Swamp Fire (1946)

Today it is exactly thirty years since Johnny Weissmuller passed away, the most iconic of the many Tarzan actors on the silver screen. Weissmuller, who was already famous for his achievements as a swimmer, including five Olympic gold medals, was the first to portray the ape man in a sound movie. When Weissmuller’s acting career started, Tarzan’s popularity was going downhill fast. Weissmuller’s twelve films turned that trend, and without them it is possible that Tarzan would not have such a strong iconic presence today.

As Weissmuller’s Tarzan career was nearing its inevitable end, he also made the film Swamp Fire. This is, in fact, Weissmuller’s only major role where he did not play either Tarzan, Jungle Jim or himself.

Buster Crabbe, Carol Thurston and Johnny Weissmuller in Swamp Fire (1946)

In Swamp Fire, Weissmuller plays Johnny Duval who returns home to the Louisiana bayou after service in World War II. But due to his traumatic experiences in the war, he cannot go back to his old job as a bar pilot. Duval wants to marry his old sweetheart Toni, but then there is the headstrong and rich city girl Janet Hilton, who has decided that she wants Duval for herself. To complicate things further, Buster Crabbe (who had also played Tarzan, in the film Tarzan the Fearless (1933)) plays Mike, who is also after Toni’s heart.

I guess, this being the Big Man’s death date and all, one should be respectful. But then, mommy always told me to tell the truth too and, truth be told, Swamp Fire would be a pretty nice little romantic melodrama if not for Weissmuller in the lead. Because while most of the other actors do what can be expected under the circumstances, and Buster Crabbe is really good, Weissmuller is mostly stiff and unconvincing. His acting repertoire turns out to be very limited, as he uses the same mannerisms here as in his Tarzans. But while they work there, they fail here.

This film is best enjoyed for the very unusual pairing of two Tarzan actors. Not only that, but Virginia Grey (Janet Hilton) had previously played against Weissmuller in Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942), and it would appear that the film is shot in the same swamp jungles as the very first Tarzan movie, Tarzan of the Apes (1918). For a final Tarzan connection, the film includes a Tarzan tribute scene where Duval wrestles with an overgrown alligator.

Carol Thurston, Johnny Weissmuller and Virginia Grey in Swamp Fire (1946)

Swamp Fire
Download link
Year: 1946
Running time: 1 h 9 min
Director: William Pine
Stars: Johnny Weissmuller, Buster Crabbe
Image quality: Acceptable
Resolution: Medium (688×519)
Sound quality: Good
Best file format: MPEG4 (1.4 G)

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