Who Was Johnny Weissmuller?
Johnny Weissmuller was a famous American Olympic swimmer, water polo player, and actor. He was born on June 2, 1904, in Freidorf, Romania, and immigrated to the United States with his family when he was less than a year old. He grew up in Chicago and developed a passion for swimming at an early age. He became one of the best competitive swimmers of the 20th century, setting numerous world records and winning five gold medals in the Olympics. He won the 100m freestyle and the 4 × 200 m relay team event in the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris and the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam. He also won gold in the 400m freestyle, as well as a bronze medal in the water polo competition in Paris.
How Did He Become Tarzan?
After retiring from swimming, Weissmuller pursued a career in acting. He was discovered by a talent scout who saw him at a swimming exhibition and offered him a screen test for the role of Tarzan, the ape-man created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Weissmuller impressed the producers with his physique, charisma, and ability to mimic animal sounds. He was cast as Tarzan in his first film, Tarzan the Ape Man, in 1932. The film was a huge success and launched Weissmuller’s fame as the most popular Tarzan of all time. He went on to star in eleven more Tarzan films from 1932 to 1948, six produced by MGM and six by RKO. He also played Jungle Jim in sixteen movies and a TV series from 1948 to 1956.
What Was His Personal Life Like?
Weissmuller was married five times and had three children. His first wife was Bobbe Arnst, a singer and actress whom he married in 1931 and divorced in 1933. His second wife was Lupe Vélez, a Mexican actress and comedian whom he married in 1933 and divorced in 1939. His third wife was Beryl Scott, a socialite whom he married in 1939 and divorced in 1948. His fourth wife was Allene Gates, a model whom he married in 1948 and divorced in 1962. His fifth and last wife was Maria Gertrude Baumann, whom he married in 1963 and stayed with until his death. He had two sons, Johnny Jr. and Billy, with Beryl Scott, and a daughter, Lisa, with Allene Gates.
How Did He Die?
Weissmuller’s health began to decline in his later years due to various ailments. He broke his hip and leg in an accident in 1974 and was diagnosed with a severe heart condition. He also suffered a series of strokes in 1977 that affected his speech and memory. He moved to Acapulco, Mexico, with his wife Maria in 1979 to enjoy a warmer climate and a quieter life. On January 20, 1984, Weissmuller died of a pulmonary edema at his home at the age of 79. According to Wikipedia, his funeral was attended by about 1,500 local residents, mostly children, who followed his coffin on a procession of six motorcycles. A chimpanzee named Samanta also attended as a tribute to his role as Tarzan. His famous Tarzan yell was played three times as he was lowered into the ground at the Valley of the Light Cemetery outside Valle de La Luz. He also received a 21-gun salute arranged by Senator Ted Kennedy and President Ronald Reagan.
What Was His Legacy?
Weissmuller is widely regarded as one of the greatest athletes and actors of all time. He is remembered for his achievements as an Olympic champion and as the iconic Tarzan of the silver screen. He influenced generations of swimmers and actors with his style and charisma. He also contributed to various humanitarian causes, such as supporting orphanages and wildlife conservation. His films are still among the most frequently aired in the history of syndicated TV. His son Johnny Jr., who also became an actor, wrote a biography of his father titled Tarzan My Father before he died of cancer in 2006 at the age of 65. Weissmuller’s daughter Lisa is still alive and works as an artist. Weissmuller’s legacy lives on through his fans and admirers who celebrate his life and work.