Mike Henry, Brawny Tarzan & Junior Justice, Dies @ 84

On January 8, actor Mike Henry died at 84 more than three decades after retiring due to encroaching Parkinson's disease.

A swingin' career (Image via AIP)

According to reports, he died of Parkinson's and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. He had been a pro football player from 1958-1964 for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Los Angeles Rams, which may have contributed to his condition.

Born August 15, 1938, in L.A., Henry started his acting career while still a pro athlete, appearing in his first film — Curfew Breakers — in 1957.

After appearing on such TV shows as 77 Sunset Strip (1963) and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1963), he was recruited by American International Pictures to embody Tarzan. The spitting image of what the author Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950) had in mind, he made for an especially chiseled jungle man.

One of my favorite beefcake pics ever — no idea what's going on. (Image via Internet)

The films, Tarzan and the Valley of Gold (1966), Tarzan and the Great River (1967) and Tarzan and the Jungle Boy (1968) were shot back to back and then released in three consecutive years. Popular enough to inspire interest in a TV series, the movies were not to Henry's liking, and he passed on the opportunity to continue the role. Instead, Ron Ely (b. 1938) stepped in.

In a strange turn of events, Henry's co-star in the second Tarzan picture, Diana Millay (1935-2021), died on the same day he did, at 85.

Following his stint as Tarzan, Henry went on to a series of tough-guy roles, including in The Green Berets (1968) and Rio Lobo (1970) with John Wayne (1907-1979); More Dead Than Alive (1969) with Clint Walker (1927-2018); and in the films Number One (1969), Skyjacked (1972) and Soylent Green (1973) with Charlton Heston (1923-2008).

Like father, like, dumb (Image via Universal)

After appearing in The Longest Yard (1974) with Burt Reynolds (1936-2018), he embarked on his second film series playing dim-witted Junior Justice in Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Smokey and the Bandit II (1980) and Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 (1983). Junior was the fumbling son of Sheriff Buford T. Justice, played by Jackie Gleason (1916-1987).

Along with other TV work on such shows as Rhoda (1976), M*A*S*H (1977), Lou Grant (1978) and Fantasy Island (1981), he closed his career playing a Russian heavy in Outrageous Fortune (1987).

In 1988, Henry was diagnosed with Parkinson's and retired. He apparently never made another public appearance.

Henry is survived by his wife of 36 years.

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