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Johnny Weismuller: biography, personal life, movies

The legendary American film actor Johnny Weissmueller, known for the cult role of Tarzan, was born June 2, 1904 in the Romanian city of Timisoara. When the birth of a child was named Peter, but in connection with the subsequent move to the United States, the parents decided to give their son a more American name, and the boy began to be called Johnny.


After Peter Weissmuller and his wife Elizabeth Kersch settled in a new place, they tried to make it so that Johnny was recorded as born in the US state of Pennsylvania, the benefit at that time the boy was only seven months old. At that time, immigrants from Austria-Hungary, who had emigrated to America, faced social problems, and it was better to get documents for a child issued in one of the US states.

The Weissmuller family settled in Chicago, his father bought a beer bar, and his mother began working as a cook at the nearest restaurant. Initially, things were going well, but soon the business declined. The loans taken in the bank did not help, and Weissmuller the elder went bankrupt. After which the head of the family drank, quickly turned into a chronic alcoholic, several times passed the course of rehabilitation, but all was in vain. It came to the point that Peter carried away from home and sold for nothing that was in his hands. Elizabeth tried to fight, but after the husband raised her hand, filed for divorce. The Weismuller family disintegrated, the children stayed with their mother.


Johnny dropped out of school, began to earn some money where he had to, and once worked as a lifeguard in an aquatic sports complex. The young man liked the swimming coach Bakhrakh William, who invited him to his team. The mentor was not mistaken in his calculations, Johnny Weissmuller immediately showed himself as a talented athlete and in the nearest competitions he won the swimmers by fifty and two hundred meters, leaving all the rivals far behind. The coach was extremely pleased, he realized that he had found a real nugget.

So there was a new American swimmer named Weissmueller. In July 1922, Johnny broke the world record of Hawaiian athlete Duke Kahanamoku at a distance of one hundred meters freestyle. His result of 58.6 seconds was the first swim in the history of swimming, lasting less than one minute.

Sports achivments

In February 1924, at the Olympic competitions held in Paris, Johnny Weismmuller again defeated Dewey Kahanamoku in the hundred-meter and became the champion. Then he won the swim by four hundred meters freestyle, and also was the first in the relay four for 400 meters.

The athlete's personal record on time on the hundred-meter mark was 57.4 seconds. So, the star named Johnny Weissmueller rose and stayed for a long time at the zenith of the big sport. The kind of sport that demands the return of all physical strength has become part of his life. For his sports career, the swimmer has set 67 records and won the title of the US champion 52 times.

Participation in promotions

In 1929, Johnny Weissmuller signed a contract with a company that produces clothes for walking and sports. He began to travel around the country, participate in various talk shows, performances on water and theatrical competitions. At the same time, the sportsman first appeared in the cinema. It was a film on the theme of mythology, where the role of Johnny Weissmuller consisted in the appearance of the god of spring Adonis, whose clothing was only a fig leaf. Critics, moralists, objected to this outfit, but in this case their opinion was not taken into account, since the historical truth was important, and the gods did not wear clothes.

Early career in film

Actor Johnny Weissmuller became in 1932, when he signed a seven-year contract with the film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer. This was the beginning of a cult series of adventure films with Tarzan, a monkey-man. The picture was a huge success, and Johnny instantly became famous.

"Tarzan" - a film for the public unexpected, previously American cinema produced melodramatic comedies or westerns with militants. And suddenly on the screen appears a creature, similar to a man, but with the habits of a monkey, flies from one tree to another, shouts something incomprehensible. But gradually the audience began to sympathize with the inhabitant of the jungle, the events on the screen were lined up in a logical chain, Tarzan helped the weak, saved the brothers who were in trouble of their smaller ones, in a word, did everything that people do. Humanity became the leitmotif of all that was happening, a good beginning dominated, and this attracted moviegoers. "Tarzan" is a multi-series film, people were looking forward to another film with the adventures of a beloved hero. A friend of Tarzan Jane and chimp Chita, too, did not leave anyone indifferent.

Johnny Weissmuller, whose "Tarzan" was associated with many people with "Mowgli" Kipling, created his own image of a savage with a good heart. In total, twelve episodes were taken, each of which carried a charge of positive emotions. The actor took part in the film project from the very beginning, discussed the script, rehearsed some episodes, although at that time in Hollywood there was a practice of one take, in order to save film and working time of the actors, which was quite expensive. Weismuller several times passed the scene together with partner Jane, and only then the operator turned on the camera. The actor never insisted on additional payment.


Tarzan's fees for those times looked more than impressive and amounted to more than two million dollars. The commercial success of the film was consistently high. The screenwriters applied a method that can be called "To be continued ...", when the end of the previous series remains somewhat unsaid, and the viewer leaves the room somewhat puzzled: "And what's next?" Further development of the plot to the full should be reflected in the next film. All this is known, and when a new series appears on the screens, the cinemas are always crowded.

Johnny Weismmuller, whose films about Tarzan were filmed until 1948, took part in several more film projects, less spectacular, but gave the actor an opportunity to show his dramatic abilities. However, the success of the film does not always depend on the level of professionalism of the actor, a weak scenario can ruin the film. Fortunately for the producers, the game and type film projects have the ability to change the script during the work on the film. The film "Tarzan" belonged precisely to this category, it was game and species simultaneously.

And although the tape was black and white, the jungle still looked impressive, thanks to the work of art directors. Entourage made a difference, the scenes that were shot in the pavilion were carefully decorated, the lianas had to bring the real ones, and for the famous Tarzan scream, to sound plausible, special acoustic devices were installed.

"Jim from the jungle"

When Weissmuller played in the last series of "Tarzan and the Mermaids", the scripts were already ready for the next global film project, which was launched at the Columbia Pictures film studio. Guide "Metro-Golvinn-Meyer" did not object to the participation of the actor in the new film, and Johnny began to work.

In total, from the period from 1948 to 1954, thirteen episodes of the film "Jim from the Jungle" were shot. Plots of the new film in something echoed with "Tarzan", but there were fewer flights from branch to branch, and more dramatic.

Late years

In 1958, the actor returned to Chicago and founded his own company, a network of swimming pools with paths. However, the business development project was not received, since there were few people wishing to swim a race. Johnny had other commercial ventures, but they did not bring success either, although the actor stubbornly called projects by his own name.

In the end, the actor left Chicago for Florida, where he became head of the "Hall of Fame swimming" with international status.

In the fall of 1966, Weissmueller solemnly opened a television series about Tarzan's appearance and his exciting adventures. There were many fragments from old films in it, viewers could familiarize with each story separately.


In 1970, the actor visited the Commonwealth Games, held in the UK, where he was introduced to the Queen. With him was a former partner, the performer of the role of Jane in the film "Tarzan", Maureen O'Sullivan.

In Florida, Weissmüller lived until 1973, then moved to Las Vegas, where he became a representative of the film company Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer in the hotel. His duties included meeting guests, accompanying them while traveling around the city, as well as a presence in gambling establishments.

In 1976, Johnny Weissmuller last acted in film, in an inconspicuous episodic role. And then he was seen at the reception ceremony in the Hall of Fame bodybuilding. More actor in public did not appear.

Health "Tarzan" began to deteriorate, did not fuse fracture of the foot, received back in 1974. We had to stay in the clinic for a long time, where Weissmuller found out about serious problems with his heart. In 1977, the actor suffered several strokes. Two years later, he and his wife went to Acapulco, who always considered the best paradise on earth and where the last film about Tarzan with his participation was filmed.

Personal life

Johnny Weissmuller's private life was quite stormy, he married five times and divorced four times. The first wife of the actor was the singer chanson Bobby Arnst, with whom they lived together for two years, from 1931 to 1933. The next chosen one was the actress Lupe Veles, the marriage lasted six years, from 1933 to 1939. Then came Beryl Scott, who gave her husband a son and two daughters. The next wife is the little-known actress Allen Gates, with whom the actor lived for fourteen years, from 1948 to 1962. And finally, a certain Maria Bauman, who was with Weismuller, from 1963 until his death on January 20, 1984.

The actor was buried in Acapulco, in the cemetery of Hollywood movie stars.

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