As a little girl O'Sullivan wanted to be a pilot. While waiting until she was old enough to fly, she attended convent schools, first in Dublin and later London where her classmates included future movie star Vivien Leigh. Her father was a World War I veteran and an officer with the Connaught Rangers — an Irish regiment of the British Army — and the family did well enough to afford to send her to France for finishing school. Encouraged to take a screen test, she landed a small role and, accompanied by her mother, traveled to Hollywood to complete the film. Two years later, she'd signed an MGM contract and looked to be on the fast track to stardom. In alone, she appeared in eight films. One of her big early roles was playing Jane opposite a loinclothed Johnny Weissmuller in 's Tarzan the Ape Man , a film that also marked the debut of Cheeta the chimpanzee.
Jane's outfit is determinedly pagan, and Tarzan paganly appears to undress her as the couple dive into a jungle pool, where the girl swims in the nude. An increasingly puritanical Hollywood deleted the seven-minute sequence, fearing that suburban America might believe it approved of such goings-on. It has since been restored in the video version. In subsequent Tarzan films Miss O'Sullivan would wear more and more clothing.
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