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Bonzo, the world's most educated chimpanzee, earns money by correctly answering questions at a fair. When he misses a query put to him by hucksters Lefty Edwards and Wilbur Crane, however, his owner, Dick, does not realize the question was fixed and chastises Bonzo for losing their money. That night, Bonzo sneaks onto a passing truck and ends up in the town of Pawlton, where Pawlton College football coach Ted "Pop" Drew is desperately searching for a quarterback. Pop's other concern involves his beloved granddaughter Betsy, who has no other children to play with and, as a result, feels dejected. Pop hides a bicycle in her room to cheer her up, but when she finds Bonzo, who has crawled up the trellis and into her bed, she assumes the chimp is her mystery present and thanks Pop effusively. By the time Betsy's parents, Marion and Malcolm Drew, discover the mix-up, Betsy is so attached to clever Bonzo that they decide to let him stay. The next day, Betsy takes Bonzo to Pop's friend, Judge George Simpkins, to ask if she can adopt the chimp. Although the judge is skeptical, Pop convinces him to pretend that the adoption is legal for Betsy's sake. When Malcolm calls him that night to question the paperwork, the judge continues the deception. Soon after, Betsy writes a letter to her maternal grandfather, millionaire Clarence B. Gateson, telling him she has a new brother. Gateson, who has never visited because he wanted a grandson instead of a granddaughter, excitedly cancels all his plans and flies to Pawlton. Pop and Malcolm learn of this debacle and attempt to hide Bonzo, but he slips into the living room window as soon as Gateson arrives and pelts the older man with fruit. Gateson is furious and denounces Malcolm for tricking him into changing his will. Betsy confronts her grandfather, telling him she only wrote the letter because she thought it would make him happy, and that she is disappointed in him for judging them all. That night, a contrite Gateson enters Betsy's room and kisses her while she pretends to be asleep. When she wakes the next morning, she discovers that Gateson has taken Bonzo golfing. Gateson soon observes the chimp's stellar athleticism, and he and Betsy, now fast friends, bring Bonzo to watch Pop's football practice. Bonzo stuns everyone by passing the ball with champion instincts. Gateson then leads the campaign to have Bonzo appointed quarterback and learns that Bonzo must take an entrance exam and be enrolled in the college. To the chagrin of the professors, Bonzo scores straight A's on his exam. His status as quarterback makes all the local news programs, and the night before the big championship game, Edwards and Crane see a report on Bonzo and hatch a plan to switch him with a lookalike chimp and bet all their money on the rival team, Owen College. They steal Bonzo that night and replace him with an ornery chimp named Pam. At the game, Bonzo mopes in a hotel room while Pam loses play after play and Betsy tries to tell the disappointed fans that the quarterback is not Bonzo. When the kidnappers leave at halftime to collect their projected winnings, however, Bonzo slips out and races to the locker room. He quickly takes control and wins the game at the last moment by making the winning catch. As Betsy races to congratulate him, she sees a football scout offering him vast sums of money to play for a professional team. Everyone gathers to gravely inform Bonzo that the choice is his, and he responds by embracing Betsy.