Aug 14, 2012

Mike Henry's Tarzan

There were several Tarzans in the 1960s -- Denny Miller's blond beach boy, Ron Ely's lanky environmentalist, Johnny Weissmuller flickering on late-night reruns -- but Mike Henry captured the imagination of the Now Generation.  The former football star and tv cowboy donned a loincloth for Paramount only three times -- in Tarzan and the Valley of Gold (1966), Tarzan and the Great River (1967), and Tarzan and the Jungle Boy (1968).  He had signed up to play Tarzan on tv, but he opted out and continued his career fully clothed.

Why was Mike Henry the iconic 1960s Tarzan?

1. He had a hairy chest.  Previous Tarzans had been muscular, of course, but only Mike Henry was a bear.

2. He got out of Africa.  Fighting the Waziri headhunters and elephant poachers was hackneyed. Mike Henry's Tarzan explored the jungles of Mexico, South America and Southeast Asia.

3. He was well-educated and sophisticated, more James Bond than Noble Savage.  Edgar Rice Burroughs' literary Tarzan was fluent in English and French -- it was Johnny Weissmuller who invented the "Me Tarzan" lingo.  Mike Henry returned to sophisticated Tarzan of the novels, taking his clothes off only when the plot required it (during 9/10ths of the movie).

4. He rescued and bonded with kid sidekicks: Ramel in Valley of Gold and Pepe in The Great River (both played by Manuel Padilla Jr.),  and of course the Jungle Boy (played by Steve Bond). They were too young to be his romantic interests, but gay boys who were about that age themselves certainly fantasized about fading into the sunset with Mike Henry's muscular arm around their shoulders. 

Incidentally, Steve Bond, who played the Jungle Boy in 1968, grew up to be a popular Playgirl centerfold:

1 comment:

  1. Mike Henry probably enjoyed working with Jackie Gleason but his part typecast him as dim witted and having just seen him in an episode of Dan August I find out he can really act.A shame that he was not given better rolls and an opportunity to expose his abilities as an actor.He was not just a beefcake actor or a dim witted one and I really enjoyed his role.He really pulled it off...granted it was a football themed part but he came off as sincere and intelligent which he was.The guy went to USC !I've got to check out his Tarzan rolls and see more of what he was like.He's 80 now and I wonder what he's up to?I hope he is well.And he did pull off the Junior roll in the Smoky and the Bandit movies...he was fun too.


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