The Secret Nude Tarzan Scene You Never Knew About

Samuel Chase
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They soared through the trees on vines, swam in rivers wild, fought and played with wild animals, and became lovers. You knew them as Tarzan and Jane. In real life they were Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan, and both were extraordinary individuals.

The Real Tarzan

Weissmuller was a five-time Olympic Gold Champion who was a star long before he became Tarzan (click for more on Weissmuller).

O’Sullivan was an 18-year-old petite Irish colleen when she was discovered, in all places, at the 1930 International Horse Show in Dublin. She was discovered by Hollywood filmmaker Frank Borzage.

One of O’Sullivan’s more suggestive scenes.
Tarzan and Jane

O’Sullivan signed with Fox Studios and quickly found herself cast opposite John McCormack in the musical, “Song O’ My Heart” (1930). The film was not well received. However, O’Sullivan quickly followed up with “Just Imagine” (1930) which was nominated for an Academy Award, and then starred opposite Will Rogers in “A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court” (1931). In 1932, O’Sullivan signed with MGM where she was immediately cast as the very sexy Jane — wearing a very revealing costume for the times — in the international run-a-way hit, “Tarzan the Ape Man” (1932).

And, this is where things get interesting.

“Tarzan the Ape Man” was followed up with a sequel, “Tarzan and His Mate” (1934). And surprisingly, the sequel included an underwater nude scene with Tarzan in a loincloth and Jane completely nude. For a little over two and half minutes, the two stars swim a very artistic choreographed routine underwater.  Well, I say two stars. The fact is Maureen O’Sullivan had a body double do the scene for her, a former Olympic Champion — Josephine McKim. Not that O’Sullivan had any qualms about the nude scene. She spent most of the movie scantily clad in a loincloth herself. And, in a 1994 interview with Ron Miller admitted she thought the sexy scenes were “fun.” In the same interview, O’Sullivan says she refused to do the swimming scene because she’s claustrophobic and couldn’t bear to put her face under water.

Josephine McKim

Alas, most of the American public never saw Jane’s nude scene in “Tarzan and His Mate” because of the newly formed (June 1934) Production Code Administration (PCA) which required all films to obtain a certificate of approval before being released. When the newly formed PCA began strictly enforcing its tenets, the first major instance of censorship involved removing the nude scene from “Tarzan and His Mate.”

Despite the scene being ordered removed, some US territories without censor boards included the nude swim. Film historian Rudy Behlmer says MGM released three different versions of the scene: one with Jane fully clothed, one topless, and one completely naked. When MGM’s deception was discovered, the PCA ordered the scene to be removed from the film’s negative. Despite this order, the scene survived in the master positive print — giving you the opportunity to view it today. You can thank Ted Turner for restoring the scene after purchasing the library.

After 1934, Hollywood would no longer tolerate erotic films or scenes as provocative as those found in “Tarzan and His Mate.”

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Another suggestive scene from the movie.

Other Fun Facts:

  • Maureen O’Sullivan said that the famous line, ”Me Tarzan, you Jane” was improvised on the set. The two actors were sitting on a high branch of an MGM tree, and Weissmuller pretended that he was pushing her off, and she pretended that she was pushing back. He said, ”Jane.” She said, ”Tarzan.” He said, ”Jane.” Then he said, ”Me Tarzan, you Jane,” and the director said, ”Keep it in the script.”
  • Johnny Weissmuller got the part of Tarzan only because he wanted to meet Clark Gable. When he got to the MGM lot, they wouldn’t let him in. Weissmuller tells the following story, (see video) “So some kid came along and said, ‘Hey they got 75 guys on the back lot – they’re making a test for Tarzan – go back and make a test and they’ll let you in the studio.’ So, I made a test.” Weissmuller continues, “So I got to get on the studio (lot) and got to meet Clark Gable. And, I knew Greta Garbo. And so, I was ready to go home. And they called me over — a week later and said — you got the job as Tarzan.”
  • As far as anyone can determine, Weissmuller was never defeated in a swimming competition.
  • O’Sullivan had seven children including Mia Farrow who was married to Frank Sinatra for a brief time. Mia Farrow was later involved with actor-director Woody Allen from 1980 to 1992 and appeared in 13 of his 14 films over that period. O’Sullivan also appeared in one of those movies, “Hannah and Her Sisters,” playing – you guessed it – Farrow’s mother, in an instance of Art Imitating Life.
  • O’Sullivan hated Cheetah and Cheetah reciprocated.
  • O’Sullivan played a British woman named Jane Parker in the Tarzan movie. In the original Tarzan book by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jane was American and named Jane Porter, hailing from Baltimore.
  • There is a town named Tarzana in the Los Angeles area that had its beginnings when Burroughs’ bought the land around 1919, named it Tarzana Ranch, and subdivided the lots to create the community.
  • Tarzan was the inspiration for the creation of “Monkey Island” at Silver Springs, Florida where many scenes from the Tarzan series were filmed.

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