Cheetah, the impish chimpanzee who starred in the Tarzan films of the 1930s alongside Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan, died on Christmas Eve of kidney failure at the Florida primate sanctuary where he had been living since his retirement from showbiz. He was 80. “It is with great sadness that the community has lost a dear friend and family member,” the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor announced on its website. Cheetah had performed in such classic films as Tarzan The Ape Man (1932) and Tarzan And His Mate (1934) and was one of several chimpanzees who appeared in the franchise. Sometime around 1960, Cheetah came to the sanctuary from Weissmuller’s estate in Ocala, the sanctuary said. Cheetah stood out because of his ability to stand up – shoulders tall, back straight – and walk like a person as well as his ability to vocalize on cue. Condolences poured into the sanctuary today like this one from a British fan: “I grew up watching Tarzan and Cheetah from a boy. God bless you Cheetah. Now you and Tarzan are together again.”
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