(film poster)Exerpts from the film "Bedtime for Bonzo"

This 1951 film, starring Ronald Reagan as the psychology professor, reflects the dispute between psychologists on the relative importance of environment and heredity determining human behavior. Reagan, like the behaviorists of that era, hoped to show that behavior was a reflection of environment rather than the pessimistic view that it was fixed by heredity. There's an amusing dialogue between the professor and dean regarding the professor's criminal father.

I suspect that the film was much influenced by the work of the Kelloggs' and the Hayes'--both husband and wife psychologists who raised a chimp in their homes during the 1930s and 1940s.

However there are some unrealistic elements, no surprise for Hollywood, in the film. The baby-like sounds of Bonzo don't sound like any chimp I've heard. And we know that chimps' fathers don't play much of a role in caretaking off their offspring. There are also some Dr. Spock like themes on raising children.

(The film also stars Diana Lynn, Walter Slezak, and a young chimpanzee, Patty. It was directed by Frederick de Cordova. There is a sequel; Bonzo goes to college.)

The real "home-raised" chimps studied by psychologists are:

Joni (Nadia Kohts)

Gua (the Kelloggs)

Vicki (the Hayes')