Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Happy 75th Birthday Cheeta!

Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you
You look like a monkey and you smell like one too!

Cheeta, comedic genius star of Hollywood's Tarzan movies and the world's oldest living (non-human) primate, turned 75 yesterday.

Baltimore's Cheeta Appreciation Society plans on celebrating the chimp's birthday tonight at Henninger's Tavern in Fells Point, according to CAS President Kenny Vieth. Fighting back tears, Vieth pointed to an autographed picture of Cheeta hanging in the bar and commented, "My mother and Cheeta were the only people who ever called me Kenneth."

Born on April 9, 1932, Cheeta currently resides at a primate sanctuary called Creative Habitats and Enrichment for Endangered and Threatened Apes (or CHEETA) in Palm Springs, California, where he is cared for by animal trainer Dan Westfall. He is cited by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's oldest primate. According to researchers, chimpanzees in the wild tend to live for 40 to 45 years and to the mid-50s in captivity; chimpanzees living in the wilds of Hollywood soundstages apparently last a lot longer.

According to Wikipedia, the role of Cheeta was originally played by a different chimpanzee in the first two Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films, Tarzan the Ape Man(1932) and Tarzan and His Mate (1934). The first movie appearance of the chimpanzee who just turned 75 was in the latter film, in which he appeared uncredited as a young chimpanzee riding on the back of the original Cheeta. He was cast in the role of Cheeta himself in the other Weissmuller Tarzan movies that followed. Although Cheeta provided comic relief in the series by "monkeying around" with humans and other jungle animals, he also effectively essayed the role of an action hero, either coming directly to Tarzan's rescue or scurrying off to rally Timba and the elephants to save the day for the King of the Jungle. In his most famous heroic role, 1943's Tarzan's Triumphs, Cheeta grabbed a machine gun and mowed down Nazi soldiers. The crafty chimp had no previous experience operating firearms.

Cheeta also appeared in Doctor Dolittle (1967) with Rex Harrison, the chimp's last role before retirement.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Thanks for the mention. hope you come by, we'll have prizes. We got two mentions over the weekend on WFMU. Not that anyone down here heard it. i have an old movie poster for a movie called VoodooTiger The lead is Jungle Jim played by Weissmuller and at the bottom it actually gives a credit to Tanba "the talented chimp" i've never seen a credit for Cheeta on a poster or on screen for that matter. Heck Cheeta did get to retire in 1967. he must have some financial planner working for him.

2:16 PM  

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