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    Cheetah, Tarzan's Original Chimp Costar, Dies at 80

    Johnny Weissmuller, chimpanzee Cheetah Keystone Features/Getty Images

    He's gone to that great jungle in the sky.

    Cheetah, the chimpanzee believed to be one of a handful who played Johnny Weismuller's sidekick "Cheeta" in the classic 1930s Tarzan movies, passed away Dec. 24 of kidney failure.

    The Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbour, Fla., where he had lived for the past five decades following his "retirement" from showbiz, confirmed he died reportedly—pardon the pun—at the ripe old age of 80.

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    Debbie Cobb, the sanctuary's outreach director, told the Tampa Tribune that the chimp was one of the original Cheetas who acted in a handful of Tarzan adventures from 1932 to 1934, among them the classics Tarzan and His Mate and Tarzan the Ape Man. He came to Suncoast around 1950 from Weissmuller's estate in nearby Ocala and there he remained as one of its most famous residents.

    There has been some dispute about Cheetah's age, as experts note that chimps typically do not live into their 80s. His death also sparked confusion over another chimpanzee named Cheeta who costarred in the Tarzan flicks and resides at an animal sanctuary in Palm Springs, Calif.

    A Facebook post for Cheeta, whose owner claims his chimp is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the oldest non-human primate alive, tried to clear the air.

    "Our condolences go out to the sanctuary in Florida where the other chimpanzee passed. Cheeta the Chimp in CA is alive and well and looking forward to a spectacular 2012," read the message.

    While Cheetah brought joy to millions of Depression-era moviegoers, one of his costars apparently had a different experience with the chimp.

    Mia Farrow, whose mother, Maureen O'Sullivan, played Jane in the films, offered up this recollection.

    "My mom, Tarzan's Jane, referred to Cheetah-the-chimp as 'that bastard' – saying he bit her at every opportunity. Cheetah lived to be 80," the actress and activist tweeted.

    Shortly after she posted it, however (and perhaps out of respect for the deceased!), Farrow issued a correction.

    "Sorry Cheetah fans-I mistakenly thought he had just died—in fact it was a while ago," the thesp added.

    PICS: Celebrity Deaths: 2011's Fallen Stars

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