Bedtime for Bonzo

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Bedtime for Bonzo
Bedtime for Bonzo 1951.jpg
Original 1951 film poster
Directed by Fred de Cordova
Produced by Michael Kraike
Written by screenplay by
Lou Breslow &
Val Burton
story by
Ted Berkman &
Raphael Blau
Starring Ronald Reagan
Diana Lynn
Walter Slezak
Jesse White
Ann Tyrrell
Brad Johnson
Peggy as "Bonzo"
Lucille Barkley
Music by Frank Skinner
Cinematography Carl E. Guthrie
Edited by Ted Kent
Distributed by Universal-International
Release date
April 5, 1951
Running time
83 min
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1,225,000 (US rentals)[1]

Bedtime for Bonzo is a 1951 comedy film directed by Fred de Cordova, starring Ronald Reagan, Diana Lynn, and Peggy as Bonzo.[2] It revolves around the attempts of the central character, psychology professor Peter Boyd (Ronald Reagan), to teach human morals to a chimpanzee, hoping to solve the "nature versus nurture" question. He hires a woman, Jane Linden (Diana Lynn), to pose as the chimp's mother while he plays father to it, and uses 1950s-era child rearing techniques.[3]

This movie is one of the most remembered of Reagan's acting career and renewed his popularity as a movie star for a while. Reagan, however, never even saw the film until 1984.[4]

A sequel was released entitled Bonzo Goes to College (1952), but featured none of the three lead performers from the original. Peggy died in a zoo fire two weeks after the premier of Bedtime for Bonzo;[2] another chimp was hired for the second film whose name really was "Bonzo". Reagan did not want to work on the second film; he thought the premise was silly.[citation needed]

In popular culture[edit]

The film was later referenced in connection with Reagan in the 1986 Ramones song "My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)", in the Dead Kennedys' 1986 song "Rambozo the Clown", and in a track on a 1984 Jerry Harrison record, sampling Reagan and credited to "Bonzo Goes to Washington". A song unflattering to Reagan entitled "Bad Time for Bonzo" is featured on The Damned's fourth studio album, Strawberries. It was also referenced in a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip,[5] Bloom County comic strip (October 11, 1981), as well as in the Strontium Dog comic story "Bitch", published in 2000 AD, which featured President Ronald Reagan being kidnapped out of his own era and taken into the far flung future setting of the comic. Other notable references include the 1966 Stan Freberg comedy album Freberg Underground, and the 1986 video of the British band Genesis's song "Land of Confusion". In the 1980s satirical British TV show Spitting Image, Reagan was shown as having appointed a dead taxidermied Bonzo as vice president.

The movie is referenced in the MMORPG video game DC Universe Online. Following the two-player duo "Gorilla Grodd's Lab", the Flash quips at Gorilla Grodd "It's bedtime for Bonzo".

A rap song released by Nickelodeon for the 2004 presidential elections had a line mention that Reagan "acted with a chimp when he was a movie star".[6]

The film was also referenced in the second season of the FX television series Fargo, when the character Karl Weathers (played by Nick Offerman) says he will not shake Ronald Reagan's hand, because "the man made a movie with a monkey, it wouldn't be dignified".


  1. ^ 'The Top Box Office Hits of 1951', Variety, January 2, 1952
  2. ^ a b "A 5-year-old chimp named Peggy made a monkey out of her human co-star Ronald Reagan". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  3. ^ Rickey, Carrie. "Reagan's film persona: Cheerful, humble, kind." The Philadelphia Inquirer. June 6, 2004. National A22.
  4. ^ The Unlikely Life of Ronald Reagan. 1994 ABC TV special.
  5. ^ "Calvin and Hobbes Comic Strip, December 03, 1986 on". Retrieved 2012-11-06. 
  6. ^

External links[edit]