A product of pre-code Hollywood – the brief era of ‘immorality’ in the American film industry before the enforcement of censorship guidelines – Tarzan and His Mate’s cult status is largely due to Maureen O’Sullivan wearing one of the most revealing costumes to be seen on screen at that time. The Irish actor was eager to be cast as the intrepid English girl who falls in love with the jungle man. ‘I felt Jane was pretty much me,’ she later revealed. O’Sullivan plays the thrill-seeking Jane as self-assured, confident and defiant of conventional gender roles.
Tarzan and His Mate was banned in Germany by the National Socialist Party on the grounds that it depicted a Nordic man in ‘primitive’ surroundings, but was otherwise a huge international success. This screening is complete with the sequence which caused considerable commotion in 1934, and was later removed by censors: a lyrical ‘underwater nude ballet’ featuring Olympic swimmer Josephine McKim. The best in the cycle of 1930s and 40s Tarzan movies, the US Library of Congress deemed the film ‘culturally, historically or aesthetically significant’ and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.
Directed by Cedric Gibbons, USA 1934. Runtime 104 mins. Rated PG
- Auditorium, lower ground level