Johnny Sheffield, who played the character Boy in the Tarzan movies of the 1930s and '40s, has died at age 79. His wife, Patty Sheffield, told the Los Angeles Times that he died Friday of a heart attack at his home in the San Diego suburb of Chula Vista. She says he fell off a ladder while pruning a palm tree four hours earlier.

Sheffield beat out more than 300 other youngsters for the role of Boy in the 1939 movie 'Tarzan Finds a Son!' and went on to co-star with Johnny Weissmuller in seven more Tarzan films.

(Photo: Sheffield, center, with Johnny and Johnny Weissmuller, Jr. in 1945.)

Sheffield spoke to the AP shortly after Weissmuller's death in 1984, saying that the actor was always "kind and tender toward me and that "he was like a father to me."