From Publishers Weekly
This pseudo-autobiography of Cheeta, Tarzan star and the world's oldest living chimp at 76, lacks the substance the chimp's unique life and career demand. Taken from a Liberian jungle in 1932, Cheeta—known as Jiggs prior to his Tarzan role—arrived in New York before eventually making his way to MGM Studios in Hollywood. Along with Johnny Weissmuller, who would become a lifelong friend, Cheeta starred in 11 Tarzan films, from 1934's Tarzan and His Mate
to 1948's Tarzan and the Mermaids
. After being branded too old, Cheeta retired until his role alongside Rex Harrison in 1967's Doctor Doolittle
, his final film appearance. The chimp currently resides in Creative Habitats and Enrichment for Endangered and Threatened Apes (C.H.E.E.T.A.) in Palm Springs, Calif., where he is cared for by Dan Westfall, the nephew of one of his original trainers. Peppered with clichéd scenes of Old Hollywood—from the brash Dietrich to the hard-drinking Bogart—this fictionalized memoir misses an opportunity to educate readers on the history of Hollywood's animal performers. (Mar.)
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In his role as Dr. Dolittle, Rex Harrison expressed a desire to talk to the animals, but had he actually known what one of his costars would have said in response, he might not have waxed so rhapsodic. The oldest chimpanzee in captivity, Cheeta has outlived Harrison and most of his other costars from Hollywood’s heyday. Now age 75, the little ape has decided it’s payback time. Weissmuller and O’Hara; Niven and Flynn; Lombard and Chaplin: Cheeta knew them all, loved many, disdained most. Rescued from the wilds of Africa as a baby, Cheeta attained cinematic stardom in countless Tarzan movies, yet all was not bananas and coconuts on or off the set. Witness to crazy orgies and drunken high-stakes pranks, the chimp ended up with his own monkey on his back, in the form of twin addictions to tobacco and alcohol. Fans of Hollywood’s classic jungle movies will revel in Cheeta’s unique insider perspective in this quirky pseudomemoir. --Carol Haggas