|Boy (Johnny Sheffield) and Cheeta|
The King Has a Son
A main stay of the Tarzan film series was the character of Boy. As MGM studios steered their way from more adult films to a more family oriented fair, the character of boy was introduced in the film Tarzan Finds a Son (1939). The dilemma MGM had was that at its core their Tarzan films featured an erotic romance between Jane and Tarzan as seen in Tarzan and his Mate (1934). Jane (Maureen O'Sullivan) has stayed on in the jungle and moved in with Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) with out an engagement or wedding. Unlike Burroughs' original version (1913's The Return of Tarzan) and the silent movies (1920's The Revenge of Tarzan), where Tarzan/John Clayton and Jane are presented getting married, the MGM continuity presents them as seemingly living in unwedded sin in their jungle paradise.
The Hays Code
This was fine until the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930, also known as the Hays Code, was brought into effect and a new standard of censorship was introduced. Jane's skimpy jungle two piece became a modest jungle dress. The jungle love nest was replaced with a tree house and all seemed fine until it came time to bring a new bundle of joy onto the Mutia escarpment. For Jane and Tarzan to have their own son outside of formal wedlock was against the new code, so the Tarzan family had to grow by another means. And so an alternative had to be devised. Despite the fact that Tarzan and Jane had their own biological son, John Clayton/Korak in the novels, as well as in the silent film serial The Son of Tarzan (1920), their son in the MGM, and eventually RKO, continuity had to be a foundling. An interesting twist is that this son, by insinuation, would be a relative of Tarzan
Another Jungle Orphan
Up until Tarzan Finds a Son, the name Greystoke had never appeared in the MGM series and only once in the Burroughs produced serial The New Adventures of Tarzan (1935) and it's 2 edited feature versions. Another illusion to the Greystoke title is also found in the serial and feature version of Tarzan the Fearless, another non MGM production, which refers to Tarzan as Lord Greyfriar. In Son, we are introduced to Richard Lancing (Morton Lowry), the favourite nephew of Lord Greystoke, his unnamed wife (Laraine Day) and baby son. While on a flight to Capetown, their plane collides with a flock of birds and all on board are killed by the crash or by natives except for the baby who is rescued by Tarzan's tribe of apes. Jane and Tarzan receive the baby and raise it as their own, unimaginatively naming him Boy. Boy (Johnny Sheffield) grows up as Tarzan's son, learning the ways of the jungle and keeping Tarzan busy rescuing him from various jungle dangers. All is fine until Boys family come looking for him. They come in the form of Boy's great uncle, Sir Thomas Lancing (Henry Stephenson), his nephew Austin Lancing (Ian Hunter) and his wife (Frieda Inescort), Boy's second cousins. They stand to inherit a fortune if they can prove that Richard Lancing and his family are dead, a fortune that would rightfully go to Richard Lancing's son if he was found alive. Ironically, as the child of the late Lord Greystoke's favourite nephew, assuming this refers to Tarzan's father, Boy is also Tarzan's first cousin once removed. The underlying subtext then is that, in reality, Tarzan is Boy's true next of kin.
|Tarzan (Gordon Scott), Cheeta and Boy/Tatu (Ricki Sorenson)|
More Clayton Cousins
It's an interesting aside that in his fictional biography of Tarzan, Tarzan Alive (Playboy Paperbacks, 1981), Philip Jose Farmer decides that, after looking at some of the chronological discrepancies with Burroughs' Tarzan stories, that Korak, presented as Tarzan's biological son, is really his adopted orphan second cousin (pg 130). He rightfully points out that a boy born in 1913 could not possibly flee to the jungle, have adventures there, get married and fight on the Argonne front in 1918 (pg 129).
Unlike the MGM/RKO continuity, in Farmer's biographical version,Tarzan and Jane do have there own biological son, Jack, who is still a child when Korak has started his adult adventures (pg 130). Obviously no Hays Code held sway here.
The New York Adventure and Beyond
In the film, Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942), Boy is kidnapped and taken to America to work in a circus. After finding him, Tarzan and Jane are involved in a custody battle for Boy. This becomes difficult when it becomes clear that Tarzan and Jane are not his natural parents. In the internal continuity of the films, this must have occurred before Tarzan became aware of his true heritage and blood relationship to Boy, as this would have made the question of custody less of an issue. Eventually after a series of adventures with Tarzan and Jane and eventually just Tarzan, when Jane is in England nursing wounded soldiers (Tarzan's Desert Mystery (1943), Tarzan Triumphs (1943)), Boy leaves Africa to go to school in England (1948's Tarzan and the Mermaids). It is here that the story of Boy becomes complicated. Despite his continued appearance in Tarzan comics, where many elements of the books, such as Lieut D'Arnot and Pal-ul-don, mingled with elements of the film series, such as Cheeta, the popular character of Boy was absent from the movies for 11 years and 9 films. In reality it was at this time that Johnny Sheffield grew too old to play Boy and went on to star in his own jungle movie series, Bomba the Jungle Boy. Unlike Maureen O'Sullivan, who left the series when it moved to RKO and was eventually replaced by Brenda Joyce, no replacement came for the role of Boy.
|A frame from a 1957 Dell Tarzan Comic # 95 by Jessie Marsh depicting Boy, 10 years after his last screen appearance and a year before his reappearance as Tartu.|
However in 1958, in the film Tarzan's Fight For Life, a young boy appears living with Tarzan (Gordon Scott) and Jane (Eve Brent). this young boy is named Tartu (Rickie Sorenson) and it is made clear that he had recently been officially adopted by Tarzan and Jane. On the face of it, this newly adopted son of Tarzan and Jane may have been another foundling taken in by the jungle couple, an adopted brother for the unseen Boy, who we assume is still living in civilisation studying or attending to Greystoke/Lancing business and hopefully making life difficult for his greedy second cousins. However a missing piece of the puzzle appeared in 1966 when a new Tarzan film premiered on U.S. television entitled Tarzan and the Trappers. This movie, which was actually edited together from three pilot episodes of a 1958 Tarzan TV series that was never given the green light but featured the same main cast as Tarzan's Fight For Life. In this movie Sorenson's character is known primarily as Boy but is also referred to as Tartu. It can then be assumed when watching these two films together, which wasn't possible until 1966, that the Boy of the Weissmuller era and the Tartu of Gordon Scott's movies were one in the same character. Both these movies are reminiscent of the films of the later Weissmuller era, featuring a Tarzan family, and quite at odds with the other films of Gordon Scott and his successors in the MGM/RKO and soon to be, Banner Films series. These stories generally portray Tarzan as a lone adventurer, occasionally accompanied by Cheeta, fighting evil both in Africa and jungles further abroad. But here in these two films we find Tarzan living with Jane and Boy/Tartu in the jungle tree house in a way that hadn't been seen since Tarzan and the Huntress (1947). From a continuity perspective, these two stories would fit well into this earlier era of the characters life. We may be that around this time in the series continuity that Tarzan became aware of his true origin and consequent blood relationship to Boy and chose to officially adopted Boy before his attendance at school in England. It may that at this point too he was given a jungle name, Tartu, as he moved into young adulthood and eventually out of the jungle.
|Tarzan, Boy and their friend Professor McWhirtle run for their lives in Pal-ul-don.|
Tarzan Annual (1961)
Whatever Boy's real name was it was never mentioned. Like Tarzan, he may have shared a name with his father and been Richard Lancing as well. The name Boy is very accurate and is a good example of the MGM's Tarzan's lack of English vocabulary. How ever the name Tartu is one potentially loaded with meaning, and I suspect a potential meaning that the writers of Tarzan's Fight for Life were unaware of. Some I have spoken to have suggested that Tartu merely means 'Tarzan 2', which I agree was probably the writers intention. However I like to think that with in the name a deeper meaning is held. In the language of the Great Apes created by Burroughs, Tar means white, as in the name Tarzan or 'White Skin'. The second half of Boys ape name is Tu, which means broken, as in the name of Tarzan's adopted ape father, Tublat or 'Broken Nose'. Directly translated into English, Tartu's name means 'white broken', which makes no sense unless it was actually a name that encapsulated his adopted ape family tree. He is Tartu, son of Tarzan, son of Tublat, of the tribe of Kerchak.We can imagine that as Boy left the jungle to get an education in England, going to embrace his birthright as the son of Richard Lancing and the adopted son and cousin of the ever absent 10th Earl of Greystoke, he went with a new name, an ape name that would forever remind him of his jungle identity, Tartu, son of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes.