Maureen O’Sullivan (1911 – 1998) was a gorgeous Irish actor of considerable skill and accomplishment who was the mother of Mia Farrow but is probably most famous for playing Jane in the Tarzan series of films starring the beautiful Johnny Weissmuller. O’Sullivan played Jane in six Tarzan movies between 1932 and 1942. She was a popular MGM contract player in the 1930s, making dozens of films in lead and supporting roles.
After appearing in Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942), O’Sullivan asked MGM to release her from her contract so she could take care of her husband, director John Farrow, who had been discharged from the Navy with typhoid. In 1948, she went back to work in The Big Clock, directed by her husband for Paramount Pictures. She continued to appear occasionally in her husband’s movies and on television. By 1960 she believed she had permanently retired, but she didn’t; she did summer stock and regional theatre and appeared on Broadway.
Farrow and Woody Allen became an item both professionally and romantically when she appeared in his Hannah And Her Sisters (1986), playing Farrow’s mother. Mia Farrow named her gay son Ronan O’Sullivan Farrow for her mother.
Tarzan The Ape Man (1932) was the first Tarzan film with O’Sullivan and Weissmuller. It was pre-Code and still seems rather racy. Made by MGM and based on Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ series of books, it was Weissmuller’s first of 12 Tarzan films. The screenplay is by Cyril Hume with dialogue written by gay actor/playwright Ivor Novello (he gave us “Me Tarzan; You Jane”). The film was directed by W. S. Van Dyke.
In the Tarzan films, Tarzan’s best friends is a chimpanzee named Cheeta, and Cheeta was played by professional ape actor Jiggs (1929 – 1938). Jiggs had a seven-year film career, appearing as Cheeta in the three Weissmuller Tarzan films, and also in the rival Buster Crabbe Tarzan The Fearless (1933) and the Herman Brix serial The New Adventures Of Tarzan (1935), and Tarzan And The Green Goddess (1938). In the Brix films, which were more faithful to Burroughs’ original stories than the Weissmuller films, Jiggs plays Nkima, not Cheeta.
Jiggs final film was Her Jungle Love (1938) with Dorothy Lamour. During the filming of Her Jungle Love, Jiggs attacked Lamour, who was rescued by production assistant; he was then subdued by his trainers and his pet collie Spanky. Jiggs and Spanky grew up together and he refused to do any film work without Spanky on the set.
On the set of Tarzan The Fearless Jiggs successfully extracted a thorn from the hand of actor Jacqueline Wells after she and Buster Crabbe both failed.
In 1936 Jiggs was caught by a tabloid with actor Martha Raye having a cigarette on the MGM lot.
Notoriously bisexual, with a preference for dudes, Jiggs still managed to produce a Jiggs Jr., mother unknown.
The average lifespan of a chimpanzee is about 27 years, but depending on lifestyles, they sometimes live into their 60s. Jiggs IV was born in 1960, who now resides at C.H.E.E.T.A. (Creative Habitats and Enrichment for Endangered and Threatened Apes) in Palm Springs. So many old apes end up in Palm Springs.
Jiggs died in 1938 at 9 years old. A smoker and drinker, he was taken by pneumonia, and is buried in the Los Angeles Pet Cemetery.
O’Sullivan died of complications from heart surgery in 1998, at 87 years old. Her grandson, Ronan Farrow won the Pulitzer Prize. Her daughter Mia Farrow has appeared in more than 50 films and has more than 50 children. Her daughter Prudence Farrow is a meditation teacher and the subject of The Beatles song Dear Prudence.