weissmuller as 'Tarzan.'" Tarzan and His Mate was the only film for which Cedric Gibbons, the head of M-G-M's art department, received a directing credit. Weissmuller, Maureen O'Sullivan and Neil Hamilton revived the roles they had portrayed in M-G-M's 1932 film Tarzan, the Ape Man. As indicated by trade paper news items, the filming process was extremely long and complicated. (Hollywood Reporter proclaimed that the production schedule on Tarzan and His Mate-six months-was the longest in cinematic history.) In mid-June 1932, Hollywood Reporter announced that former independent producer Bud Barsky was to write the "original yarn" for the as yet untitled Tarzan sequel, and was to be assisted by "M-G-M staffers" R. L. Johnson and Arthur S. Hyman. The exact nature of these writers' contributions to the final film has not been determined. The same item noted that the M-G-M was considering filming the picture in Africa. In late July 1932, Hollywood Reporter announced that a film crew was being sent to the Lake Rudolph region in Africa, presumably for background shots. It is not known if any African footage was used in the final film.
       A June 29, 1933 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that W. S. Van Dyke was to be Gibbons' co-director. By July 1, 1933, Van Dyke was dropped from the project, and Gibbons was announced as the film's sole director. In September 1933, however, Hollywood Reporter announced that Jack Conway, an M-G-M contract director, was to take over the direction of one of Gibbons' units. Modern sources contend that Conway was the true director of the picture. Advertisements for the film credit James McKay with staging the "lion, monkey and hippo" scenes.
       A late August 1933 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Rod La Rocque had been pulled from the cast and replaced by Paul Cavanagh because of miscasting. Hollywood Reporter production charts list Frank Reicher, Murray Kinnell and Yola D'Avril as cast members. Modern sources note that Reicher and Kinnell were replaced by Desmond Roberts and William Stack, respectively. A viewing of the film supports this contention. It is not known if D'Avril was replaced by Doris Lloyd, or if her part simply was edited from the picture. However, only one actress besides O'Sullivan was seen in the viewed print. Although reviews refer to the role played by Doris Lloyd as "Mrs. Cutten," the copyright cutting continuity lists the character's name as "Mrs. Feronde." (Additional viewing supports the cutting continuity's assertion that the character's name is not "Cutten.") A late February 1934 Hollywood Reporter production chart credits Sidney Wagner as a co-photographer with Clyde DeVinna. It is not known if Wagner actually worked on the production.
       According to censorship files contained in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, an underwater swimming sequence in the picture caused much consternation with the Hays Office. On April 10, 1934, Joseph I. Breen, director of public relations of the MPPDA, reported to MPPDA President Will H. Hays that Tarzan and His Mate had been rejected because of shots in which "the girl was shown completely in the nude." (Modern sources state that Josephine McKim, an Olympic swimmer, doubled for Maureen O'Sullivan in the sequence, and claim that the scene was inspired by RKO's 1932 tropical film The Bird of Paradise, which featured nude swimming by Dolores Del Rio.) After Breen verbally rejected the film because of the sequence, an AMPP jury composed of B. B. Kahane of RKO, Carl Laemmle, Jr. of Universal and Winfield Sheehan of Fox viewed the picture and agreed with Breen. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, however, it was Sheehan and Jack Warner of Warner Bros. who cast the deciding votes that "eliminated one of the most beautiful scenes" from the picture. Breen described the offending scenes in a memo to Hays: "The man in the shot wore a loin cloth, but a critical examination of the shot indicated that the woman was stark naked. There were four or five shots of the woman, which the jury referred to repeatedly as 'frontal' shots, which showed the front of the woman's body."
       When M-G-M production head Irving G. Thalberg protested the jury's decision by claiming that an earlier M-G-M film, White Shadows of the South Seas, had "fifty naked women" in it, the jurors screened that film and determined that none of the women were naked. By April 24, 1934, all prints of Tarzan and His Mate in all territories were ordered changed. Apparently, however, the nude shots were still being shown in some territories that had no censor boards, which was a Code violation. The trailer for the movie contained the nude shots and was ordered changed. In a June 28, 1934 memo, Breen noted that a substituted sequence that was being shown in New York should "eliminate all views of girl swimming under water where breasts are unduly exposed."
       Modern sources add the following information about the censorship situation: M-G-M eventually released three different versions of the scene: one in which Jane is fully clothed, one in which only her breasts were exposed and the one in which she is completely naked. When the PCA became aware of the selective censorship, they forced the studio to remove the offending scene from the film's negative. The deleted scene survives only in the studio's master positive print. Prints containing Jane's partial nudity are still shown theatrically, however.
       Modern sources add the following information about the production: Because of the success of their 1932 film Tarzan, the Ape Man, M-G-M paid Edgar Rice Burrough's $45,000 for the right to make two sequels in April of the same year. During the first half of 1933, the above mentioned writers, C. Gardner Sullivan and various other writers worked on outlines and treatments for the sequel. In March 1933, credited writer Leon Gordon collaborated with producer Hyman, Gibbons (acting as art director) and production manager J. J. Cohn about specific scenes, including an elaborate jungle fire sequence that eventually was dropped from the script. Howard Emmett Rogers wrote a dialogue continuity in May 1933, which was then developed into a screenplay by James K. McGuinness. Special effects, overseen by Gibbons and executed by Arnold Gillespie, Warren Newcombe, James Basevi and Irving Reis, were complex and involved such devices as matte paintings, miniatures, split screens, rear projection and soft-edge wipes.
       Although the studio had scrapped plans to film in Africa, several locations around Los Angeles were used, including Sherwood Forest, Lake Sherwood, Whittier, Big Tugunga and China Flats. Bert Nelson and George Emerson, the M-G-M animal trainer, doubled for Weissmuller. Trapeze artists Alfred Codona and the Flying Codonas, who had performed in the first Tarzan film, also doubled for Weissmuller and O'Sullivan, and acted as the elder Cheeta. Dressed in ape suits, The Picchianis performed in the film, and one of the troupe doubled for Weissmuller in a tree jumping sequence. Nelson also doubled for Paul Cavanagh. As with Tarzan, the Ape Man, Indian elephants, taken from M-G-M's zoo, had attachments fixed to their ears and tusks to suggest African elephants. During the crocodile wrestling scene, a mechanical crocodile, equipped with nigrosine dye sacks to simulate blood, was used. Retakes, pick-up shots and additional footage of Tarzan, the lions and Jane, as doubled by Betty Roth, were completed in late March 1934. M-G-M had already spent $1,279,142 on the production. In early April 1934, after previews, M-G-M cut the film from eleven to nine reels, editing out fourteen-and-a-half minutes. Copyright records list the film's length as eleven reels. Preview running times, as reported in trade journals, vary from general release running times by eleven to twenty-four minutes.
       Modern sources add the following names to the crew: Animal supv George Emerson, Louis Roth and Louis Goebel; Special eff dir James Basevi; Art eff Warren Newcombe; Photography Effects Irving Ries; Addl composite eff Dunning Process Company and Williams Composite Laboratories; Operative cam Lester White, Bob Roberts, Ellsworth Fredericks, Ray Ramsey and William Foxall; Sd eff T. B. Hoffman, James Graham and Michael Steinore; Mus by George Richelavie, Fritz Stahlberg, Paul Marquardt and Dr. William Axt. Additional cast from modern sources includes Paul Porcasi (Seor Perron), Everett Brown (Bearer) and Ray Corrigan (Ape). Corrigan is also listed as a stunt man. For information on other films featuring the Tarzan character, consult the Series Index and for Tarzan, the Ape Man.