, starring Ronald Reagan
as a college professor
determined to prove a nature versus nurture
point by teaching a chimpanzee
") human manners
. A B-movie
, but it was successful enough to spawn a star-studded sequel
, Bonzo Goes to College
; I guess Professor Reagan's experiment
was a success.
The film gained new popularity when Reagan was elected president, and some scornfully nicknamed Reagan "Bonzo". I'm not sure if it implied he was an educated chimp, or if it was just a tribute to his newest B-movie role, Leader of the Western World. A better Reagan character came from his last film, The Killers; that take-charge, hard-boiled man formed the basis of some sketches on Saturday Night Live, in which kindly, doddering, "Great Communicator" Ronnie transformed into a Macho Man gangsta bastard when hatching his plans in private, with only his trusted advisors around.
Fred De Cordova directed both Bonzo films. He'd had a career of B-movie comedies and adventure flicks prior to these, and had a parallel career in the fledgling medium of television, as producer/director of The Burns and Allen Show and The Jack Benny Program, a pair of hits that made the transition from radio. De Cordova went on to greater fame as the producer of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. He found time, during those years, to do a couple of "high-class" B-movies - Elvis Presley's Frankie and Johnny, and Bob Hope's I'll Take Sweden.