One of the chimpanzees who played Cheetah, Johnny Weissmuller’s sidekick in the Tarzan movies of the 1930s and ’40s, has died. He was said to be 80 years old and succumbed to kidney failure on Christmas Eve, according to the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor, Fla., where he had been living since the early 1960s.
Fox 13 News in Tampa Bay notes that this Cheetah was “one of a number of different chimps used for the role in different scenes and filming locations. Cheetah was probably 4 or 5 years old when he appeared in movie scenes filmed at Silver Springs near Ocala.” His caretakers tell the station that chimps in captivity usually live to be 35 to 45 years old.
Weissmuller died in 1984. His IMDB.com biography is here.
There’s another chimpanzee, living in California, who was once thought to have been among those who played the Cheetah role. But as the C.H.E.E.T.A. Primate Sanctuary where he lives has explained, “our Cheeta is unlikely to be as old as we’d thought, although he is clearly old. It is also difficult to determine which movies, if any, our Cheeta may have been in.”