After Jock Mahoney retired from the role of Tarzan, producer Sy Weintraub started a year-and-a-half search for a suitable replacement. -- someone who looked the part and who would have the acting ability and stamina to handle demanding film and television assignments. He and his staff reviewed over 300 applicants -- including Olympic athlete Don.Bragg and NY Giants halfback Frank Gifford -- before deciding upon the very muscular and good looking Pittsburgh Steelers/LA Rams linebacker, Mike Henry.
Mike had already had some acting experience -- working as a bit player in popular Warner TV shows and films. Excited by the offer to play the fourteenth film Tarzan, Mike retired from his seven-year-long career in professional football. In preparation for the role, the California native went into a make-over and slimming regime, shedding 20 pounds from his waist and thighs before heading to the film's location in Acapulco, Mexico. His Tarzan debut was to be in what was originally titled Tarzan '65, which was later changed to Tarzan '66, and finally to Tarzan and the Valley of Gold, upon its release in June 1966.
This was at the time when James Bond films were tremendously popular and it was Weintraub's aim to present his new Tarzan as a hip, sexy, cultured apeman, who would appear as comfortable in a modern disco as in his beloved jungle. When Valley of Gold wrapped in Mexico, production started in Brazil on Tarzan, Brazil aka Tarzan and the Big River aka Tarzan and the Great River. The African animals that were flown in for the shoot -- including a lion, crocodile, leopard, and two chimps -- were a major attraction for local onlookers, but were difficult to work with. Mike suffered many injuries and health problems on the set: his face required 20 stitches after a chimp ripped his jaw open and this was followed by bouts of "monkey-fever" delirium, food poisoning, dysentery, ear infections, fatigue, and a virus infection of the liver.
Backed out of role
Tarzan and the Valley of Gold
Tarzan and the Big River
Things got even worse when Rio was hit by a major typhoon, record rainfall and flooding, which ground shooting to a halt, destroyed the sets and brought about a typhoid epidemic. As soon as the rain subsided the crew started around-the-clock work on Tarzan and the Jungle Boy. The delay in shooting meant that Mike would have to start the planned follow-up TV series without a break. It was too much. A fatigued and distraught Mike Henry, weakened by a string of injuries and health problems, turned down the lead in the Tarzan TV series and headed for home.
Soon after returning to California he brought two separate law suits against Weintraub's Banner Productions: one for $800,000 for "maltreatment, abuse, and working conditions detrimental to my health and welfare," and one for $75,000, charging that the chimp bite "resulted from human error." These lingering and unsuccessful litigations prevented him from accepting the part of Batman in a feature movie.
Mike went on to complete a Harry Ackerman Screen Gems TV pilot for a Tarzan parody called Taygar, King of the Jungle. Efforts to sell the series were dropped following a $250,000 damage suit filed by Banner Productions and Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. The suit asked for a court injunction forbidding production of the series charging that it was "a deliberate attempt to burlesque and ridicule the Tarzan character."
Following this, Mike worked as a successful producer of TV commercials for Video Productions Inc. Actually an earlier success in film production was what had first brought him to the attention of Weintraub. Weintraub was an LA Rams fan and had seen a TV documentary about them called Men from the Boys, produced by and featuring Mike Henry.
It was around this time that Tarzan and the Valley of Gold was finally released. Most fans and critics recognized that he promised to be one of the best cast Tarzan actors ever. Just before the follow-up Tarzan and the Great River was released, Mike was signed for the role of a tough sergeant in John Wayne's Viet Nam war film, The Green Berets -- filmed at Fort Benning, Georgia. This film was released in 1968, the same year as Mike's third Tarzan film, Tarzan and the Jungle Boy.
As might be expected, Mike has had very little involvement with ERB fandom since the '60s. After what he must look back upon as a string of bad experiences as a film Tarzan he preferred to concentrate on production activities and TV appearances and on a variety of action and comedy roles in fairly high profile films such as Rio Lobo, Soylent Green, The Longest Yard, Smokey and the Bandit, and Outrageous Fortune.
Mike, now retired, is fighting a battle against Parkinson's, a disease that ironically has striken prominent members of the Burroughs family over the years.
|1. "Scrubs" .... Dr. Henry (1 episode, 2007)
- My Point of No Return (2007) TV Episode .... Dr. Henry
2. "Gilmore Girls" .... Ed (4 episodes, 2003-2006)
... aka Gilmore Girls: Beginnings (USA: rerun title)
- Just Like Gwen and Gavin (2006) TV Episode .... Ed
- Tick, Tick, Tick, Boom! (2004) TV Episode .... Ed
- The Incredible Shrinking Lorelais (2004) TV Episode .... Ed
- The Fundamental Things Apply (2003) TV Episode .... Ed
3. "General Hospital" (1963) TV Series .... Rudolpho (unknown episodes, 1988)
4. Outrageous Fortune (1987) .... Russian #1
5. Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 (1983) .... Junior Justice
6. "Fantasy Island" .... Mike (1 episode, 1981)
- Elizabeth's Baby/The Artist and the Lady (1981) TV Episode .... Mike
7. Smokey and the Bandit II (1980) .... Junior Justice
... aka Smokey and the Bandit Ride Again (UK)
8. "M*A*S*H" .... Donald Penobscot (2 episodes, 1977)
- The M*A*S*H Olympics (1977) TV Episode .... Donald Penobscot
- Margaret's Marriage (1977) TV Episode .... Donald Penobscot
9. Smokey and the Bandit (1977) .... Junior Justice
... aka Bandit, Bandit (Europe)
10. No Way Back (1976)
11. "Rhoda" .... Man (1 episode, 1976)
- If You Want to Shoot the Rapids, You Have to Get Wet (1976) TV Episode
12. Adiós Amigo (1976)
... aka No Sweat (UK: video title)
13. Mean Johnny Barrows (1976) .... Carlo Da Vince
14. "The Six Million Dollar Man" .... Tatashore (1 episode, 1975)
- One of Our Running Backs Is Missing (1975) TV Episode .... Tatashore
15. "The Bob Newhart Show" .... Frank Nugent (1 episode, 1975)
- Bob Hits the Ceiling (1975) TV Episode .... Frank Nugent
16. The Longest Yard (1974) .... Rassmeusen
... aka The Mean Machine (UK)
17. Soylent Green (1973) .... Sgt. Kulozik
18. "Temperatures Rising" .... Jason (1 episode, 1973)
... aka The New Temperatures Rising Show (USA: new title)
- Super Doc (1973) TV Episode .... Jason
19. "The New Dick Van Dyke Show" .... Man at admitting desk (1 episode, 1972)
- The Needle (1972) TV Episode .... Man at admitting desk
|20. Skyjacked (1972) .... Sam Allen
... aka Sky Terror (USA: TV title)
21. "Disneyland" .... Fargo (2 episodes, 1972)
... aka Disney's Wonderful World (USA: new title)
... aka The Disney Sunday Movie (USA: new title)
... aka The Magical World of Disney (USA: new title)
... aka The Wonderful World of Disney (USA: new title)
... aka Walt Disney (USA: new title)
... aka Walt Disney Presents (USA: new title)
... aka Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color (USA: new title)
- Michael O'Hara the Fourth: Part 2 (1972) TV Episode .... Fargo
- Michael O'Hara the Fourth: Part 1 (1972) TV Episode .... Fargo
22. Michael O'Hara the Fourth (1972) (TV) .... Fargo
23. "The Smith Family" (1 episode, 1971)
- Taste of Fear (1971) TV Episode
24. Inside O.U.T. (1971) (TV) .... Chuck Dandy
25. Rio Lobo (1970) .... Rio Lobo Sheriff 'Blue Tom' Hendricks
... aka San Timoteo
26. "Dan August" .... Heap Canfield (1 episode, 1970)
- When the Shouting Dies (1970) TV Episode .... Heap Canfield
27. "Daniel Boone" .... Creole Jim (1 episode, 1970)
- Bringing Up Josh (1970) TV Ep. (as Michael Henry) Creole Jim
28. Number One (1969) .... Walt Chaffee
29. More Dead Than Alive (1968) .... Luke Santee
30. The Green Berets (1968) .... Sgt. Kowalski
31. Tarzan and the Jungle Boy (1968) .... Tarzan
32. Tarzan and the Great River (1967) .... Tarzan
33. Tarzan and the Valley of Gold (1966) .... Tarzan
34. Palm Springs Weekend (1963) (uncredited) .... Doorman
35. Spencer's Mountain (1963) .... Spencer Brother
36. "77 Sunset Strip" .... Sergeant Johnny Rossi (1 episode, 1963)
- To Catch a Mink (1963) TV Episode .... Sergeant Johnny Rossi
Tarzan at the Movies, Part 2: The Many Faces of Tarzan
"I've Got a Secret" .... Himself (1 episode, 1965)
The Mike Henry Tarzan Films Tribute in ERBzine
Bio ~ Filmography
Valley of Gold
Tarzan Lobby Display
and Webmaster: BILL HILLMAN
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