Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Tarzan - Part 4 (1962-1972)

Character's first film appearance: Tarzan of the Apes (released January 27th, 1918)
Character description: Tarzan - aka John Clayton, Viscount Greystoke - is a fictional character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in his novel Tarzan of the Apes in 1912. He was a feral child raised in the African jungles by the Mangani great apes after being separated from his parents when their ship was marooned off the African coast by mutineers. As an adult he experiences modern civilisation for the first time, largely rejecting it and choosing to remain in the wild as a heroic adventurer.

This is the fourth in a multi-part entry charting what happened to the various actors who have played Tarzan over the years. Click here for the silent era (1918-1929), click here for the 1930s and 1940s (1932-1948), click here for the 1950s, or read on to find about the Tarzans from the 1960s...

Jock Mahoney (born Jacques Joseph O'Mahoney)
Played Tarzan: 1962-63
Birthdate: February 7th, 1919
Location: Chicago, USA

Died: December 14th, 1989
Location: Bremerton, Washington, USA
Cause of death: Stroke

As with so many actors who played Tarzan, Jock had an action-packed start in life, dropping out of university in Iowa to enlist with the US Marines at the outbreak of World War Two. He served as a pilot, flight instructor and even a war correspondent.

After the war he became a breeder of horses, but soon fell into the world of showbiz when he became a stuntman, doubling for screen stars such as Gregory Peck, Errol Flynn and John Wayne. If ever you've seen the 1948 film Adventures of Don Juan, with Flynn in the title role, there's a scene in the climactic battle where someone leaps from a high staircase. That's Jock, the only stuntman director Vincent Sherman could find to do it, and he earned $1,000 for the job.

Jock began performing stunts for movies in 1946, when he was 27, and actually remained an expert in stuntwork for decades to come. His final stunt credit was as the stunt coordinator for the 1981 film Tarzan, the Ape Man (starring Miles O'Keeffe as Lord Greystoke). At the same time that his stunting work took off, Jock also found himself cast in credited acting roles, the first being the Arizona Kid in the 1947 Three Stooges short Out West (actually credited as Jacques O'Mahoney, his real name).

Jock as the Range Rider on TV
This action-orientated film work continued through the 1950s, very often uncredited, and most often in the Western genre. It was in 1951 that Jock secured his first significant, long-running role, as the titular Range Rider in three seasons of the Western TV show. After 78 episodes, the show was axed, but the fame Jock had enjoyed on the small screen transferred to the big screen, and he was subsequently cast in larger roles in movies such as Showdown at Abilene (1956), Joe Dakota (1957) and Slim Carter (1957).

Between 1958-59 Jock enjoyed his second regular role as Yancy Derringer in 34 episodes of the adventure TV series.

Jock's first involvement with Tarzan actually came in 1948 when he auditioned for the role following the departure of Johnny Weissmuller. Lex Barker got the part, but 12 years later Jock finally got to appear in a Tarzan film - albeit as the bad guy, Coy Banton, in Tarzan the Magnificent, starring Gordon Scott. Jock's 6ft 4in 220lb frame impressed producer Sy Weintraub, and the 43-year-old Jock was duly handed the loin cloth for July 1962's Tarzan Goes to India, which was actually filmed in India. The film unfortunately recorded a loss of $178,000, but this did not stop the follow-up from filming in just as far-flung a location, this time in Bangkok, Thailand, for Tarzan's Three Challenges (released June 1963). It made $1m at the North American box office.

Jock as Coy Banton in the 1960 film
Tarzan the Magnificent, with Gordon
Scott as the title character
Mid-way through shooting this second film, Jock - who still stands today as the oldest actor to play the role - contracted dysentery, dengue fever and pneumonia and his weight fell from 220lbs to 175lbs. Ironically, a stuntman, Englishman Ray Austin, had to perform the 120ft dive from Begor Bridge in Jock's place. It took Jock 18 months to recover from the effects of filming in the Thai jungle, and because the producers wanted a younger Tarzan, Jock's contract was dissolved.

But Jock's involvement with Tarzan in the 1960s was not over. He may have relinquished the role himself, but he did go on to appear in the NBC TV series, playing three different roles in four episodes between 1966-67. Jock's acting career continued apace, with roles in Batman (1966 and 1968), Hawaii Five-O (1971) and Banacek (1972), but during filming for an episode of King Fu called The Hoots in 1973, the 54-year-old Jock suffered a stroke, but made a full recovery (he plays a rancher who objects to sheep owned by the Amish-like Hutterites drinking the same water as his cattle).

Jock aged 65 in The Fall Guy
Later work included BJ and the Bear (including the recurring character of Jason T Willard in 1981), several parts in The Fall Guy (1982-84, including the episode King of the Cowboys alongside Roy Rogers and other former TV cowboys) and the ninja series The Master (1984). Jock's appearance in this latter series marked his final screen role, on August 31st, 1984, in the episode A Place to Call Home.

He was also an interviewee for the TV documentary Stooge Snapshots, which looked back at the life and career of the Three Stooges through the eyes and words of those who'd worked with them.

Jock made personal appearances at many conventions and signings in his latter years, but on December 12th, 1989, he was involved in a car accident in Bremerton, Washington, and finally died of a second stroke two days later, aged 70, at Harrison Memorial Hospital. Jock's ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean. On February 6th, 1990, a memorial tribute to Jock was held at the Sportsmen's Lodge in Studio City, California, attended by more than 350 people.

Trivia: Jock Mahoney married three times, but his second wife Margaret Field had herself been married before, and had two children by her earlier marriage - one of whom was Hollywood actor Sally Field, making Jock her stepfather.

Here you can watch an entire episode of Jock playing the Range Rider in the episode Old Timer's Trail, broadcast in 1953 and co-starring Dickie Jones, Elaine Riley and Sheb Wooley.

Mike Henry (born Michael Dennis Henry)
Played Tarzan: 1966-1968
Birthdate: August 15th, 1936
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

Mike came from sporting stock, like so many Tarzans before him. He played as a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers American Football team between 1958-61 and the Los Angeles Rams between 1963-64. In his NFL career he played 76 games, and racked up nine interceptions and six fumble recoveries. It was while playing for the LA team that he was noticed by executives at Warner Brothers.

Mike had actually been acting on and off for a few years before Tarzan came calling, having appeared in 77 Sunset Strip in 1963 and the film Spencer's Mountain (as Spencer's uncredited brother). He was cast aged 29 as the Apeman in three films which were all shot back to back in 1965.

Mike playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers
Tarzan and the Valley of Gold was released in July 1966 and is notable for depicting Tarzan in a James Bond-style tropical suited, globetrotting manner. It was filmed in Acapulco, New Mexico and at the Teotihuacan ruins. Tarzan and the Great River was released in September 1967, having been filmed in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. During filming, Dinky the chimp (playing Cheeta, naturally) bit Mike on the chin, requiring 20 stitches. Sadly, Dinky was put to sleep and Mike later sued Tarzan's producers for the accident as well as other unsafe working conditions (he also suffered an ear infection, a liver ailment and dysentery). There was an out-of-court settlement (there were two lawsuits, one for $800,000 and another for $75,000). The third film was Tarzan and the Jungle Boy, released in May 1968, having been filmed in Brazil and along the Amazon River.

Following this mammoth production period shooting all three films, Mike was offered the role of Tarzan in a forthcoming NBC TV series, but the actor was disappointed by the working conditions, as well as the chimpanzee bite and exhaustion, and opted out (despite being contracted).

Mike as Junior in Smokey and
the Bandit II, aged 44
Mike's acting career continued (he was briefly considered for the part of Batman in the TV series before it went to Adam West), with roles in 1968's The Green Berets, TV series like Daniel Boone (1970) and M*A*S*H (1977), and films Rio Lobo (1970), Skyjacked (1972), Soylent Green (1973) and Adios Amigo (1976). In 1977 he secured the role of Junior Justice in the Burt Reynolds smash hit Smokey and the Bandit, and reprised the part in two sequels in 1980 and 1983. His final acting work was as a Russian in the Golden Globe-nominated comedy Outrageous Fortune (1987), starring Shelley Winters and Bette Midler.

Mike also worked as a successful producer of television commercials for Video Productions Inc.

In March 2016, Mile End Films celebrated 40 years of the Smokey and the Bandit films with an 84-minute documentary The Bandit, which reunited old cast and crew, including Mike, Burt and stuntman Hal Needham. The film won director Jesse Moss an honourable mention for Best Documentary Feature at the 2016 Nashville Film Festival.

Mike was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 1988, at the age of only 52, and at the time of writing - July 2016 - he is still going strong at the age of 79.

A bit of fun: On March 29th, 1965 Mike appeared on the American panel show I've Got a Secret to announce that he was to be the new Tarzan. Here it is.

Ron Ely (born Ronald Pierce Ely)
Played Tarzan: 1966-1968
Birthdate: June 21st, 1938
Location: Hereford, Texas, USA

Ron Ely - at 6ft 4in tall - had been an imposing presence in films since playing a navigator in 1958 musical South Pacific, after which he also had work in The Fiend Who Walked the West (1958), The Remarkable Mr Pennypacker (1959) and The Night of the Grizzly (1966), as well as a number of TV shows such as Father Knows Best (1959), The Millionaire (1959) and The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (1960).

It was in 1961 that Ron made a breakthrough playing the part of Mike Madison in 18 episodes of the TV series The Aquanauts, about professional salvage divers making a living by recovering treasures from sunken wrecks off the coast of California. Ron's character was a replacement for that of Keith Larsen's Drake Andrews.

The Tarzan TV series depicted the King of the Jungle as a well-educated man who had tired of civilisation and decided to return to the jungle, where he was raised. Ron appeared as Tarzan in two seasons and 57 episodes, beginning on September 8th, 1966 and finishing April 5th, 1968, between the ages of 28 and 30.

Ron as Doc Savage, aged 37
When the TV series ended, Ron's acting career continued, taking in Ironside (1971), Marcus Welby MD (1974) and Wonder Woman (1978), as well as securing the title role in film Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze in 1975. Not everything was rosy, however, as at one stage in the 1970s he was driving a school bus in Westport, Connecticut.

The 1980s and beyond saw appearances in the usual suspects, including The Love Boat (1980/82/83), Hotel (1983), Fantasy Island (1979/80/82/84) and Superboy (1991). He even appeared in the French-Canadian-Mexican TV series Tarzan in 1992 as game hunter Gordon Shaw.

Between 1979-81 he also hosted his own game show, Face the Music, and in 1980 and 1981 was the host of the Miss America pageants.

Ron in his late 70s
Over the last 25 years Ron's appearances have become few and far between, with roles in The Hat Squad (1992), LA Law (1993), Hawkeye (1994) and Sheena (2001). His most recent screen appearance has been as Elder Miller in the July 2014 Lifetime TV movie Expecting Amish, when Ron was 76. However, he is due to appear as Ares in the £25m fantasy film Mesopotamia, due for release in 2018.

In the 1990s Ron branched out to become an author, releasing the books Night Shadows in 1994 and East Beach in 1995, both mysteries featuring the private eye Jake Sands. In 2015 Ron announced he was selling his 1.5-acre Santa Barbara home in California for $5.195m. He'd lived there for almost 30 years.

Steve Hawkes (born Stjepan Sipek)
Played Tarzan: 1969/1972
Birthdate: 1942
Location: Croatia

Born in what is today known as Croatia (back then it was Yugoslavia), Stjepan Sipek - aka Steve Sipek - emigrated to Canada in 1959 as an ambitious 17-year-old, inspired to pursue a career in the movies by his idol, Johnny Weissmuller. He took up long distance swimming and wrestling to cultivate his 228lb physique, and his first success in acting was playing landscaper Carl Parker in the 1968 lesbian erotic B-flick Odd Triangle (credited as Steve Pipick), but it was the following year when the 27-year-old Steve landed the role of Tarzan... sort of!

A 30-year-old Steve as seen in 1972's
Tarzan and the Brown prince
Tarzan in the Golden Grotto was a Spanish-made film completely unauthorised by the estate of Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs. Filmed in Suriname, Florida, Africa, Spain and Italy, the producers initially ran out of money and had to start from scratch and make it afresh. The fee from the Burroughs estate to license Tarzan was too steep for Pan Latina Films, so to avoid copyright infringement they simply renamed the lead character Zan, but he was Tarzan in all but name (including subtitled versions!). It was released in June 1969, and a follow-up was soon put into production, entitled Tarzan and the Brown Prince, released in June 1972. This was filmed in Rainbow Springs, Florida, and this time the producers were apparently able to license the Tarzan name.

Leaving Tarzan behind him, Steve appeared in a handful of other low budget productions, including the 1972 horror/ sci-fi movie Blood Freak, in which "only the blood of drug addicts could satisfy its thirst" and sees Steve transform into a monster turkey; 1973's The Sexiest Story Ever Told (you can imagine this one!); and October 1975's children's adventure Stevie, Samson and Delilah, which co-starred Steve's son, Steve Hawkes Jr. Steve also wrote and directed these ventures.

Scenes from the schlock horror movie Blood Freak, in which
Steve (left, aged 30) turns into a murderous turkey monster
Steve left the world of acting after this and set up his own animal sanctuary in Loxahatchee, Florida, but Steve's exploits in this sphere have proven noteworthy for the wrong reasons. On July 13th, 2004, Steve's 600lb pet Bengal tiger Bobo escaped from the sanctuary and was shot and killed the next day by a wildlife officer. Steve claimed the officer had committed needless murder of Bobo.

Steve pictured with one of
his big cats in 1985, aged 43
However, just five days later, on July 19th, Steve's house caught fire after a newly-installed air conditioning system malfunctioned and sparked a blaze. Fire crews found it difficult to get to the property to tackle the fire as Steve had electric fencing around the property to keep in the exotic animals he kept there. The fire was eventually put out, and no people or animals were hurt.

On February 27th, 2012, Steve was arrested at his West Palm Beach home and two tigers and a leopard (some reports say panther) were removed from his compound due to a lack of federal permit to own such animals. Police claim this was actually his third arrest for such crimes.

Steve returned to the world of acting in 2012 for the $50,000 Z-movie 2056: Escape from Zombie Island, and its $10,000 2013 sequel, 2057: Return to Zombie Island. He played Tar in both films, and both films are atrocious.

Watch: You can see a 70-year-old Steve speak emotionally about having to relinquish his beloved big cats in this interview with the Palm Beach Post from February 27th, 2012:

To read the previous chapter about the silent era Tarzans, click here, and the previous chapter about the Tarzans 1932-48, click here. The previous chapter about Tarzans 1949-60 is here. The next chapter, about the 1980s Tarzans, is here.

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