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Was Cheetah the chimp really Tarzan's sidekick

December 29, 2011 - London

Doubts have been raised about the extraordinary age of Cheetah the chimp, who was apparently Tarzan's sidekick in the 1930s movies, and whether he actually ever appeared on screen.

Cheetah supposedly died at the age of 80 but chimps kept in captivity seldom live beyond the age of 45, and previous animal trainers have falsely claimed that their chimps starred in the films with Johnny Weissmuller.

"There doesn't seem to be any verification that this particular chimp was ever really in any movies or television shows at all. I think it's just an urban legend. Unless they have the chimpanzee's acting union card it seems impossible to prove," The Telegraph quoted Eve Golden, a film historian at the Everett Collection, a Hollywood archive, as saying.

The greying primate retired in comfort at the Suncoast Sanctuary. The sanctuary claimed he arrived there in 1960 and was donated by Weissmuller's estate.

A spokesman revealed that the much-loved primate died from kidney failure on Christmas Eve.

According to the Staff at the American home in Palm Harbour, Florida, the chimpanzee had enjoyed an enormous impact on children and adults alike "throughout his years".

A British writer has even created a spoof biography of Cheeta, highlighting the improbable nature of the story.

"Nobody seems to know very much about the chimps who played Cheetah. I rather think he'll be dying a lot over the next few years," he said.

"The most likely 'real' Cheetah was a chimpanzee named Jiggs, who died of Pneumonia in 1938 and is buried in Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park. He is believed to have starred in the first two Weissmuller Tarzan films," he added.


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