EXPIRED: 10/15/10 – Johnny Sheffield, 79, the former child actor who played Boy in the “Tarzan” movies in the late ‘30s and ’40s, died of a heart attack after falling off a ladder while pruning a palm tree.
When he was just a kid, his father, a transplanted actor from England, read an article in the Hollywood Reporter that asked, “Have you a Tarzan Jr. in your backyard?”
Sheffield was chosen by Tarzan star Johnny Weissmuller from over 300 other kids actors for the part of “Boy” in 1932’s Tarzan Finds a Son, co-starring Maureen O’Sullivan. Later that year, Sheffield appeared in the Busby Berkeley movie musical Babes in Arms with classmates Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, but while they went on to fame and fortune, Sheffield went on to make more Tarzan movies.
He made 3 more at MGM, and in another five after Weissmuller moved to RKO.
By the time he was a teenagee, he had outgrown the role of Boy, so Sheffield went on to star in his own jungle movie series. In 1949, he made Bomba the Jungle Boy and followed it up with 11 more Bomba movies.
He then made a pilot for a television series, Bantu the Zebra Boy, but a sponsor was never found and it never got past the pilot stage.
After show business, Sheffield graduated from UCLA and had careers in farming, real estate and construction. He also made a living importing lobsters from Mexico. Later in life he sold copies of the TV pilot Bantu, the Zebra Boy over the internet.