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Tarzan's Chimp Companion Cheetah Has Died

This one might not make the vaunted In Memoriam reel at the Academy Awards, but it’s a significant loss, nonetheless. Cheetah, the chimpanzee who costarred opposite Johnny Weissmuller in countless Tarzan movies in the 1930s and ’40s, died on Christmas Eve of kidney failure. The Telegraph, which reports the story, has a great clip of Cheetah in his heyday, hamming it up for the camera. We’re sharing it below:

Here’s the miraculous part. The 80-year-old Cheetah far outlived the life expectancy of a normal chimp (the average chimp in captivity only reaches age 35 or 40). This accomplishment put Cheetah in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest non-human primate. Credit the good living of a Hollywood star.

At the time of his death, Cheetah was living at The Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbour, Florida. Facility director Debbie Cobb told the paper that her beloved chimp enjoyed finger painting, but also was known for throwing his feces if he became too upset. So we had that in common.

Weissmuller made 12 Tarzan films between 1932’s Tarzan the Ape Man and 1948’s Tarzan and the Mermaids. That arguably makes Cheetah the hardest working chimp in Hollywood history, as well.

And the paper explains that Cheetah’s life was not without controversy. Years ago, a second chimpanzee going by the name of “Cheeta” tried to claim that he was the one who appeared in all of those Tarzan films. But after a little bit of research, the claims were proven to be false.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.