The Life and Death of Colonel Chimp
I am indebted to Shadowplay informant Danny Carr for the information that former TARZAN compadre Cheeta (A.K.A. Jiggs), the world’s oldest recorded chimpanzee, is going to rock the world of showbiz with a tell-all autobiography. The watchful primate will pull no punches as he recounts his turbulent life story to a rapt reading public. Original “Jane” Maureen O’Sullivan is expected to bear the special brunt of the ape of wrath’s score-settling.
But has Cheeta himself led a blameless existence? According to TARZAN ESCAPES’ uncredited co-director, William “the Onion” Wellman, Cheeta would masturbate on command, at a secret signal from his trainer, whenever studio suits visited the set, thus driving them away. Not the sort of behaviour we expect from a movie star, except maybe Jason Statham.
I’m slightly perplexed at the idea of a non-verbal, non-reading, non-writing primate authoring a book. If we go for that, there’s nothing to stop inanimate objects from getting their own bylines too. We could have The Rosebud Chronicles: A Sled’s Journey (I know Orson Welles said they burned that thing, but Spielberg still thinks he has a genuine CITIZEN KANE prop), Thus Spake Geoff: The Intimate Memoirs of a 2001 Monolith, and maybe Bridge on the River Kwai: His Own Story. Hell, there’s nothing to stop us having books authored by people, animals and objects that don’t even exist. How about the true-life struggles of the purely allegorical elephant that never appears in either version of ELEPHANT?
Another weird bit of Tarzania: in November of last year, a number of obituaries appeared commemorating the passing of Brenda Joyce, the second actress to play Jane opposite the incomparable Johnny Weissmuller (and Jiggs). It is pleasing to note that rumours…death…greatly exagg… and the former Betty Leabo seems to be Very Much Alive at 95. Wonder if she’ll be buying her co-star’s book.