Cast and Credits
Running Time: 81 minutes
Production Begins: June 14, 1941
Production Ends: August 18, 1941
Copyright Date: November 12, 1941; Renewed Nov. 19, 1968
Release Date: December 1941 in Sepia Platinum
First showing in Canada: February 26, 1942
Le Trésor de Tarzan [Fr]
Tarzans Geheimer Schatz [Gr]
Il tesoro (segreto) di Tarzan [It]
O Tesouro de Tarzan [Pg]
El Tesoro (secreto) de Tarzán [Sp]
Intrigued by the stories of gold and civilization told to him by his foster mother, Boy heads down the escarpment one morning to visit. While there he rescues a Ubardi native child, but is taken by the lad’s tribe as a sacrifice to ward off a plague.
He is rescued by a white safari, led by professor Elliot, which in turn is rescued by Tarzan, who has come in search of his son.
Tarzan promises to help the safari reach its destination in a short time with little danger, but Boy unwittingly reveals the escarpment as a source of gold to Medford and Vandemeer, who decide that it is worth exploiting.
Despite the professor's insistence that Tarzan’s paradise be respected, the safari members take matters into their own hands. The villains allow Professor Elliott to die from jungle fever, then Jane and Boy are kidnapped to force Tarzan to show the location of the mountain of gold. And finally Medford attempts to shoot the jungle lord.
Taking their hostages through Joconi territory, the safari is captured and after the porters have been gruesomely tortured and killed, the whites are taken down river to the tribe for more of the same.
O'Doul, the Irish cameraman, feigns death and is able to help Tarzan out of a sticky wicket, and together they head towards the native flotilla, where Tarzan overturns canoes with the help of his elephant friends, and unlikely allies in the form of the crocodiles.
Medford and Vandermeer are killed, and O'Doul leaves the jungle with a “Bon Voyage” gift, a melon filled with nuggets of gold.
By the time MGM was planning its next Tarzan film, scripter Cyril Hume, like Maureen O'Sullivan, wanted out. So when he was asked to submit a new treatment, he killed off Jane and Cheta, and had Tarzan burn down the tree-house. Then he and Boy headed off to live as he did before Jane’s arrival. This plotline was submitted early in July 1939.
Sound familiar? Hume must have wanted to follow up on the rejected ending from Tarzan Finds a Son! Of course, this idea was unacceptable to producer Bernie Hyman, who agreed to replace him with Myles Connolly.
Hyman, in true Thalberg tradition, then held story conferences with Connolly and Lucien Hubbard, with input from Hume, although the latter continued to propose killing off O’Sullivan's character.
The earliest suggestions began with Boy’s running away, and it was eventually incorporated to tie in with the arrival of yet another safari, this one headed by an honest professor, and his not so honest associates Medford and Vandermeer.
The conferences also suggested shooting additional authentic African footage, but MGM had still not recovered from the Trader Horn nightmare, and that idea was quickly discarded.
There are records of additional scripts by Hume dated 1940, but again Jane’s untimely demise was a part of them, but by early 1941, MGM was ready to proceed with Connolly’s script, which he co-wrote with Paul Gangelin.
Production began in June 1941, and was finished eight weeks later, at a price tag of just under a million dollars.
Most of the film was shot in Hollywood, on MGM lots one and two, and for the farewell scene at the film’s conclusion, the lower Iverson ranch was used.
For the first time since MGM began the Tarzan series, the cast excluded women, other than O’Sullivan. Heading the supporting cast was distinguished British thespian, Reginald Owen, not to be confused with another Brit, Reginald Gardiner. Born Aug. 5, 1887, and in the U.S. from the early 1920s, Owen was perhaps best known for two incarnations: Ebeneezer Scrooge in the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol, and the somewhat dotty Admiral Boom in Disney's 1969 piece of whimsy, Mary Poppins. He passed away in 1972.
MGM scored a real coup in obtaining the services of Irish actor Barry Fitzgerald, to portray the seemingly carefree Dennis O'Doul, who outfoxes the villains and aids Tarzan in his rescue of Jane and Boy, when the latter are captured by the Joconis.
Born in Dublin on March 10, 1888, Fitzgerald entered show business as a side-line via the famous Abbey Theatre. Known for his connections to famous Irish authors, Fitzgerald was brought to Hollywood to reprise in film a role he had played on stage in Ireland. The play was The Plough and the Stars (36), written by Sean O'Casey, with whom he had shared a flat in earlier times. His best known roles were undoubtedly in How Green Was My Valley (41), Going My Way (44) and The Quiet Man (52). He eventually returned to Dublin, where he died in 1961. He was the brother of actor Arthur Shields, who had decided to retain the family name when he became an actor.
Johnny Sheffield has a soft spot for Fitzgerald, especially as the impressive actor insisted on his presence, whenever discussions about a scene involved the boy. And to this day he remembers fondly the closing scene that ran...
Boy - Wouldn't you like to see
Mr. O'Doul's face when he finds the melon'’s full of gold?
Tarzan - O'Doul laugh, then cry.
Boy - He’ll be rich, won't he?
Jane - And he’ll never tell where his riches came from. You can be sure of that.
Tarzan - Tarzan sure.
Tumbo - Friend!
And I especially like the comedic moment just after the clash with the Joconis on the river when a sly croc sneaks up on O’Doul, only to have the diminutive, but feisty Irishman shove a solid branch in its gaping jaws, and say:
“You may be a monster to the local inhabitants, but you’re just another lizard to O’Doul.”
What would a Tarzan film be without its quota of villains. To be sure the savage Joconis (named after production manager Joe Cohn) fill the bill, but we also need some white villains, and this time Tom Conway and Philip Dorn take on the job as heavies. MGM had wanted Philip Reed for a role in this film, but it was not to be.
The debonair Tom Conway played Medford, the scheming cad, out to exploit the gold deposits on Tarzan’s escarpment.
Born in Russia, Conway was the brother of actor George Sanders. The family moved back to England following the Bolshevik take-over. Conway, always a drifter, entered the film world through his brother, who was already an established performer and who helped him find work, possibly in this film. At about this time, Sanders was planning to leave RKO's Falcon series, and recommended his brother as his replacement. It turned out well for Conway. He completed the series for RKO, and managed to get on radio, and then into television. His marvellous speaking voice was used to advantage as Disney’s narrator for Peter Pan (53) and One Hundred and One Dalmatians (61). But problems with alcoholism were taking their toll, and he was usually relegated to schlock films like The She-Creature (56) and Voodoo Woman (57). He died in 1967, virtually forgotten. His brother George Sanders, who married Benita Hume ( q.v. Tarzan Escapes), committed suicide five years later in Spain, for no better reason than that he was bored with life.
Philip Dorn played Conway’s henchman. A Dutchman by birth, Dorn had already achieved star status as a heart throb in pre-Nazi Germany. When the Heiling boys took over the reins of government, he fled to the States, where he helped produced propaganda films against the Nazi regime. Although he had quite a few respectable roles opposite established stars, he never regained the fame he had known in Europe. Of his Hollywood films, the one I remember best is I've Always Loved You (46), co-starring Catherine McLeod, Maria Ouspenskaya and a future Jane, Vanessa Brown. Other prestige films were Random Harvest (38) and I Remember Mama (48). In the 50s, he returned to Holland for a time, but eventually resettled with his wife in West Los Angeles. He died in 1975.
Cordell Hickman, who had played
one of the two boys in The
(40), won the role of the native lad that Boy befriends, and Martin
Wilkins did a bit as Head Bearer for the scientific expedition. While
his name was not well known, he managed to put in quite a few
appearances, like fellow black actor Darby Jones, in various jungle
films, such as Congo
several of the Bomba programmers, and the Jungle Jim TV series.
Perhaps his funniest moment occurs when, as a cannibal chief in
(49), he eyes Lou Costello, and licking his chops, utters — what
else? - “Umgawa!”
Motion Picture Herald
Again he swings through the trees
with the greatest of ease does Tarzan and this time his son does
likewise, but with even more ease and abandon do the writers of this
stanza swing through the stratosphere of imagination accompanied by a
technical crew which makes a multitude of impossibilities seem
plausible enough for the juvenile trade of all ages...
Produced by B. P. Fineman with no sparing of the budget and directed by Richard Thorpe, the film stacks up as about the best of the Tarzans from the point of view of the T audience, the only one aimed at.
Latest adventures of Edgar Rice Burroughs's superman of the African jungle are detailed in tune with the wild imaginings of the author to catch attention of the juvenile trade and still provide opportunity for adults to laugh at the fantastic antics of the Tarzan family without restraint. Picture is a par entry in the series, which Metro spaces judiciously to overcome objections to the cinematic flights of fancy.
Early section of the yarn displays the usual animal stuff, with comedy antics of the pet simian, Cheta, providing elemental laughs. There are several underwater swimming episodes to display the aquatic prowess of Johnny Weissmuller, also there's the usual jungle family life of the Tarzans.
The secret treasure turns out to be gold, which is plentiful among the rocks of the high escarpment on which the Tarzan group lives. After Tarzan saves a band of explorers and scientists from the nearby savage tribe, the expedition is guided up the escarpment on a short cut across country. Greedy members of the band figure to move in on the golden hill, but are routed by Tarzan and a savage tribe that captures the expedition with aid from a herd of elephants and peace again comes to the Tarzan hideout.
Picture swings into straight meller for the second half, with several sequences devoted to miraculous escapes by Tarzan from death. Latter events are to be expected from the jungle miracle man, to pass muster with audiences who have become familiar with the Tarzan character in print and film.
Weissmuller adequately handles the Tarzan role in his usual style, with Maureen O'Sullivan as his jungle mate and John Sheffield their offspring. Miss O'Sullivan carries quite an English accent into the jungle, which is apparently throughout. Barry Fitzgerald, member of the expedition, carries the comedy assignment in the latter portion to good advantage. Others in support include Reginald Owen, Tom Conway, Philip Dorn and Cordell Hickman.
Direction by Richard Thorpe injects a good pace to the script, turned out by Myles Connolly and Paul Gangelin. Jungle setting is familiar background for previous Tarzan adventures, while camera work by Clyde de Vinna and process special effects by Warren Newcombe are good contributions.
The New York Times
God Rest ye, merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay ŝ especially the current offering at the Capitol, which is just another Tarzan film, that's all, and not an anthropologist's nightmare, as a serious person might suspect. Metro calls it "Tarzan's Secret Treasure," and that's as good a title as any, for it tells in truly comic-strip hyperbole of a shockingly outrageous attempt by a couple of greedy scientists to ravish the ape-man's paradise of its gold. And it concludes in the customary fashion with Tarzan conscripting his faithful friends, the beasts, to put the outsiders in their places and to save his African solitude for himself, his mate and his youngster, who has grown to be quite a lad.
Don't let it throw you, Christmas revelers. It is all in the spirit of fun. And although there is nothing about it which would distinguish it from other Tarzan films ŝ save the introduction of Barry Fitzgerald as a kindred soul in the wilds and the fact that Johnny Weissmuller has added a few words to his vocabulary ŝ the animal scenes, especially those which star a chimpanzee, and the fanciful concept of the whole thing is, as usual, pleasantly lacking in guile. Obviously, the Capitol is playing to juveniles this week. - Bosley Crowthers [Note. Crowthers is being atypically fair. Let's chalk it up to the Christmas spirit.]