Acquanetta

Actress known as 'The Venezuelan Volcano'

Known as "The Venezuelan Volcano", the actress Acquanetta had a series of exotic roles in jungle dramas during the 1940s, including high priestess of a leopard cult in
Tarzan and the Leopard Woman (1946).



Burnu Acquanetta (Acquanetta), actress: born Cheyenne, Wyoming 17 July 1921; married 1953 Jack Ross (four sons, and one son deceased; marriage dissolved 1985); died Ahwatukee, Arizona 16 August 2004.



Known as "The Venezuelan Volcano", the actress Acquanetta had a series of exotic roles in jungle dramas during the 1940s, including high priestess of a leopard cult in Tarzan and the Leopard Woman (1946).

A former fashion model, who claimed to be "part-Arapaho Indian and part-English aristocrat", she was born Burnu Acquanetta, meaning "burning fire, deep water", on an Indian reservation in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1921. She was later adopted, and moved to Pennsylvania with her new family, who renamed her Mildred Davenport.

After graduation, she headed East, where she was hired by the Harry Conover modelling agency in Manhattan as "Acquanetta". "I became an actress by accident," she recalled.

I was visiting Los Angeles, which I loved, staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and a chap came up - a talent scout, I guess you'd call him - and said I should be in the movies. They said "sign here", so I signed and, bang, I was an actress.

Tall, with olive skin and piercing green eyes, she was promoted by the studio as "The Venezuelan Volcano" and in 1942 put her looks to good use with a small role as Ishya in Arabian Nights, opposite Sabu and Maria Montez.

On the Universal back lot, she caught the attention of the studio mogul Carl Laemmle Jnr, who happened to be walking back to his office after lunch. A notorious womaniser, Laemmle made his move, but Acquanetta, careful not to damage his ego, playfully brushed off his advances. "There is nothing worse than a man spurned," she said.

Smitten, Laemmle signed the unknown bit player to a seven-year contract and instructed his producers to cast her in a series of jungle melodramas, including the splashy musical comedy Rhythm of the Islands (1943) opposite Allan Jones and Jane Frazee. In her next film, Captive Wild Woman (1943), Acquanetta's character, Paula Dupree, begins life as a gorilla before a mad scientist (played by John Carradine) transplants human glands into the ape, thus turning it into a beautiful young woman. Later the experiment backfires.

An unexpected hit, Captive Wild Woman was swiftly followed by Jungle Woman (1944), in which she reprised her role as Dupree. Dead Man's Eyes (1944) brought her out of the tropics and into the city, this time as Tanya Czoraki who in a jealous rage substitutes eye wash for acid when her lover (Lon Chaney Jnr) flirts with another woman (Jean Parker).

In 1946, Acquanetta made her most memorable film. Johnny Weissmuller had defected from MGM when the studio lost interest in the Tarzan series after Maureen O'Sullivan decided to stop playing Jane. The producer Sol Lesser picked up MGM's option on Tarzan and released Tarzan and the Leopard Woman through his own company, Sol Lesser Productions.

The film, which has been cited as the most camp and therefore cultish of the Tarzan adventure series, won Acquanetta good reviews. As Lea, the high priestess of a bizarre leopard cult, she is responsible for her tribe attacking caravans travelling across the African plains. It is Tarzan's job to stop them, particularly after a young member of the cult kidnaps Jane (Brenda Joyce) and takes her back to camp to prepare her for a stew.

Acquanetta, typecast and unimpressed with the roles being offered to her, headed to Mexico. "I just fell in love with Mexico when I visited there, so I decided not to go back to Hollywood," she recalled in 1998.

She waited five years until her next film, The Sword of Monte Cristo (1951) for PRC Pictures, before returning to the tropics twice more, for The Lost Continent (1951) with Cesar Romero and Hilary Brooke, and as an uncredited extra in Callaway Went Thataway (1951).

In 1953 she married a car dealer, Jack Ross, and settled in Phoenix, Arizona. Devoted to philanthropic causes, the Rosses helped finance the construction of Banner Mesa Medical Center, one of the largest hospitals in Arizona. Acquanetta was a founder of the local Stagebush Theatre, in Scottsdale, and raised money for the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra.

During the 1960s she began hosting a local radio programme before moving into television as a regional reporter. In 1974 she wrote a book, The Audible Silence (1974). After Acquanetta and Ross divorced in 1985, for a while she tried to resurrect her film career, appearing in the unsuccessful Grizzly Adams: the legend never dies in 1989.

In recent years, when most of her films for Universal were released on DVD, she was credited in the trailers as "the legendary" Acquanetta, a desciption she accepted with a chuckle, "The one and only. I don't know if the world could stand two of me."

Howard Mutti-Mewse

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released the first teaser trailer a week early after it leaked online

Extras
indybest
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
News
i100
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Health & Social CareTeacher - Full time and Part time

£90 - £140 per day + Mileage and Expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: Sixth for...

History Teacher

£95 - £105 per day: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Plymouth i...

SQL Developer - Cardiff - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits and bonus: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer -...

SQL Developer - Cardiff - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits and bonus: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer ...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?