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Johnny Sheffield Dies: “Boy” in Johnny Weissmuller's Tarzan Movies


Johnny Sheffield, Boy, Tarzan

Johnny Sheffield, best known as Boy in MGM's Tarzan movie series and as the lead in the low-budget Bomba, the Jungle Boy film series, died of heart attack at his home in Chula Vista (in the greater San Diego area) on Friday, Oct. 15. According to the Los Angeles Times obit, several hours earlier Sheffield had fallen off a ladder while pruning a palm tree. He was 79.

The son of British silent film actor Reginald Sheffield, Johnny Sheffield (born April 11, 1931, in Pasadena, northeast of downtown Los Angeles) got his film career started in Tarzan Finds a Son! (1939), in which Sheffield played a foundling – his parents (mom was future MGM leading lady Laraine Day) had died in a plane crash.

Adoptive parents Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) and Jane (Maureen O'Sullivan) frolicked with Boy in two more movies, Tarzan's Secret Treasure (1941) and Tarzan in New York (1942). By then, MGM had downgraded the series to B status.

Sheffield couldn't swim, but at least at first he had to pretend he did; Weissmuller knew of his shortcoming, but kept mum about it.

Weissmuller and Sheffield went on donning loincloths in five more movies. (Brenda Joyce replaced Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane.)

Following his last Tarzan flick, Tarzan and the Huntress (1947), Sheffield went over to the minor Monogram studios to play the lead in Bomba, the Jungle Boy (1949). Eleven cheaply made Bomba movies followed.

In the mid-50s, Sheffield quit Hollywood and eventually got into real estate.

In later years, Sheffield remembered Weissmuller, who died in 1984, as always “kind and tender toward me.”

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5 Comments to Johnny Sheffield Dies: “Boy” in Johnny Weissmuller's Tarzan Movies

  1. Linda Scroggins

    I received the Tarzan DVD Collection recently for my birthday….One day, when I had my grandson over to visit, I pulled the Tarzan movie out where Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan find their son, Boy (played by Johnny Sheffield)…..My grandson had never seen or heard of these movies, but when he got to watching them, he couldn't stop…..He loved the story and the idea that this young boy could do all the things in the jungle that he did to survive….He also loved Cheeta and all her antics in the film…..How I wish we had more of these movies on T.V. for all the young children who have never seen them…..I, too, still love watching the same Tarzan movies that were on Saturdays when I was growing up…..All three of these actors and actresses will never be forgotten as long as we remember Tarzan, Jane, Boy and Cheeta…….

  2. Tarzan Number 2

    I loved this young man and all of those oldies…..God Bless Them…They don't make movies like the Old Tarzan movies

  3. John G Wilson

    I am 50 years old now, but I can still remember the day that Johnny Weissmuller came to Macon Georgia, my hometown, to sign autographs at the opening of a local Drug store….. “Powells Drug Store”, I think it was..
    I must have been seven or eight years old, but I will never forget it. There was Johnny Weismuller dressed in a nice suit, with cheetah by his side in a cage. Which cheetah it was, I don't know. I believe there was a whole bunch of different cheetahs
    Actually, I believe that is the only movie star, I have ever met in my whole life. The only one I have ever seen with my own eyes. Besides some rock stars.
    I am so sorry to hear “Boy” had passed away… Maybe now, Tarzan can teach him how to swim, up in those beautiful streams and Rivers up in heaven.
    May you both R I P,

  4. willie davis

    I always through Boy was Danny Williams and Hawaii Five 50!

  5. Dos Cuetez

    Gosh….I will always remember “Boy” till the end of the World!
    Understand he was a good person until the end.