Jiggs (chimpanzee)

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Jiggs (circa 1929 – February 28, 1938) was a male chimpanzee and animal actor who originated the character of Cheeta in the 1930s Hollywood Tarzan movies. He was owned and trained by Tony and Jacqueline Gentry.[1][2][3][4]


Jiggs appeared as Cheeta in the first two Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films, Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) and Tarzan and His Mate (1934).[5][6] He also appeared in the Buster Crabbe serial Tarzan the Fearless (1933)[6][7] and the Herman Brix serial The New Adventures of Tarzan (1935), also released in feature-film form as Tarzan and the Green Goddess (1938).[6][8] In the Brix films, which were more faithful to Edgar Rice Burroughs' original stories than the Weissmuller ones, Jiggs was cast as Nkima, not Cheeta.

Jiggs was cast in at least three additional films, the Laurel and Hardy short Dirty Work (1933),[9] the Our Gang short Divot Diggers (1936),[10] and the Dorothy Lamour film Her Jungle Love (1938), which was his last picture.[2][3][11]


Jiggs died on February 28, 1938[4] or March 1, 1938, at age 9, of pneumonia, and was buried March 2, 1938, in the Los Angeles Pet Cemetery.[2][3] His trainers, the Gentrys, appear to have separated before Jiggs died, as Jacqueline alone is cited as his owner in the accounts of the animal's death.


Later Gentry chimpanzees of the same name[edit]

Tony Gentry was a professional animal trainer who owned a number of apes, at first together with his wife Jacqueline and later on his own. Three chimps later owned by Gentry also bore the name Jiggs, of which two have also been associated with the Cheeta role. Jiggs, Jr. (also known as Jiggs II), was a male chimpanzee born about 1935.[12] Stated to have gone to the Baltimore Zoo when Tony Gentry went into the service in World War II, his ultimate fate is unknown.[6] Cheeta (also known as Jiggs IV) is a male chimpanzee born about 1960, who now resides at the C.H.E.E.T.A. Primate Sanctuary (Creative Habitats and Enrichment for Endangered and Threatened Apes) in Palm Springs, California. For many years, Gentry stated that Jiggs IV was the original Cheeta, which was in fact not true.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kingsley, Grace. "Hobnobbing in Hollywood," in the Los Angeles Times, November 21, 1933, page 11.
  2. ^ a b c "Chimpanzee Actor Dies; Funeral Planned for Today," in the Los Angeles Times, March 2, 1938, page A3.
  3. ^ a b c "Famous Chimpanzee, Jiggs, Dies on Coast," in The Atlanta Constitution, March 2, 1938, page 2.
  4. ^ a b "Owner Sues for 'Jigg's' Death," in The New York Times, April 15, 1938, page 22.
  5. ^ "Movie Chimpanzee Receives $350 a week; Jiggs Is Animal Star, Not Camera Shy," in The New York Times, May 20, 1935, page 19.
  6. ^ a b c d Dean, Paul. "A Chimp Off the Old Block in Many a Tarzan Movie," in the Los Angeles Times, March 25, 1985, page OC-C1.
  7. ^ Kingsley, Grace. "Hobnobbing in Hollywood," in the Los Angeles Times, June 21, 1933, page A7.
  8. ^ Schallert, Edwin. "Popularity of Tarzan Movies Results in Deluge of Ape-Man Hero Stories," in the Los Angeles Times, January 10, 1935, page 19.
  9. ^ Internet Movie Database entry for Dirty Work (1933) - Full cast and crew.
  10. ^ Internet Movie Database entry for Divot Diggers (1936) - Full cast and crew.
  11. ^ Bell, Nelson B. "'Her Jungle Love' Adds Prestige to Technicolor As Aid to Realistic and Beautiful Cinematic Effects," in The Washington Post, April 20, 1938, page X14.
  12. ^ "Fingerprint Chimpanzee," in the Los Angeles Times, May 30, 1937, page B7.
  13. ^ "C.H.E.E.T.A. Primate Sanctuary, Inc.". Retrieved January 16, 2013. 

External links[edit]