A friend was telling me that when he was directing The African QueenJohn Huston was given an orangutan. Supposedly this orangutan came with instructions that it was to be given only beer, no liquor at all. Right here my BS-meter started pinging, but it was an amusing story, so I let him continue. After spending the rest of the filming drinking and carousing with the orangutan, Huston heads home, bringing the ape with him. Huston shows up to a party, “drunker than the Lord with this fucking orangutan,” to quote my friend. One thing leads to another and the orangutan bites off one of Huston’s wife’s fingers.
That’s the story anyway. Is there any truth to any of this?
No idea. Never heard it.
But Orangutans do get drunk. Frank Buck tells in one of his books about how some Indonesian(?) natives captured an orang by getting it to drink water from a tub they placed at the base of its tree. After it started accepting the water, they slowly started adding liquor to it, letting the orang get used to its taste. Eventually they filled the tub with liquor. The orang got drunk, couldn’t climb the tree, fell down, and slept. They just boxed it up.
on the other hand, after reading Buck’s account of what angry and disoriented orangutans were capable of, I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t want tto be in a room with one. They’re lucky they only lost a finger. Orangutans are STRONG. And they bite.
Sounds way apocryphal. Huston’s wife at the time was the ballerina Ricki Soma, mother of Anjelica. In this article and others about Anjelica’s childhood her unconventional upbringing and parents are mentioned (Morticia’s childhood would probably have seemed tame: both of her parents had children by other people while they were married to each other, Anjelica was tutored in philosophy by Jean Paul Sartre, a frequent longterm visitor to her father’s Irish castle, her father slept with one of her best friends, etc.) nothing’s mentioned about her ballerina mother missing a finger due to an orangutan and that’s something you probably would bring up.
No idea if there’s any connection, but I remember an episode of a new version of the Twilight Zone from the 1980s in which Kim Novak played Huston’s wife and a missing finger was part of the plot. Huston’s character liked to challenge people to light a Zippo 10 times in succession: if they did without a failure he gave them his Rolls Royce, and if they didn’t he got to chop off one of their fingers [and you couldn’t put it on ice and have it reconnected- he took it with him]). The twist ending:
The guy-in-the-bar who takes this bet lights the lighter 9 times perfectly and fails on the 10th time. Just as a gleeful Huston’s about to take off his finger his wife, Novak, walks in, gloved, and orders him to stop. She explains to the man that her husband is not only a cruel bastard but he’s broke- the car, the house, the money and everything else is her’s. She tells him it didn’t start out that way but over time she got it all- this is where she takes off her gloves and she’s missing most of her fingers.
Huston also played Grizzly Adams in THE LIFE & TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN and, truer to the real Grizzly than the saintly Dan Haggerty incarnation, his Adams got his bear drunk constantly as a bar trick. Again, no idea if there’s a connection to the OP, but…