Jungle Jim is a 26-episode syndicated adventure television series which aired from 1955 till 1956, starring Johnny Weismuller, as Jim „Jungle Jim“ Bradley, a hunter, guide, and explorer in, primarily, Africa. The program should not be confused with Ramar of the Jungle, but is based on the Jungle Jim comic strip created by Alex Raymond and Don Moore. Starring with Weismuller were Martin Huston as Jungle Jim’s teenage son, Skipper; Dean Fredericks (also known as Norman Fredric) as Haseem, the Hindu manservant, and Neal, a chimpanzee from the World Jungle Compound, as Tamba. Paul Cavanagh played Commissioner Morrison in nine episodes.
Produced by Harold Greene, the series was filmed by Screen Gems (now Sony Pictures Television), a subsidiary of Columbia Pictures. The program aired in 158 American media markets and in thirty-eight other nations. Earl Bellamy directed the first four episodes of the new series. The series capitalized on the popularity of Weismuller, who had just completed his last film of Tarzan, the jungle character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Jungle Jim was a low-budget offering that relied heavily on stock footage and was not renewed beyond its original episodes.
According to his mother, Marcella Martin Huston, then 14-year-old Martin Huston, known as Marty, played with Tamba during breaks on the set, and the chimp was most protective of him. During the filming of a scene in which the villain seized Skipper from the bushes, the chimp began to pound the villain on his helmet. Earl Bellamy recalls the series opener, „Man Killer“, in which the chimp was to fire a rifle. The trainer was to work with the chimp for a week. When the animal picked up the rifle, it went haywire. Having smelled the gunpowder, Tamba leaped into the rafters of the stage. With editing, the scene was still preserved.
Jungle Jim used black actors to portray Africans, but the character also visited Asia and South America to take advantage of existing stock footage. Each episode lasted approximately 25 minutes. Jim was usually involved in a mystery or in helping natives resist certain conniving white men. Some episodes involved teaching a moral lesson to son Skipper. Jim had a plane called The Sitting Duck.
Opening credits were filmed at Chicken Rock at Lake Sherwood, with stuntman Paul Stader performing the diving scenes for his friend Weismuller. The Jungle Jim compound and most of the foliage was located on a studio sound stage. Some jungle shots were filmed at the back lot at MGM. Some footage was borrowed. In the episode „Lagoon of Death,“ scenes were taken from the films, The Lost Tribe and Fury of the Congo. A docudrama, I Married Adventure, provided the plot for such episodes as „Wild Man of the Jungle.“
In the second episode, „Land of Terror“, Jim attempts to find a missing scientist lost in rugged country inhabited by man-eating lizard. In „Lagoon of Death“ thieves force Jim to an island of cannibals with a treasure of black pearls. In „The Silver Locket“, Jim finds a lion that he has captured wearing the locket of a baby who was lost years earlier in the jungle. He sets forth to find the girl. In the series finale, „Power of Darkness“ on March 19, 1956, Jungle Jim leads a scientific expedition to the Himalaya Mountains to observe a solar eclipse, and Skipper finds trouble in a lost city of sun worshippers.
Jungle Jim had few well-known guest stars. Woody Strode, Philip Van Zandt, and I. Stanford Jolley were among those who appeared on the program.
After Jungle Jim, Weismuller’s acting career folded. The defunct Nostalgia Channel ran the 1955 series for a time, and episodes are occasionally available by video companies.