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.


Carl said...

WOW. Me too except I would a place in the woods where I could strip my clothes off and even a grape vice I would swing from. Looking back now I was lucky for if the vine had broken I could have valleys into a deep valley and wow with all the underbrush I would have been in real pain if it did not kiss me.Love the Tarzan series especial the Tarzan and boy. Another favorite of mine was Blue Lagoon with Christopher Adkins. thanks glad to see someone who felt as I did and still do.

Carl said...

PS I am going to post the photo on my site refering my readers to your site. Hope that is ok.

Anonymous said...

Lusted after Johnny as Bomba. Always wanted a physique like his but hadn't the dedication to keep up with the training required. look forward to those photos. Great blog.

Anonymous said...

Alan, I love your blog. I don't remember Bomba in the 50's, but TCM has been doing the entire series on Saturdays at noon EST.

Gawker said...

TCM has shown the first 8 of the 12 in order. They will resume the series in Marchafter the 31 Days of Oscar is over.

I think Bomba was my first TV/Movie crush as a child, though I loved all the Tarzan moviees, amd even Jungle Jim (who, you say?).

Even now, fifty years later, he still rings my chimes, and any guy with that kind of build and face can play me like a carillon.

Jonitron said...

I remember that the best part of a Saturday afternoon when I was in my late teens was when the "Jungle Theater" library finally rotated back around to "Bomba and the______" [fill in the blank. Quite a lot of nice upper thigh, there.

Chuck said...

In the late fifties, early sixties, before cartoons became commonplace on Saturday morning TV, action/adventure movies were staple fare. Already enamoured with Tarzan, I fantasized about being Boy and reveling in the physical closeness he had with his adoptive father. Incestuous thoughts? Definitely! Johnny Sheffield hinted in a comment, on Johnny Weissmuller's Wiki page, that the older actor was paternal towards him as they worked on the movie sets together. When I discovered the "Bomba films" a short time later, and realized Bomba was Boy grown up, with the same curly hair, I was delighted. Was I hot for Bomba? Oh yeah!

Donald Sarian said...

Yes i remember Bomba films in Boston.mass, they. Were shown on satureday morning on fox 25 at 10 am in the early eighties, for one year . The Bomba series are now on dvd, all twelve of them, thanks i love your site, Donald Sarian.