Cast & Crew
Frederick De Cordova
At Sheridan College, psychology professor Peter Boyd helps science professor Hans Neumann by rescuing Bonzo, a baby chimp recently brought to America, from a suicide attempt. At the same time, ex-convict Breckenridge informs the college's dean, Tillinghast, that Peter's father was the legendary con man "Silky" Boyd. Tillinghast, who believes in the psychological theory that criminal tendencies are inherited, immediately presses Peter to resign and break off his engagement with Tillinghast's daughter Valerie, but Peter refuses. Instead, Peter returns to Neumann's laboratory, where he decides to bring Bonzo home and raise him as a human child, as part of an experiment that will prove that moral reasoning is learned not inherited. After a long search for a "mother" for the chimp, Peter finally hires Jane Linden, a young governess whose maternal drive is matched only by her attraction to Peter. Over the next few weeks, Jane encourages Peter to act more lovingly toward Bonzo, and they set up a model home environment, in which Peter is called "papa" and Jane "mama." When Valerie grows suspicious of Peter's unavailability, he informs her of the experiment, but describes Jane as a matronly nanny. One afternoon, Bonzo acts morally for the first time when he returns Jane's necklace simply because she asks him to. Soon after, however, the mischievous chimp becomes frightened by the vacuum cleaner and escapes out the window into a tree. In an effort to retrieve him, Jane gets stuck in the tree while Bonzo climbs into the bedroom window and calls the police. After Peter gets stuck with Jane while trying to rescue her, the police arrive but refuse to believe that the chimp exists. Valerie appears and hears the young, pretty Jane call Peter "papa," after which she throws his engagement ring at him. Back in the house, Peter wants to abandon the experiment since he no longer needs to prove to Tillinghast that environment matters more than genes, but Jane convinces him to carry on. Months later, as Peter prepares to address the Psychological Society with his findings that Bonzo can now reason morally, Tillinghast reveals to Hans that he has sold Bonzo to Yale's biomedical research facility. Before Hans can inform Peter, however, Jane overhears the psychologist say that he will fire her as soon as the research is done, and when she accuses Peter of having no heart and runs out, he finally realizes that she loves him. That night, as Peter drives into town, Bonzo follows him but is distracted by a sparkly diamond necklace in the window of a jewelry store, which he then steals. Peter soon discovers Bonzo with the jewels, but is promptly arrested as he tries to return the necklace. Although Tillinghast and Valerie see this as proof of Peter's inherent lawlessness, Jane rushes to the police station to defend his innocence. After Jane insists that Bonzo stole the necklace and will prove his guilt by returning the jewelry to its rightful place, the police hide in the store to wait for Bonzo. At the last possible moment, the chimp climbs in through the heating vent and returns the necklace to its display, thus proving both Peter's innocence and his psychological theory that morality can be learned. Days later, Tillinghast beams with pride at the prestige that "Operation Bonzo" has brought to the college, while Valerie congratulates Peter on his marriage to Jane.
Frederick De Cordova
Raphael David Blau
Leslie I. Carey
Russell A. Gausman
Ted J. Kent
Ruby R. Levitt
Joan St. Oegger
Bedtime for Bonzo - Bedtime For Bonzo
The premise for the screenplay came from a real-life study by Yale professor of psychology Robert Yerkes, who specialized in the development of primates. Screenwriter Ted Berkman, who helped develop the story with his writing partner Raphael Blau, had wanted Cary Grant to play the college professor and was more than a little disappointed to find Reagan cast in the lead. Reagan's film career was on the downhill slide by the late 1940s. Substantial supporting parts in major productions such as Kings Row  and Santa Fe Trail  (playing General George Armstrong Custer to Errol Flynn's Jeb Stuart) had failed to launch him into anything but bland leads in indifferent studio programmers.
The light comic role proved to be a perfect fit for Reagan. He brings an amiable presence to the part of Professor Peter Boyd, a genial psychologist at a small college, and makes a memorable entrance by talking a laboratory chimp off a building ledge using "inverse psychological dominance" and "gestalt theory" (two terms I'll bet you've never before heard from the mouth of Ronald Reagan). When it's revealed that Boyd is the son of a convicted criminal, a "nature versus nurture" controversy develops with the college dean, who has a personal stake in the argument: Boyd is engaged to his daughter. To prove that environment is more important than heredity in moral development, or in his own words, that "even a monkey brought up in the right surroundings can learn the meaning of decency and honesty," Boyd embarks on an experiment with playful lab chimp Bonzo as his test subject.
To create a stable home environment for the energetic little monkey, he hires a perky young woman, Jane (Diana Lynn), as a nanny, and proceeds to create a little nuclear family in his suburban home: "Poppa" Peter Boyd, "Momma" Jane, and baby boy Bonzo. Diana Lynn was a child prodigy pianist who made her film debut playing piano in the 1939 They Shall Have Music; most of her early Hollywood features cast her as sharp, sardonic juvenile leads, a girl usually more mature than the adults around her in such films as The Major and the Minor  and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek . She brings a sweet and spunky energy to the part of the play-acting "momma" who slowly falls in love with the brainy "poppa," a decent, good-natured man so caught up in his study that he fails to notice her adoring smiles.
Walter Slezak, an Austrian-born actor with a long Broadway career before he settled into Hollywood character parts, plays Professor Hans Neumann, Boyd's colleague and best friend. Usually cast as bumbling authority figures or menacing bad guys, including a number of Nazi roles (as in Hitchcock's Lifeboat ), this is one of his most likable roles.
The break-out star of Bedtime for Bonzo, however, was the animal act. In Reagan's own words: "I fought a losing battle with a scene-stealer with a built-in edge he was a chimpanzee." Bonzo sits in a high chair and plays with his food, makes faces at the dinner table, has a slapstick run-in with a vacuum cleaner, and leads his momma and poppa up a tree for a comic chase. He's adorable and he exudes as much personality as any of the non-simian cast members. According to Berkman, "The talented chimp, though not a Method actor, could reportedly weep on command or laugh, snarl with hate, smooch affectionately or stand on his head, responding promptly to some five-hundred-and-two instructions or, as a passing director sourly observed, 'about five hundred more than a lot of human actors'."
The film moves smoothly under the direction of reliable studio hand Frederick De Cordova, a journeyman with dozens of films to his credit (including the Ozzie and Harriet big screen feature Here Come the Nelsons and the Elvis Presley film Frankie and Johnny, 1966) but famed for his legendary TV work as the producer of The Jack Benny Show and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
Bedtime for Bonzo was a box-office hit that momentarily boosted Reagan's career (he starred opposite Doris Day in The Winning Team  the next year), but he was soon back in B-westerns and TV work and soon left acting for good to concentrate on politics. Bonzo went on to a sequel, Bonzo Goes to College (1952), directed again by De Cordova but without Reagan or Lynn, or for that matter the original Bonzo. The talented chimpanzee died in a fire at the Thousand Oaks Zoo a few weeks after the premiere.
Producer: Michael Kraike
Director: Frederick De Cordova
Screenplay: Ted Berkman, Raphael Blau, Lou Breslow, Val Burton
Cinematography: Carl Guthrie
Film Editing: Ted J. Kent
Art Direction: Bernard Herzbrun, Eric Orbom
Music: Frank Skinner
Cast: Ronald Reagan (Prof. Peter Boyd), Diana Lynn (Jane Linden), Walter Slezak (Pro. Hans Neumann), Lucille Barkley (Valerie Tillinghast), Jesse White (Babcock), Herbert Heyes (Dean Tillinghast).
by Sean Axmaker
Bedtime for Bonzo - Bedtime For Bonzo
Ronald Reagan, 1911-2004 - TCM Remembers Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan, the actor turned elected official whose fascinating career saw him develop as a contract player for Warner Brothers studios, to a politician who fulfilled his ambitions by becoming the 40th President of the United States, died at his home in Los Angeles on June 5 after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was 93.
He was born Ronald Wilson Reagan on February 6, 1911 in Tampico, Illinois to John and Nelle Reagan. When Reagan was nine, his family settled down in the small community of Dixon, about 100 miles west of Chicago. After high school, Reagan enrolled in Eureka College, a small Christian school near Peoria. He graduated in 1932 with a degree in Economics, and pursued a career in broadcasting. His first gig was as a part-time announcer at WOC in Davenport, Iowa. Within a year, WOC had merged with its big-sister station, WHO in Des Moines, and Reagan was hired as a sports announcer.
In the spring of 1937, Reagan drove to Southern California to catch the Chicago Cubs in spring training on Santa Catalina Island. While he was in California, he wrangled a screen test and signed a contract for $200 a week with Warner Brothers. His film debut was rather inauspicious; he portrayed a radio announcer in an innocuous comedy Love is on the Air (1937). He made a few more "B" programmers like Hollywood Hotel (also 1937), and Girls on Probation (1938), before getting his first prominent role opposite Bette Davis in the popular tearjerker, Dark Victory (1939).
Although he seldom got credit for being a good actor, there was no denying that Reagan held his own given the right material: Knute Rockne, All American as the doomed Notre Dame football hero George "The Gipper" Gipp, where he delivered the film's immortal line "Win one for the Gipper!"; Santa Fe Trail in which he ably supports Errol Flynn in one of the boxoffice hits of its era (both 1940); Kings Row (1941), featuring one of his finest performances as a small-town playboy whose legs are amputated by a careless surgeon; and Desperate Journey (1942) where he again supported Flynn in an exciting action picture.
Due to his poor eyesight, Reagan didn't see any action in World War II, so the studio heads assigned him to star in a series of patriotic films produced by the First Motion Picture Unit of the Army Air Forces in Culver City. Between 1942-45, Reagan starred in over 400 of these films. After the war, Reagan still found some good roles: The Voice of the Turtle (1947) proved he had a deft hand at light comedy opposite Eleanor Parker; The Hasty Heart (1949) offered another underrated performance as he ably portrayed the Yank in John Patrick's much heralded wartime play; and Storm Warning (1950) was a slick melodrama that cast Reagan as a crusading District Attorney determined to bring the KKK in a small southern town, with the help of Doris Day and Ginger Rogers!
It was around this time that Reagan became involved in politics. In 1947, he began a five-year term as president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and testified in October of that year before the newly formed House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). He identified suspected Communists Larry Parks, Howard Da Silva and Alexander Knox, all of whom were subsequently called to testify, and subsequently blacklisted. Later records showed Reagan was so concerned about the Communist influence in Hollywood, that he became an FBI informer.
As Reagan became steeped in his political career, his parts throughout the '50s became inferior: the notorious Bedtime for Bonzo (1951); the coy "sex" comedy She's Working Her Way Through College (1952) that cast him as a college professor who romances a stripper! (Virginia Mayo); Cattle Queen of Montana (1955), a sluggish Western that even the redoubtable Barbara Stanwyck couldn't save; and finally Hellcats of the Navy (1957), a stodgy war picture that would be his only film that co-starred his wife Nancy (Davis).
Television offered some salvation. For eight years, (1954-62), Reagan served as the host of General Electric Theater, a televised series of dramas. He also found a niche as GE's goodwill ambassador to employees and to civic and business groups around the country, furthering his taste and honing his craft as a public official. By the mid '60s, Reagan would move into politics entirely, save for one last film, the thrilling The Killers (1964), Reagan's only known villainous role, as a murderous gangster. That same year, he actively campaigned for Republican Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, although Goldwater lost to Lyndon B. Johnson.
Reagan whose profile was riding high, had cemented his future as a successful politician. In 1966, he ran against incumbent Governor Pat Brown for the state of California and won, serving successfully for two terms until 1974.
Reagan began an all-out, two-year drive to wrest the 1976 nomination from incumbent Gerald R. Ford, an appointed vice president who became president on the resignation of Nixon. Reagan fell short by a handful of delegates to the Republican national convention. But Ford lost to Jimmy Carter, and Reagan became the front-runner to challenge Carter in 1980. After defeating Carter, Reagan held two terms as President of the United States (1981-89). After his second term was over, he retired quietly in California. In 1994, it was revealed to the media that Reagan was suffering from Alzheimer's disease; he had been kept out of the public eye since then.
He was married briefly to actress Jane Wyman (1940-48), and had two children; a daughter Maureen and an adopted son, Michael. In 1952, he married a budding film starlet, Nancy Davis, who bore him two more children; a daughter, Patty; and a son, Ronald Jr. Ronald Reagan is survived by Nancy, Michael, Patty and Ron Jr. His daughter Maureen died of Melanoma in 2001 at the age of 60.
by Michael T. Toole
Ronald Reagan, 1911-2004 - TCM Remembers Ronald Reagan
Who expects a psychologist to think? Especially when you are so busy thinking what you think other people are thinking.- Hans Neumann
Every morning you kiss Jane?- Hans Neumann
Well, certainly. How else can we create the proper atmosphere for him? ...Harmony in the home.- Peter Boyd
Ja, these are the sacrifices we have to make for science.- Hans Neumann
Actor Herbert [Herb] Vigran's first name is misspelled "Herburt" in the onscreen credits. Within the film, the suspicious policemen asks Peter if his chimp is actually "a six-foot tall rabbit," a reference to Universal's hit James Stewart film released the previous year, Harvey (see below). Reviewers lauded "Bonzo," a five-year-old chimpanzee named Peggy who was signed to a long-term contract by Universal, as the film's breakout star. According to some modern sources, Peggy also played "Tamba" in many films in Johnny Weissmuller's Jungle Jim series. On March 4, 1951, just weeks after the film's premiere, Peggy, her stand-in and two other chimps died of suffocation during a fire at the Thousand Oaks Zoo. Star and future United States President Ronald Reagan used the character of "Bonzo" as a mascot during his 1980 campaign tour. In Universal's 1952 sequel to Bedtime for Bonzo, entitled Bonzo Goes to College (see below), Bonzo was played by a chimp named Bonzo II.
According to an April 1985 Village Voice article, writer Raphael David Blau wrote a letter to film critic Andrew Sarris explaining that Blau's boss, professor Irving D. Lange, provided the film's premise. Lange had suggested to Blau to read a psychological study called "Ape and Child," which outlined the comparative progress of a chimpanzee and a human child raised under identical circumstances. Blau and co-story writer Ted Berkman were brothers-in-law.
Released in United States 1951
Released in United States 1951