Cast & Crew
In Africa, where the Nyaga Ratu River meets the sea, an island tribe known as the Aquatanians dives for pearls, fishes and worships Balu, a false god created by the power-hungry high priest Palanth. Balu appears to the Aquatanians as a large, mute figure who resides in a temple on top of a rocky island, which Palanth has declared off-limits to anyone but himself. In reality, the "god" is Varga, a greedy trader in a plaster costume, who covets the pearls that the tribe gives him as tribute. As Mara, a beautiful Aquatanian who has been chosen to be Balu's bride, is being escorted to her "groom" during her wedding ceremony, she sees through the deception and flees in horror. Mara, who loves the banished Tiko, dives into the bay and heads upstream, eventually coming to the jungle home of wild man Tarzan and his mate Jane. Seeing the mermaid-like Mara swimming near his river fishing spot, Tarzan jumps in and chases her through the water until she collapses from exhaustion. Tarzan takes Mara to Jane and Benji, a singing postal carrier, who nurse her until she is well enough to tell her story. Out of gratitude, Mara gives Jane and Tarzan a large black pearl, which Jane then decides to donate to the area's new reform-minded commissioner. While Benji takes the pearl to the commissioner in Nyaga, Palanth sends some men to search for Mara. Eventually, Mara is captured, but Tarzan is able to follow the boat carrying her back to Aquatania. After Mara is returned to the tribe, Tarzan sneaks into Balu's temple and spies Varga shedding his costume and leaving the island. Benji, meanwhile, has shown the inspector-general and the commissioner the pearl and guides the suspicious commissioner to Tarzan's home. There Jane, who has met up with the lovelorn Tiko, tells the commissioner Mara's story, and she, Tiko, Benji and the commissioner then leave for Aquatania. As they near the island, Palanth orders that they be brought to the temple and there begins to question them. To Palanth's surprise, Balu suddenly appears and silently commands that Mara be freed and Tiko, forgiven. As Balu orders that the "intruders" be allowed to leave unharmed, Jane realizes that Tarzan is inside the costume. Unable to expose Tarzan, Palanth is forced to release the group, which then prepares to celebrate Mara and Tiko's wedding. In Nyaga, meanwhile, Varga is questioned by the inspector-general and hurries back to Aquatania. During Mara and Tiko's pre-nuptial celebration, Varga suddenly appears as Balu and, through Palanth, orders that the intruders be killed. Tarzan, however, is able to fend off Varga's thugs underwater and, after fighting an octopus, swims back to the temple and exposes Balu as a fake. The angry Aquatanians then dispose of Varga and Palanth and resume their happy celebration.
Miguel M. Delgado
Antonio Guerrero Tello
Raul Martínez Solares
Albert De Pina
Rafael Ruiz Esparza
Tarzan and the Mermaids
Tarzan and the Mermaids was notable as well for the absence of series costar Johnny Sheffield, who had signed on to play "Boy" for Tarzan Finds a Son! in 1939 and had stuck by Weissmuller through the abdication of their Jane (Maureen O'Sullivan) after Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942) and the handover of the series from Metro to RKO with Tarzan Triumphs (1943). Having matured from age 8 to age 17 in the role, Sheffield was deemed by producer Sol Lesser too old to continue; Boy was written out of the series so that the character could attend college in the civilized world. Tarzan and the Mermaids finds the empty nesting tree-swinger and his missus (Brenda Joyce, who played Jane four times opposite Weissmuller and once for Barker) coming to the aid of ritual sacrifice survivor Mara, incurring the wrath of high priest Palanth (George Zucco) and his pagan minions. (In the small role of Mara, Linda Christian rates an "Introducing..." credit despite having made three films prior to this).
Filming away from the RKO lot (whose "back forty" boasted an African jungle set complete with a lake and Ballona Creek, on the shores of which stood Tarzan's treehouse) left the production of Tarzan and the Mermaids vulnerable to the elements and the wages of shooting south of the border. Sets were destroyed by storms, Sol Lesser suffered a heart attack that necessitated his departure from the location, and Weissmuller experienced a case of sunburn which required him to wear make-up for the first time in his career. In preparation for a cliff dive written in as part of Tarzan and the Mermaids's thrilling climax, Weissmuller visited the La Perla Restaurant, where local divers entertained out of town diners. Diver Angel "Chupitas" Garcia challenged Weissmuller to a dive, a dare from which the actor had to be restrained by production assistants fearful he would break his neck mid-production. According to the July 31, 1947 edition of The Hollywood Reporter, Garcia was subsequently hired to double for Weissmuller in the film but was killed performing the stunt.
During his time in the treetops, Weissmuller had played only one non-Tarzan role. On loan to Paramount, he had traded his loincloth for street clothes to costar with Buster Crabbe in Swamp Fire (1946), the pair cast as bayou roughnecks in love with the same girl. Offered a fresh contract at Columbia, Weissmuller donned safari khakis to play Jungle Jim (1948), a bush guide who leads a fetching female scientist towards a cure for polio (from which Weissmuller had suffered as a child, leading to his use of swimming as a therapy). The actor reprised the character for fifteen sequels and a short-lived CBS TV series.
Largely retired after 1956, Weissmuller dabbled in private business and invested in an ill-advised theme park, marrying a total of six times and making occasional cameo appearances in films. (Weissmuller's iconic image was included on the collage cover of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.) Hobbled by a broken hip and leg in later life, he worked for a time as a greeter at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas until he suffered a series of debilitating strokes. On January 20, 1984, Johnny Weissmuller died from pulmonary edema at the age of 79, a year after being inducted in the US Swimmers Hall of Fame.
Producer: Sol Lesser
Director: Robert Florey
Screenplay: Carroll Young (story and screenplay); Edgar Rice Burroughs (characters); Albert DePina (uncredited)
Cinematography: Jack Draper
Art Direction: McClure Capps
Music: Dimitri Tiomkin
Cast: Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan), Brenda Joyce (Jane), George Zucco (Palanth, the High Priest), Andrea Palma (Luana, Mara's Mother), Fernando Wagner (Varga, Pearl Trader), Edward Ashley (Commissioner), John Laurenz (Benji), Gustavo Rojo (Tiko, Mara's Fiancé), Matthew Boulton (British Inspector-General), Linda Christian (Mara).
by Richard Harland Smith
Kings of the Jungle: An Illustrated Reference to "Tarzan" on Screen and Television by David Fury (McFarland and Company, 2001)
Tarzan, My Father by Johnny Weissmuller, Jr., with William Reed and W. Craig Reed (ECW Press, 2008)
Tarzan and the Mermaids
Johnny Weissmuller's stunt double Angel Garcia was killed while diving from the cliffs at Acapulco.
The opening credits for this film read: "RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. presents Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan and the Mermaids." The onscreen crew credits are divided into two sections, the first listing the American crew, the second, labeled "Associate Production Personnel," listing the Mexican. According to Hollywood Reporter, exterior scenes for the picture were shot in Acapulco and the Mexico City area. A pre-production news item announced that additional shooting was to be done in Florida, but it is not known if filming ever took place there. Many reviewers commented on the fact that, although the story is set in Africa, the locations and actors are clearly Latin American. Although onscreen credits say "and introducing Linda Christian," the actress had appeared in three previous films. According to a July 31, 1947 Hollywood Reporter news item, Angel García, Johnny Weissmuller's double, was killed while performing a high dive in the film. Hollywood Reporter also noted that, to cover his sunburned nose, Weissmuller wore screen makeup in this film for the first time in his acting career.
With a budget in excess of a million dollars, Tarzan and the Mermaids was the most expensive Tarzan movie produced to date, according to Hollywood Reporter. John Laurenz, who plays "Benji" in the picture, composed his own calypso songs for the production. Although a Hollywood Reporter production news item announced two of the song titles as "I'm Taking a Letter to My Friend Tarzan" and "Farewell, Fair Mermaid," it is not known if either of those songs was used in the final film. Weissmuller, who was forty-four-years-old in 1948, made his last appearance as "Tarzan" in the picture. In 1949, Lex Barker took over the role in RKO's Tarzan's Magic Fountain (see below). Modern sources add Lilia Prado, Silvia Derbez, Magda Guzmán, Ana Luisa Peluffo and Salvador Godínez to the cast. For more information about the "Tarzan" series, consult the Series Index and see the above entry for Tarzan Triumphs and the entry for Tarzan, the Ape Man in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40.