November 29, 2020

Did Cheetah from 1930s Tarzan flicks die?

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FILE - A file photo shows Johnny Weissmuller, right, as Tarzan, Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane, and Cheetah the chimpanzee, in a scene from the 1932 movie Tarzan the Ape Man. A Florida animal sanctuary says Cheetah the chimpanzee from the Tarzan movies of the 1930s died Cheetah died on Dec. 24 of kidney failure at age 80. (AP Photo/ho, File)

PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) — A Florida animal sanctuary says Cheetah, the chimpanzee sidekick in the Tarzan movies of the early 1930s, has died at 80. But other accounts call that claim into question.

Debbie Cobb, outreach director at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor, said Wednesday that her grandparents acquired Cheetah around 1960 from “Tarzan” star Johnny Weissmuller and that the chimp appeared in Tarzan films between 1932 and 1934. During that period, Weissmuller made “Tarzan the Ape Man” and “Tarzan and His Mate.”

But Cobb offered no documentation, saying it was destroyed in a 1995 fire.

Also, some Hollywood accounts indicate a chimpanzee by the name of Jiggs or Mr. Jiggs played Cheetah alongside Weissmuller early on and died in 1938.

In addition, an 80-year-old chimpanzee would be extraordinarily old, perhaps the oldest ever known. According to many experts and Save the Chimps, another Florida sanctuary, chimpanzees in captivity generally live to between 40 and 60, though Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee, Fla., says it has one that is around 73.

A similar claim about another chimpanzee that supposedly played second banana to Weissmuller was debunked in 2008 in a Washington Post story.

Writer R.D. Rosen discovered that the primate, which lived in Palm Springs, Calif., was born around 1960, meaning it wasn’t oldest enough to have been in the Tarzan movies of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

 

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