Ronald Reagan Appears as Professor Peter Boyd in "Bedtime for Bonzo"
Ronald Reagan is a monkey's uncle – or, more properly, a foster father to a young chimp – in Universal's low-budget comedy Bedtime for Bonzo . Famous as the monkey in Reagan's closet when the actor and one-time president of the Screen Actor's Guild turned his attentions to national politics, the title was trotted out for easy jokes and the film played as a camp oddity at fundraising events by his opponents. With such a reputation, you might be surprised to discover that the modest little comedy is actually an enjoyable piece of light entertainment.
Bedtime for Bonzo is a 1951 comedy film directed by Fred de Cordova. It revolves around the attempts of the central character, Professor Peter Boyd (Ronald Reagan), to teach human morals to a chimpanzee, hoping to solve the "nature versus nurture" question. He hires a woman (Diana Lynn) to pose as the chimp's mother while he plays father to it, and uses 1950s-era child rearing techniques.
This movie is one of the most remembered of Reagan's acting career, although it was Reagan's least favorite; he never even saw the film.
The film was referenced in connection with Reagan in the 1986 Ramones song "My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)", and in a track on a 1984 Jerry Harrison record, sampling Reagan and credited to "Bonzo goes to Washington".
It was also referenced in a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, and the 1966 Stan Freberg comedy album Freberg Underground.
An anti-Reagan song entitled "Bad Time for Bonzo" is featured on The Damned's fourth studio album, Strawberries.
A sequel was released entitled Bonzo Goes to College (1952), but featured neither lead actor from the original.