Cheetah, a chimpanzee who was one of the most famous animal stars of the 1930s and appeared with Johnny Weissmuller in such Depression-era adventure films as “Tarzan the Ape Man” and “Tarzan and His Mate,”has died, The Tampa Tribune reported. Debbie Cobb, the outreach director at theSuncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor, Fla., where Cheetah lived, told The Tribune that Cheetah was about 80 years old and died of kidney failure on Saturday.
In the Tarzan film series, whose golden age spanned 1932 to 1948, Cheetah was said to have appeared in the films made between 1932 and 1934, as a comic and sympathetic animal sidekick whose intelligence sometimes seemed to rival that of his human co-stars, Weissmuller (who played the titular jungle lord) andMaureen O’Sullivan (who portrayed his civilized love interest, Jane).
Ms. Cobb told The Tribune that the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary received Cheetah from Weissmuller’s Ocala estate around 1960. Of the 15 chimpanzees kept at the sanctuary, Cheetah, she said, was the most famous and an outgoing ape with a gentle personality, who had long outlived the 35 to 45 years that chimpanzees typically survive in captivity.
“He was very compassionate,” Ms. Cobb said. “He could tell if I was having a good day or a bad day. He was always trying to get me to laugh if he thought I was having a bad day. He was very in tune to human feelings.”
She said Cheetah was soothed by Christian music and also enjoyed fingerpainting and football, though she was unsure if the chimpanzee had any favorite teams.
“I couldn’t ask him that,” Ms. Cobb told The Tribune. “I’m not a chimp psychic.”
In a post on her Twitter account, Mia Farrow, who is O’Sullivan’s daughter, wrote: “Cheetah the chimp in Tarzan movies died this week at 80. My mom, who played Jane, invariably referred to Cheetah as ‘that bastard.’ “