Monday, January 23, 2012
Johnny Sheffield as "Bomba"
I was very young when I became a "Tarzan" fan -- the character from both the films and the books. The Tarzan of the movies had no relation to that of the written word, but I loved them both.
When I first read "The Son of Tarzan" -- the 4th novel -- I immediately wanted to strip my clothes off and run through the vast wooded areas behind my house -- just like Jack Clayton.
In the movies, the (adopted) son of Tarzan and Jane was played by Johnny Sheffield -- a child actor picked personally by Johnny Weismuller. He portrayed "Boy" in the Tarzan series from 1939 through 1947.
When the producers felt that "Boy" was becoming too old to appear alongside Tarzan, he was let go from the series after appearing in "Tarzan and the Huntress." But jungle fever was still running strong in Hollywood -- Johnny was recruited to embody the character of "Bomba" (a child's version of Tarzan that was first published from 1926 - 1938) starting in 1949 and running twelve films through 1955.
While I certainly remember "Boy" from the Tarzan films, I only became aware of "Bomba" in the last dozen years -- those films never appeared on the independent Boston television stations when I was a youngster. Through the miracle of the internet, in the past couple of years I have been able to view these films and totally love their innocent adventurousness.
After the Bomba series ended, Johnny Sheffield gave up his Hollywood career and became a business man, but he never turned his back on his jungle career and happily signed many a picture from his past for his ever-growing circle of fans.
Johnny Sheffield died in 2010, aged 79, from complications after a fall while pruning a tree in his yard. Active to the very end!
I recently purchased some wonderful original 8x10 photos of Johnny as Bomba -- I'll scan the best as soon as they arrive in the post. But I'm wondering -- was "Bomba" a source of fascination for budding gay boys in the 50s? Do any of my readers remember watching Johnny in the cinema, or on syndicated TV of the 60s? I would love to hear from anyone, whether from "back in the day" or who disovered him last week, who loved the films of Mr. Johnny Sheffield.