The actual descriptions of Tarzan in the books are evocative, but scant. Tall, clean-limbed/mighty-thewed, black hair, gray eyes, incredibly handsome even with clothes on. This in mind, I’ll venture the suggestion that Hollywood, however poorly they have always understood or written the character, has done at least a serviceable job in casting him.
The original; Olympic swimmer, etc. He’s not bad in the charisma and athletics department–just in the acting and scripting.
Note biceps. Duel of the Titans is an interesting little sword and sandal movie also featuring Steve Reeves as Romulus against Gordon Scott’s evil Remus. It features the most awesome two-man, ten-horse, hundred-spear cavalry charge ever committed to screen. Gordon Scott wasn’t only a set of walking muscles; he could act. Mostly with his muscles, but give the man a break.
Image selected for it’s intrinsic Tarzan-ness, by which I mean his shirt’s off. Mahoney was a former stuntman, and perhaps the most physically suitable to play Tarzan in the whole lineup. His less than impressive physique while actually playing Tarzan in a fairly execrable movie was apparently due to dysentery and thus no fault of his own.
His face is fairly good, too. He could pull off “relaxed and dangerous” as well–Money, Women, and Guns has him playing a hero whose exploits have been turned into dime novels and made him famous among small children and hopeless romantics.
Somewhat fitting, that.