Tarzan and His Mate (1934)

“It’s a bit fantastic, isn’t it? A well-bred English girl, living in the treetops with a glorified native apeman.”

An Englishman (Neil Hamilton) and his friend (Paul Cavanagh) venture into the African jungle in search of an elephant burial ground, hoping to entice Jane (Maureen O’Sullivan) to leave her new life with Tarzan the Ape Man (Johnny Weissmuller) and return to “civilization”.


Response to Peary’s Review:
Along with many other critics, Peary argues that this “second… of the Johnny Weissmuller-Maureen O’Sullivan Tarzan series” (a sequel to 1932’s Tarzan, the Ape Man) is the “best”. He notes that while “in future films, which were meant for family audiences, Tarzan becomes increasingly civilized and domesticated”, in “this adult film it is the lady, Jane, who reverts to her primitive nature and goes native”. He points out that while the movie “has a lot of action” (much of it quite exciting), the reason for its “cult status is that beautiful O’Sullivan wears one of the most revealing costumes in screen history: a tiny halter top and a loincloth that leave her thighs and hips exposed and little to the imagination”. Indeed, it’s rather stunning how much overt sensuality this pre-Code film manages to get away with, given that Jane (or her body double) “swims nude with Tarzan, is constantly pawed by him, sleeps in the nude, … [is] stranded in the jungle without clothes on … and is seen nude in silhouette when dressing in a well-lit tent”. Refreshingly, however, O’Sullivan’s character is not just sexy, but strong and independent — while Tarzan does rescue her time and again, in other ways she holds her own quite nicely, most notably in a climactic final scene involving fierce lions.

Note: In his review of TAHM for his Cult Movies book, Peary points out the similarities between this film and Bird of Paradise (1932), starring Dolores del Rio (married to Cedric Gibbons, who directed at least part of TAHM).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Maureen O’Sullivan as Jane
  • Plenty of astonishing pre-Code sensuality

Must See?
Yes, as the most infamous (and enjoyable) of the RKO Tarzan/Jane films.



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