Aug 28, 2018

A New Sensitive Tarzan

Miles O'Keeffe graduated from the University of the South with a degree in psychology, and worked for a year as a prison counselor, before heading for Hollywood, hoping to make it big as an actor.

He did.  The biggest.

Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981), the first Tarzan movie in over a decade, was an attempt to revitalize the Tarzan myth for the 1980s generation.  It starred the breasts of Bo Derek, a heterosexual sex symbol from 10 (1979).

 The plot was about Jane (Bo Derek) and her breasts traveling to Africa on a scientific expedition, where they meet, civilize, and have sex with the Ape Man (Miles O'Keeffe).  Though superbly muscular, Miles' Tarzan was not a man-mountain; he was a romance novel hero, a New Sensitive Man, desirable more for his tenderness than his muscles.

I don't remember him speaking, not even a "Me Tarzan" grunt.

There was no gay subtext.

Bo won the Golden Raspberry for the Worst Actress of the year, but Tarzan was a box office success, making more money than, Excalibur, The Great Muppet Caper, or An American Werewolf in London.

Miles disliked his Tarzan character, and spent the next decade trying to live him down.  I haven't seen any of his later movies, but apparently he played sword-and-sorcery heroes Ator (1982, 1984, 1987), and the Lone Runner (1986), the Medieval hero Sir Gawain (1984), and some man-mountains rescuing buddies from Southeast Asian warlords (1987, 1988, 1990).

No gay characters, but between 1999 and 2001, he appeared six times on So Graham Norton, a late-night talk show hosted by the gay British comedian.

See also: The Tarzan Who Might Have Been.


  1. A posting on Travis fimmel - Tarzan / underwear model would be interesting......

    1. He's mentioned in my post on "Tarzan Also-Rans"

  2. He's a good sport about how cheesy Ator was. But seriously, his name's just Spanish for actor.

  3. You're right: this Tarzan did not speak at all. I think this was deliberately done to make the story center around Jane, and not Tarzan.

  4. No gay subtext, but beefcake.
    (Mary Jo Paul likes him at least.)

    Yeah, he doesn't speak. Which, come to think of it, makes sense. I did find the continued tradition of "Tarzan wears a loincloth, even when swimmimg; Jane somehow gets naked." (also seen in the Weissmuller movies) a bit tiresome, though: Why would a man raised by apes give a damn about if someone sees him naked?

  5. I worked at a movie theater when this came out. One of my female co-workers was outraged that Bo got all the screen time, and that while she spent much of the movie naked, or at least topless, Miles never took his loincloth off. I used to have a variant movie poster which featured Miles in the foreground rather than Bo Derek, but I've misplaced it somewhere. I seem to remember a photo/screenshot of Miles floating around showing a rearview of him nude, but it might have been faked. He was hot, but a bit of a let down.


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