Johnny Weissmuller was a German-born American swimmer and actor. As an athlete, he is known for winning five gold medals at the Olympics. He won three in 1924, plus one Bronze and another two gold medals at the 1928 Olympic Games. In his swimming career, he set an impressive 67 world records. After his swimming career, Weissmuller dabbled in acting and portrayed Tarzan on the big screen. Out of all the Tarzan portrayals, his was arguably the most memorable because it was him who first used the famous Tarzan ululating yell.
Weissmuller started swimming after he contracted polio and his doctor advised him to practice the sport in order to fight the effects of the disease. He attended the Lane Technical High School where he worked odd jobs including a position as a lifeguard in Lake Michigan. He also worked as a bellboy and as an elevator operator.
While working his numerous jobs, he caught the attention of William Bachrach. Weissmuller would later on train under Bachrach. In August of 1921, Weissmuller won the National Championships. In order to make him eligible for the Olympics, Weissmuller gave his birthplace as Pennsylvania. He also gave his brother’s birth date instead of his own. He later joined the American team for the 1922 and the 1924 Olympics. Aside from his Olympic achievements, Weissmuller also won 52 US Nationals and set 67 World records.
After retiring from swimming, Weissmuller became and actor. His first appearance was that of Adonis, wearing nothing but a fig leaf in the movie ‘Glorifying the American Girl’. He also signed a contract with BVD and helped promote and model their line of swimwear.
He died in 1984 from Pulmonary Edema. The Tarzan yell he invented played in his memorial service. Throughout his lifetime, Weissmuller was married 5 times.