We have never attempted to conceal our fascination with movies starring non-human primates. That quirk of our character shines through yet again in this week’s Bad Movie Friday installment, featuring the 1951 Ronald Regan vehicle Bedtime for Bonzo. Suffice to say that the trailer above makes us weep for the scientific literacy of Eisenhower Era schoolchildren, as Bonzo is unfortunately referred to as a monkey rather than a chimpanzee. Critics of the day, however, seemed more concerned with the film’s other shortcomings:
Bonzo, it is needless to say, is a capricious chimp who is cute in bed, on a tricycle, up in a tree or flabbergasting the operators as he jabbers into a phone. Ronald Reagan, as the professor; Diana Lynn, as Bonzo’s “momma;” Walter Slezak, as Reagan’s sympathetic colleague, and Lucille Barkley, as the Dean’s cool and intellectual daughter, work hard but obviously ineffectively. They haven’t a chance since Bonzo makes monkeys of all of them.
There was a sequel, too, which looks even more dire than the original. Tragically, Bonzo Goes to College starred a different chimp than the original. Tamba, the Liberian-born ape who upstaged the future president, perished in a fire at the height of his celebrity. At the time, he was earning $500 per week—over four grand in today’s dollars. We hope he got enjoy his wealth during his all-too-brief time on Earth. But somehow, we rather doubt it.