Requiem for a Jungle Boy

We lost one of the great “kid sidekicks” this week.

Johnny Sheffield, who played “Boy” to Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan in the late 1930s and early ’40s, has died here in California at age 79.

I think that’s way too soon for a tree-swinging jungle boy. Sheffield’s death has hit me kinda hard.

Which is strange, cuz way back when I was a munchkin watching the old Weissmuller movies on Channel 9 in L.A., I thought Boy was a pain in the ass.

Tarzan would say, “Boy stay with Cheetah.” But no sooner would the Ape Man leap into the trees than Boy would chase after a baby elephant and end up captured by headhunters, or ivory poachers, or warriors from Opar.

Of course, Cheetah’d fetch Tarz, who’d stop whatever he was doing (usually skinny-dipping with Jane) to rescue the little bugger.

Like I said — a pain in the ass.

But there was one good thing you could always say about Boy.

When he needed help — like when cannibals were cooking him in a boiling pot of water — he knew where to find it. And he wasn’t afraid to ask for it.

It’s a shame most of us aren’t more like Boy in that way.

I don’t know about you, but when I run into a problem, I usually avoid asking for help and end up wasting a lot of time that could be better spent elsewhere.

Sure, doing everything yourself can be a great “learning experience.” But often, problems get solved faster and more efficiently when you hand them off to an expert and focus your time on the things you do best.

The trick, of course, is figuring out when help from others is, well, helpful in reaching your goals.

Bye-bye, Johnny Sheffield. I’m really missing you.

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Requiem for a Jungle Boy — 2 Comments

  1. I loved his special little Boy ape-cry ringing through the trees when he needed Tarzan. He was well cast in that part and there never was a Boy who could really replace him after he grew up and went to Bomba movies.

  2. I think the closest the movies ever came to replicating Sheffield’s “Boy” properly was in “Tarzan and the Jungle Boy,” the 1968 film starring Mike Henry as Tarzan. Although the kid wasn’t Tarzan’s son, his background was somewhat like Boy’s, and he kind of looked the part.