Tarzan's New York Adventure

Tarzan's New York Adventure (a.k.a. Tarzan Against the World) is a 1942 black-and-white adventure film from Metro Goldwyn Mayer, produced by Frederick Stephani, directed by Richard Thorpe, that stars Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan. This was the sixth and final film in MGM's Tarzan series and was the studio's last Tarzan feature until 1958's Tarzan's Fight for Life. Although Tarzan's New York Adventure includes scenes set New York, as well as the customary jungle sequences, it is yet another Tarzan production primarily shot on MGM's back lots.[2]

Tarzan's New York Adventure
Directed byRichard Thorpe
Produced byFrederick Stephani
Written byWilliam R. Lipman
Myles Connolly
Based onCharacters created
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
StarringJohnny Weissmuller
Maureen O'Sullivan
Johnny Sheffield
Music byDavid Snell
CinematographySidney Wagner
Edited byGene Ruggiero
Distributed byMetro Goldwyn Mayer
Release date
May 1942
Running time
71 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2,729,000[1]


Workers land an aircraft in the jungles of Africa in search of lions for their circus. While trapping lions, the three men meet with Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller), Jane (Maureen O'Sullivan) and their adopted son Boy (Johnny Sheffield). Watching Boy's tricks with the elephants, the head of the circus, Buck Rand (Charles Bickford), realizes that Boy would be a great act for the circus. The group is attacked by natives, and it appears that Tarzan and Jane have perished in a jungle fire. The men take Boy on their aircraft and return to the United States. Tarzan's loyal chimp Cheeta wakes Tarzan and Jane before they are burned to death by the fire. Cheeta tells Tarzan that Boy has left with the men on their aircraft.

Tarzan, Jane, and Cheeta track across the jungle and, flying across the Atlantic, eventually end up in New York City, where Tarzan is befuddled by the lifestyle and gadgetry of "civilization". Tarzan displays his quaint, "noble savage" ways by complaining about the necessity of wearing clothing, commenting that an opera singer that he hears on a "noisy box" is "Woman sick! Scream for witch doctor!", and expressing his childlike wonderment at taxi cabs. Tarzan comments that various African-Americans he sees making a living throughout New York City are from this or that tribe back in his and Jane's jungle home.

Tarzan and Jane attempt to get Boy back by legal means. This leads to a moving sequence where the judge asks Tarzan what the fishing is like back in Africa and what he considers to be the important things that he needs to teach his adopted son. Unfortunately, the circus retains an unscrupulous lawyer (Charles Lane), who tricks Jane into admitting that Boy was not born in the jungle and is not her actual child, provoking Tarzan into attacking him in the courtroom. Tarzan makes a daring escape out the courtroom windows and after a rooftop chase by the police, he ends up making a spectacular high dive off the Brooklyn Bridge into the East River.

Tarzan locates the circus where Boy is being held and enlists the aid of the elephants who are chained to stakes. He calls to them with his "jungle speak" and they take their revenge on their tormentors by tearing free from the chains and destroying the circus. In the ensuing bedlam, Tarzan is able to rescue Boy. Before they return to Africa, the judge grants Tarzan and Jane full legal custody of their son.



With the working title Tarzan Against the World, film production began on December 17, 1941, continuing to January 28, 1942, mainly on the MGM backlot/ranch. Additional scenes were shot in early February 1942.[3]

Popular mythology claims that Johnny Weissmuller did his own high dive stunt in Tarzan's New York Adventure. In the film, an escaping Tarzan jumps 250 feet from the top of the Brooklyn Bridge, but according to ERBzine and research on Edgar Rice Burroughs, the shot was filmed by cameraman Jack Smith on top of the MGM scenic tower on lot 3, using a dummy plunging into a tank of water.[4]

Tarzan's New York Adventure was the last in the series for MGM, and Maureen O'Sullivan's last picture until 1948. She wanted to devote more time to her seven children. Of interest is the uncredited appearance as a circus roustabout by Elmo Lincoln who in 1918 was the first actor to star as Tarzan.[5]

Three aircraft are prominently featured in Tarzan's New York Adventure: "G-AECT", a mock-up of a Lockheed 12A with a single tail, that is used to fly in the Africa scenes, and a Boeing 314 Clipper (daytime) and a Martin M-130 (nighttime) that the characters of Tarzan and Jane use to cross the Atlantic Ocean.[6]


Box office

Tarzan's New York Adventure earned $1,404,000 in the US and Canada and $1,315,000 elsewhere during its initial theatrical run, making MGM a profit of $985,000.[1][7]

Critical reception

Film critic Theodore Strauss at The New York Times said the change of outfit did nothing to change the obvious. "With an African yodel and a tailor-made suit, our old jungle friend is back in Tarzan's New York Adventure, currently chilling the veins of reviewers and 12-year-olds at the Capitol. Although we're not quite certain that the small-fry approved of Tarzan's temporary conversion to decidedly dapper duds of the sort more commonly seen at the corner of Hollywood and Vine, he probably will be forgiven. In Tarzan's case, clothes do not make the man".[8]

In a recent appraisal of Tarzan's New York Adventure, Leonard Maltin noted some redeeming factors; "... an amusing entry. Tarzan's first encounter with indoor plumbing is truly memorable".[9]

The film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports an approval rating of 100%, based on five reviews, with the film receiving a rating average of 7/10.[10]



  1. "The Eddie Mannix Ledger". Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study (Los Angeles).
  2. "Notes: Tarzan's New York Adventure." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: January 7, 2015.
  3. "Original print information: Tarzan's New York Adventure." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: January 7, 2015.
  4. Hillman, Bill. "Tarzan's New York Adventure." Erbzine.com Homepage, Issue 0622. Retrieved: January 7, 2015.
  5. LeVoit, Violet. "Articles: Tarzan's New York Adventure." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: January 7, 2015.
  6. "G-AECT." Airport-data.com. Retrieved: January 7, 2015.
  7. "101 Pix Gross in Millions" Variety 6 Jan 1943 p 58
  8. Strauss, Theodore (T.S.) "Movie Review: Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942); 'Tarzan's New York Adventure' proves clothes do not make the man, at the Capitol." The New York Times, August 7, 1942.
  9. Maltin 2009, p. 1369.
  10. "Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942) – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.com. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 14 November 2016.


  • Maltin, Leonard. Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide 2009. New York: New American Library, 2009 (originally published as TV Movies, then Leonard Maltin’s Movie & Video Guide), First edition 1969, published annually since 1988. ISBN 978-0-451-22468-2.
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