Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Johnny Sheffield

Johnny Sheffield (Second from left)

Boy has died -- of a heart-attack. He was 79. (Apparently, he fell off a ladder while pruning a tree in his yard and the MI happened a bit after that.)

Sheffield was a child actor, the son of an actor, who beat out a bunch of other kids for the role of "Boy," in the Weissmuller/Maureen O'Sullivan Tarzan movies. He played that role in eight pictures, then went on to star as Bomba, the Jungle Boy, in a dozen more movies. Even did a pilot, Bantu, the Zebra Boy for television, but it was never picked up.

Subsequently, he left the biz in the mid-fifties, got a degree, and worked in farming, real estate, and even the seafood industry. Got married, had kids, retired to SoCal, where he sold copies of the Bantu pilot.

Adiós, Johnny.

Addendum: There were several chimps who played the role of Cheeta(h) in those movies, and apparently, the one in the picture is still alive, somewhere around 80 -- they aren't sure when he was born. Weissmuller also died at 79, and O'Sullivan made it to 87. Kind of interesting that the chimpanzee outlived them all ...

While he couldn't swim when he got the role, Weissmuller covered for Sheffield and taught him how. Being taught by a guy with five Olympic gold medals probably made that easier.

The kid was something of a jock by then -- he'd been sickly and his father had started training him before he got the role. In the clip from Bantu, you can see he stayed in shape at least until he was in his mid-twenties, and obviously did some work with weights along the way. 

For a guy with twenty-some movies to his credit, I didn't see an Oscar in his future based on this ...


Justin said...

Lots to laugh at here:
- How the zebra (or painted donkey) was a little too short to be ridden properly
- How Bantu was wearing zebra tights. Wouldn't that worry the living zebra?
- The Kana dude's little hat reminded me of the gay film critics on In Living Color
- On the cowboy shot when they were talking, the zebra was butting into their scene to the point where they were each almost speaking into one of its ears
- All the B-roll and zebra riding at the end of the clip

Steve Perry said...

Hey, it was the fifties. Superman and Clark Kent were wearing the same pinkie ring -- and you could now and then see the camera crew reflected in a window or on the side of a car. The Lone Ranger and Tonto were kicking ass, but not continuity.

Everything was shot on the lot and the stock footage was, well, stock footage.

Hell, in High Noon, on the big screen, there's a point where the crane pulls back for a high shot and you can see the the L.A. skyline.

People were less sophisticated about such things back in the day.

Then again, the pilot didn't get picked up ...