Mike Henry (I)

Mike Henry (I)


8/15/1936, Los Angeles, California, USA

Birth Name

Michael Henry


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Henry was a professional football player at the time he entered the movies. He played for the Pittsburgh Steelers (1958-61) and the Los Angeles Rams (1962-4). During part of that time (1961-4) he was under contract with Warner Brothers and played a variety of bit parts (TV's "Surfside…more


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  • Though hampered by his acting and by the tone of the movies in which he appeared, Mike Henry nevertheless ranks as one of the screen's greatest Tarzans.

    Looking for a younger, sleeker, more "modern" Tarzan to replace the aging Jock Mahoney, producers selected 6'3" 228 pounds Mike Henry -- a linebacker for the Los Angeles Rams who already had a bit of acting experience. (Also considered at this time: the New York Giants' Frank Gifford.) After losing about 20 pounds off his waist and legs, 27-year-old Henry reported to Mexico in 1965 where "Tarzan and the Valley of Gold" was shot. This was followed by two more films, (both shot in Brazil), "Tarzan and the Great River" and "Tarzan and the Jungle Boy." All three productions experienced problems due to weather, accidents, and governmental red-tape, and Henry suffered a 20-stitches facial bite from a chimp as well as bouts of dysentery, food poisoning, and a liver infection. Unhappy with these experiences and with the way producers were treating him, Henry then turned down the lead in the Tarzan TV series, (which subsequently starred Ron Ely), and never again played Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Apeman." This was unfortunate since, with his dark good looks, with his body by Michelangelo, and with his unshaven chest, Henry probably looked more like Tarzan than any actor before or since. True, Henry's acting had obvious limitations but these mostly involved his line readings and they could have been avoided by making his Tarzan less a man of words and more a man of action. Unfortunately, the producers at this point were seeking to "modernize" Tarzan into a kind of James Bond figure who wore business suits while flying on jet airplanes and who was at home with all the trappings of modern technology. This resulted in softening and taming the Tarzan character so much that he lost that primal, savage quality which had enabled him to triumph over the various hazards of jungle. Henry was thus deprived of the brooding, dangerous quality which he could have projected and instead was asked to play a suave, sophisticated Tarzan -- an approach which only emphasized Henry's failings as an actor. Henry's three Tarzan movies -- released in 1966, 1967, and 1968 -- aren't much seen today and, admittedly, they're little better than Saturday matinee material, but the visual pleasure of seeing muscular Mike Henry squeezed into that bulging loincloth remains intact and one can't help but wonder how much more successful he might have been had proper handling brought out his considerable strengths.moreless