Cast & Crew
One day, Boy, the son of Tarzan and Jane, finds some gold nuggets in the river near their African jungle home. That night, after Jane tells Boy stories about civilization, he decides to go and look for it. After leaving his parents a note, Boy rides his little elephant, Buli, and takes the family's pet chimpanzee, Cheeta, with him. After many adventures, Boy meets a young native named Tumbo and together they escape from a charging rhinoceros. The children go to Tumbo's village, where they find his mother dying from a fever. When the tribe sees Boy, they think that he has brought the ravaging fever with him and start to burn him at the stake. Just then, a truck arrives with some white men carrying guns. They save Boy, but the natives attack them until Tarzan arrives and stops them. The men are scientists, led by Prof. Elliott, who are looking for an ancient tribe. On the way to Tarzan and Jane's treehouse, Boy shows the other two scientists, Vandermeer and Medford, a nugget and tells them that there are more in the river. Tarzan is suspicious of Medford, who is impressed with the "richness" of the area in which he and Jane live. That evening, Elliott's photographer, O'Doul, demonstrates motion picture projection with a movie that shows an airplane. An excited Boy then says that Medford promised to buy him an airplane when he gets the gold. Medford tries to explain things away, but Elliott insists that they will not destroy Tarzan's home by looking for gold. The next morning, Boy innocently takes Medford and Vandermeer to the river and gives them more nuggets, then tells them that Tarzan knows where there is a mountain of gold. When Tarzan and Jane arrive, Tarzan angrily orders the men to leave. Back at camp, Elliott promises to leave as soon as O'Doul, who has come down with the fever, gets well. Tarzan gives O'Doul some jungle medicine and he improves, but soon Elliott and Boy also become ill. Medford breaks Elliott's medicine glass as he collapses, then tells the worried Jane that they have better medicine at their encampment. Although Tarzan does not want to leave, Medford and Jane convince him that he should bring back the medicine. When Tarzan returns, Medford tells him that Elliott has died and that the now-hidden Jane and Boy will be returned home when Tarzan takes him to the mountain of gold. Tarzan takes him there and Medford tells him where his family is being held. As Tarzan starts to leave on a swinging vine, however, Medford shoots at and apparently kills him. Back at camp, O'Doul pretends to become partners with Medford and Vandermeer and agrees to go with them through dangerous Jaconi tribe lands. During the journey, Tumbo and Cheeta, who had secretly followed Tarzan, try to get O'Doul's attention. When the rest of the party stops, they discover O'Doul, seemingly dead and he is able to sneak off with Tumbo to find Tarzan. Medford and the others are soon captured by the Jaconi, who kill the bearers then take the others down the river in canoes. Meanwhile, Tarzan, who was merely unconscious, awakens and O'Doul and Tumbo tell them where Jane and Boy are. Tarzan then races to Jaconi country. Finding their canoes, Tarzan tips them over and fights an alligator who is about to attack Boy. Unable to get to Jane, Tarzan signals the elephants, who stampede and rout the natives. When Medford and Vandermer's canoe is tipped over, they are killed by an alligator. Finally back at their home, Tarzan and Jane secretly fill a gourd with gold and give it to O'Doul, who is returning to civilization.
Clyde De Vinna
B. P. Fineman
Edwin B. Willis
Tarzan's Secret Treasure
Synopsis: Boy (Johnny Sheffield) and Cheeta are cavorting in the jungle and soon join Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) and Jane (Maureen O'Sullivan) for a swim in the lake at the base of their escarpment home. Boy finds several shiny gold stones on the lakebed; he prefers these heavy stones for his slingshot. Jane explains to Boy that there is much gold to be found there; that it is precious and can buy many things in the outside world. Curious, Boy leaves their tree house at night, leaving a note that reads, "Gone to see civilzashun - back tomorrow." During his trek, Boy saves a native boy named Tumbo (Cordell Hickman) from a charging rhino. Tumbo's village is being decimated by sickness and Boy is about to be burned at a stake by the superstitious witch doctor when he is rescued by a scientific expedition which emerges from the jungle, armed with guns and a large truck. Professor Elliott (Reginald Owen) introduces a grateful Tarzan to the rest of his team: photographer Dennis O'Doul (Barry Fitzgerald), associate professor Medford (Tom Conway), and their guide, Vandermeer (Philip Dorn). Tarzan offers to guide the explorers to a shortcut; on the way Boy lets slip about the gold on the escarpment, and Medford and Vandermeer conspire to kidnap Boy and Jane to make Tarzan reveal the whereabouts of the gold.
Upon the release of Tarzan's Secret Treasure, the Hollywood Reporter noted that "MGM wisely allows sufficient time to elapse between Tarzan pictures so public appetite is whetted for the continuation of the ever-popular series." There had been a two-to-three year interval between each film in the series since the first, Tarzan the Ape Man, was released in 1932. The entry for 1939, Tarzan Finds a Son!, introduced Johnny Sheffield as "Boy," Tarzan and Jane's adopted son. The seemingly happy family had known some dissent in the ranks by that time; busy actress Maureen O'Sullivan had grown tired of the role of Jane and pleaded with MGM to let her out of the series. The character, in fact, had originally been killed off at the end of Tarzan Finds a Son!, but both Burroughs and audiences at test screenings objected loudly to the notion that the jungle pair should be broken up, so Jane survived at the end of the film and O'Sullivan was once again pressed into service. There is no evidence of any lingering resentment; O'Sullivan is charming in her brief scenes, particularly in the opening sequence when she uses "Jungle Modern" conveniences to prepare dinner (such as a "refrigerator" made of bamboo thatching and cold running water).
One of the hallmarks of the MGM Tarzan movies is the strength of their supporting casts, and Tarzan's Secret Treasure sports an impressive array of reliable character actors. Tom Conway and Philip Dorn bring considerable heft to their villainous parts; they are willing to play for keeps in their effort to get their hands on the gold, as they let one of their "friends" die of the sickness in order to silence him. Barry Fitzgerald manages the surprising feat of stealing scenes from Cheeta himself and ends up as the main comedy relief of the picture. (Which is not to say that there aren't long sequences of solo Cheeta action; during one the chimp gets into the personal belongings of photographer O'Doul and unspools a reel of film on the ground, drinks a bottle of whisky, and drunkenly walks on his hands, the empty bottle still clutched in his feet above his head.) Tarzan's Secret Treasure also boasts some well-executed effects shots, including matte paintings of dangerous cliff faces that our heroes must cross at great peril. Some of the new swimming footage was filmed in the crystal-clear waters of Silver Springs, Florida. Tarzan's Secret Treasure also displays its fair share of stock footage - the sequence of Tarzan battling a crocodile was first seen in Tarzan and His Mate (1934).
Edgar Rice Burroughs held only some power over Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer when it came to the Tarzan series. The studio had rights to the characters but never produced straight adaptations of the Burroughs books. Burroughs gave his opinions, however, and did have some say over the depiction of Tarzan himself. In his book Tarzan At the Movies (Citadel Press, 1968) author Gabe Essoe relates an incident concerning Tarzan's Secret Treasure in which Burroughs "...objected to a scene in which Tarzan threw back his head and laughed long and loud at the reaction of the treasure hunters to their first glimpse of the gold. Burroughs, who was not inclined to laugh at money, demanded the sequence be deleted. Tarzan, he said, was reserved, and boisterous laughter was strictly out of character." The scene was cut from the film.
Most reviews for Tarzan's Secret Treasure began with the premise that the film was "light" fare for the holiday season and the whole family. The reviewer in Variety wrote that the "picture is a par entry in the series [and the] early section of the yarn displays the usual animal stuff...[but] swings into straight meller for the second half..." This critic has praise for director Thorpe, who in his estimation "...lards the swift action with plenty of laughs and generally treats the material in a pseudo-serious manner for top-notch results." On the other hand, New York Times critic Bosley Crowther called the picture "...just another Tarzan film, that's all, and not an anthropologist's nightmare, as a serious person might suspect." Crowther dismisses it as "comic-strip hyperbole" but admits "it is all in the spirit of fun [but] there is nothing about it which would distinguish it from other Tarzan films... save the introduction of Barry Fitzgerald as a kindred soul in the wilds and the fact that Johnny Weissmuller has added a few words to his vocabulary..."
The next film in the series would be Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942), the last in the series to feature Maureen O'Sullivan, and the last before the series moved to RKO.
Producer: B.P. Fineman
Director: Richard Thorpe
Screenplay: Myles Connolly, Paul Gangelin (screenplay); Edgar Rice Burroughs (characters)
Cinematography: Clyde De Vinna
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: David Snell
Film Editing: Gene Ruggiero
Cast: Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan), Maureen O'Sullivan (Jane Parker), John Sheffield (Boy), Reginald Owen (Professor Elliott), Barry Fitzgerald (O'Doul), Tom Conway (Medford), Philip Dorn (Vandermeer), Cordell Hickman (Tumbo)
by John M. Miller
Tarzan's Secret Treasure
The Tarzan Collection on DVD - Tarzan on DVD
George Feltenstein, WHV's VP Classic Catalog, notes, "Olympic gold medallist Johnny Weissmuller and the incredibly beautiful and talented Maureen O'Sullivan are certainly the definitive Tarzan and Jane. They were also the most popular and most memorable to portray Edgar Rice Burroughs' jungle hero and heroine, paving the way for future interpretations like Hugh Hudson's and Bo Derek's."
All six of their M-G-M movies are being offered on this four-disc set which will arrive just in time to commemorate the anniversary of Johnny Weissmuller's 100th Birthday. The six features are presented on three discs, with a fourth disc exclusively devoted to the bonus features.
Tarzan The Ape Man - In their first film, Tarzan meets Jane when she arrives in Africa to join her father's ivory hunting expedition. Smitten, Tarzan kidnaps Jane. After she manages to escape she can't stop thinking about the "Lord of the Apes." When a tribe of pygmies traps the expedition, Jane sends Cheetah to bring Tarzan, who rescues them with the help of his elephants. This time he captures her heart and as the film ends, she chooses to stay.
Tarzan And His Mate - Recently inducted by the Library of Congress into the National Film Registry, Tarzan And His Mate is considered one of the few Hollywood sequels that surpassed the original. In this adventure, Jane's father returns to Africa to continue his search for the elephant burial grounds, hoping that Tarzan will help him. When Tarzan refuses, Jane's father decides to continue anyway and the members of the expedition soon find themselves in grave peril. The popular crocodile battle sequence is used here for the first time and many fans of Tarzan agree this is the best film ever made about the "Lord of the Jungle." The DVD release contains the original uncensored "pre-code" version of the film, containing the notorious nude swimming scene which was deleted prior to theatrical release.
Tarzan Escapes - Jane's cousins try to convince her to claim a fortune bequeathed to her back in England. The action accelerates when their unscrupulous guide attempts to capture Tarzan and turn him into a sideshow attraction to entertain the public.
Tarzan Finds A Son! - Cheetah finds an infant left alone after his parents die in a plane crash and brings the baby home to Tarzan and Jane. They are delighted to take him in and raise him. Five years later a search party comes looking for "Boy" who happens to be an heir to a multi-million dollar fortune. The tree house is rocked when Jane defies Tarzan to lead the search party and "Boy" back to civilization. On the way they are captured by hostile natives and after a breathtaking escape by "Boy," Tarzan and the elephants rescue everyone.
Tarzan's Secret Treasure - Jane and "Boy" are kidnapped by evil villains who want Tarzan to lead them to a treasure in gold. Jane, "Boy" and the villains are then captured by wicked natives and once again Tarzan and his elephants show up to save the day!
Tarzan's New York Adventure - A circus owner smuggles "Boy" out of the jungle and brings him to New York to perform in a show. Jane and Tarzan follow to get their son back. A custody trial is held during which Tarzan is jailed after becoming violent in the courtroom. He escapes, finds the circus and rescues his son with the help of the circus elephants.
The bonus features on this disc will include:
- Silver Screen: King of the Jungle, an all-new feature length documentary about Tarzan on screen, featuring interviews with Maureen O'Sullivan and Johnny Weissmuller, Jr., as well as several noted film historians and "Tarzan experts."
- Vintage vault treasure: Jimmy Durante as Schnarzan the Conqueror (from Hollywood Party)
- Two shorts featuring Johnny Weissmuller
- MGM on Location: Johnny Weissmuller (The filming of Tarzan Finds a Son!)
- Rough Dough
- Theatrical trailers of all six Weissmuller/O'Sullivan films
Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of The Apes
* All-new 20th Anniversary Digital Transfer Edition
This extraordinary saga explores the dual nature of Tarzan as he struggles to repress his wild jungle instincts and become the civilized heir to an Earldom. Called "enthralling and gloriously beautiful," by Sheila Benson, Los Angeles Times, the film stars Christopher Lambert as the darkly intense Tarzan and Andie MacDowell (Green Card, Four Weddings and A Funeral) who made her movie debut as Jane Porter in this lavish production directed by Hugh Hudson (Chariots of Fire). The film also stars Sir Ralph Richardson (Watership Down, Dr. Zhivago) in one of his final performances along with Ian Holm (Lord of The Rings Trilogy).
The bonus content on this disc includes:
- 20th Anniversary digital transfer
- Commentary by director Hugh Hudson and associate producer Garth Thomas
- Theatrical trailer
- Soundtrack re-mastered in Dolby Digital 5.1
- Widescreen version dual-layer format
- Languages: English & French with Subtitles in English, French & Spanish
Tarzan The Ape Man (1981)
This highly provocative version of the original Tarzan story is told from Jane's point of view. This time, when Jane (Bo Derek) arrives in Africa to visit her father (Richard Harris) and repeatedly finds herself in peril, the relationship which develops between Jane and her heroic Tarzan (Miles O'Keeffe) steams up the screen in ways the previous films left to viewers' imaginations. While Maureen O'Sullivan, Andie MacDowell, and other "Janes" were certainly considered beautiful and sexy, Bo Derek's portrayal is perhaps the most famously erotic. John Derek, Bo's husband, directed this sexually charged expedition through the wilds of Africa with that specific goal in mind.
The DVD will include the following extra content:
- Theatrical trailer
- Widescreen version dual-layer format
- English: Dolby surround stereo
- Subtitles: English, French and Spanish
The Tarzan Collection on DVD - Tarzan on DVD
Due to many budget cutbacks following the death of Irving Thalberg many stock shots from former movies were used.
A pre-production news item in Hollywood Reporter noted that M-G-M wanted actor Philip Reed for a role in the film, but he did not appear. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, location shooting was done in Wakulla Springs, FL. For the underwater swimming sequences in the film, modern sources indicate that a local Florida woman doubled for Maureen O'Sullivan. For additional information on the "Tarzan" series, consult the Series Index and see Tarzan, the Ape Man in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40.