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Elephant Stampede

Elephant Stampede(1951)

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Elephant Stampede (1951)

When The Hollywood Reporter asked "Have you a Tarzan Jr. in your backyard" in promotion of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's search for a child actor to costar with Johnny Weissmuller in Tarzan Finds a Son (1939), three hundred American households responded - among them, Johnny Sheffield's. Already a Broadway veteran by age 8, the Pasadena, California, native won the coveted role, which he reprised seven more times, until he was deemed too old (at 16) to play Boy after Tarzan and the Huntress (1947). While Weissmuller would bequeath his trademark loincloth to Lex Barker, Sheffield gravitated to the Poverty Row outfit Monogram Pictures to play Bomba, the Jungle Boy (1949) in twelve low budget programmers. Based on a series of novels published between 1926 and 1938 by the Stratemeyer Syndicate (churned out by syndicate hacks and attributed to "Roy Rockwood," the books were meant to rival the Tarzan novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs), Monogram's Bomba series followed the MGM/RKO template for jungle mayhem with the teen tree swinger taking on kidnappers, white hunters, corrupt potentates, predatory wildlife, and, in Elephant Stampede (1951), ivory poachers. As episodic as a chapter play condensed into 70 minutes (director Ford Beebe was a veteran of both the Universal Pictures' Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials), Elephant Stampede gains much-needed production value from location shooting at the Arcadia, California, botanical gardens now known as the Los Angeles County Arboretum, which had provided a tropical backdrop for many a Tarzan film.

By Richard Harland Smith

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