Famous Primates



Although the anthropoids always get the plaudits, there have been countless ape thespians with a screen presence to more than rival their human counterparts.

Perhaps one of the best loved ape thespians is Clyde, Clint Eastwood's sidekick in the classic films 'Every Which Way But Loose' (1978) and 'Any Which Way You Can' (1980). CJ, the ape that brought Clyde to life, was a master of comic timing and an unquestionably talented orangutan.

Other ape thespians that have graced the silver screen have included: Joe, the eponymous star of 'Mighty Joe Young'; Simpsons star Mrs Bananas; and JT the chimp, the real talent behind 'Project X'.

The Key Players

The history of cinematography has featured many notable ape thespians, all with their own unique stage presence. Three in particular are worthy of mention: King Kong, the eighth wonder of the world; Cornelius, celebrated ape philosopher; and Cheeta, Tarzan's sidekick and now a recently published author.

King Kong

King Kong is the name of a fictional giant ape from the legendary Skull Island, who has appeared in several works since 1933. Most of these bear his name, and include the groundbreaking 1933 film, the film remakes of 1976 and 2005, and numerous sequels. Read more.


Dr. Cornelius is a chimpanzee archaeologist and historian, appearing in the original novel of Planet of the Apes (La Plan├Ęte des Singes), and also the first three installments of the classic movie series of the same name, from the 1960s and 1970s. He was portrayed mainly by actor Roddy McDowall, but also by David Watson in the second Apes movie. Read more.


While inextricably associated in the public mind with Tarzan, Cheeta as a character was a product of the movies, never appearing in any of the original Tarzan novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Cheeta (probably born in 1932) appeared in numerous movies and television shows, most famously in the many Hollywood Tarzan films of the 1930s and 1940s, in which he portrayed a fictional chimpanzee of the same name. Read more.

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