Monkey Business (1952)

Monkey Business (1952)

Run time: 97 min
Rating: 7.0
Genres: Comedy | Sci-Fi
Director: Howard Hawks
Writers: Ben Hecht, Charles Lederer
Stars: Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Marilyn Monroe
Storyline
A zany an often hilarious comedy about a scientist (Grant) who discovers a rejuvenation tonic and tries it out, with surprising results.  Monroe, in a small but funny role, is a perfect foil for Grant’s comic shenanigans.
Details:
Release Date: 7 November 1952 (Sweden)

4 responses to “Monkey Business (1952)”

  1. IMDBReviewer says:

    Buoyed by the tremendous energy of Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers, MONKEY BUSINESS is a charming throwback to the screwball era of the 1930s and 40s. You know that you’re being asked to leave reality behind and just settle back for a good laugh the second the film begins, especially when the narrator repeatedly warns Cary from beginning the film before the credits are done rolling! Directed with great skill by Howard Hawks (mastermind of brilliant films such as ‘Bringing Up Baby’ and ‘His Girl Friday’), the film shares the trademark rapidfire dialogue and zany situations typical of most Hawksian comedies. As always, following the conversation between the characters is more than enough to leave the viewer breathless… One example, out of so many, is the scene in Room 304, when young!Edwina loses her temper and the couple squabble about Hank Entwistle and she finally locks Barnaby out of the room–to hilarious and painful effect!

    As with most screwball comedies, the premise of the film must first be accepted, since the entire film is a logical development from the original (zany) premise. In ‘Monkey Business’, Barnaby Fulton is working on the development of some kind of youth elixir, which he is testing on chimpanzees. Unbeknownst to him, one of his test subjects escapes his cage and successfully concocts the potion, leaving it in the water fountain. Of course, when Barnaby tests the potion on himself, he drinks some water to get the bitter taste out of his mouth–and almost immediately becomes about 20 years old mentally and physically. Before the elixir wears off, Barnaby gets a funky new haircut, coat and car, all with his boss’ sexy young secretary (Marilyn Monroe, who else?) at his side. His wife Edwina (Ginger Rogers) then gets in on the action, taking some of the elixir to allow Barnaby to make scientific observations about someone else’s reaction to it. It isn’t long before she drags her husband to their honeymoon hotel, dances the night away, and impetuously starts divorce proceedings when he upsets her. The ending is a terrific exercise in belief-suspension, as the rejuvenated Barnaby and Edwina (simultaneously, this time) engage in paint wars, hair-pulling and scalping.

    The best part of the film really would have to be the central performance given by Cary Grant as Barnaby Fulton. He’s evidently one of Hawks’s favourite actors, and for good reason too–he makes the trippiest of dialogue sound perfectly natural, and plays science-geeks and debonair reporters equally convincingly. With Barnaby, the viewer is instantly reminded of David Huxley, a role Cary Grant infused with life about 15 years ago in Bringing Up Baby. Just as David is kickstarted to life by Susan, Barnaby is youthened by the elixir, and in both films, it’s a delight to watch the transformation take place. Initially, Grant’s Barnaby is as stuffy as you can imagine a scientist–he’s absent-minded and somewhat stern; in effect, all ‘grown-up’. But the moment the youth elixir kicks in, the change is miraculous yet believable. Watch in delight as Barnaby flips an effortless cartwheel; drives like a daredevil; and conducts an entire chorus of children in a rousing war song. The ‘joie de vivre’ that Grant infuses his character with is almost palpable.

    Cary Grant is also capably matched by Ginger Rogers in their second film together. Her ability to turn into a little girl is charming in the extreme, and you can see the years drop off her in her final stint as young Edwina… it’s so evident that she’s having fun as she tap-dances through the hotel, or flips rubber bands at people, chews gum, and scribbles "Barnaby loves Edwina" across the conference room chalkboard.

    In general, the film itself is a little uneven: it has brilliant and hilarious moments, but you definitely get the feeling that much of the film is coasting on the considerable energy and skill of its cast–a splendid Cary Grant, a lovely Ginger Rogers, and an intriguingly young Marilyn Monroe. You probably won’t be in too much of a hurry to rewatch this film once you’ve seen it the first time, but there’s really no reason to put off your first viewing… so what are you waiting for?

  2. tfsadmin says:

    This is a very good movie to watch when all you want to do is to have a good time and some good laughs. There isn’t a minute of it that would hold up to logical analysis, but there’s barely a minute of it that isn’t fun to watch. The story is pleasantly zany, the characters are entertaining, and the stars were all perfectly chosen for their roles.

    Hawks’s opening gag with Cary Grant in the doorway sets the tone, and lets you know right away that you can sit back and not take anything seriously for a while. Grant’s character, a somewhat befuddled scientist who is trying to come up with a "youth formula", is the kind of role he could play in his sleep. As Grant’s wife, Ginger Rogers doesn’t get much to do for a good while, but then she has some fine comic moments later on. Charles Coburn is perfect as Grant’s boss, and he gets a couple of the best lines in the whole show. And who better than Marilyn Monroe to play Coburn’s secretary?

    It’s an entertaining throwback to the screwball comedies of a slightly earlier era. "Monkey Business" may be no masterpiece, but it’s good fun of the pleasantly offbeat kind that is rare anymore.

  3. IMDBReviewer says:

    Thoroughly enjoyable comedy with Cary Grant as the absent-minded professor who’s messing around looking for the fountain of youth. Ginger Rogers gets to dance a little without Fred Astaire plus demonstrate a wonderful comic style as she mixes it up with Marilyn Monroe. It’s 1952 but you wouldn’t know it (except for Marilyn’s presence). Howard Hawks takes you back to the good old days when Hollywood demonstrated total mastery of time and space with the screwball comedy.

    Along with monkeyshines and child actors, you really get a lot in this film: Grant and Rogers play off each other very nicely and the driving scene with Monroe and Grant is a classic. Adding to the hijinx is Charles Coburn, who always dominates the screen with his easy charm. I bet he loved chasing after Monroe with a spray bottle.

    The movie holds up well over 50 years later which makes one wonder why Hollywood hasn’t, cringe, chosen to ape the storyline for Jim Carrey or maybe Tom Hanks, who might be looking for a comic turn these days.

    But then they remade Freaky Friday this summer, didn’t they?

  4. IMDBReviewer says:

    If you like good solid wacky comedy, this is a strong bet. An utterly silly movie, it makes me smile just thinking about it–I’ve seen it probably a dozen times. Cary Grant really was in a class by himself, managing to do virtually every genre, even though he seems to have been typecast by movie history–here he plays a hopelessly stuffy absent minded professor, after drinking a youth serum of improbable origin, he immediately becomes a teen ager from the early fifties. Changing on a dime, the transformation is hilarious.

    Ginger Rogers, always really engaging, isn’t give a lot to do as an adult, but she excels when regressing into a juvenile.

    One thing–for anyone who really likes Marilyn Monroe (and who doesn’t), this is a must see. Not because it’s her best part, or because she has a lot of screen time, it isn’t and she doesn’t. But since she made this movie really before she became famous, it’s instructive: the part is just another ditzy bombshell secretary, but something about her just jumps off the screen. This seems to me to be a great example of how there’s an ineffable unexplainable quality of "screen presence". She manages to hold her own with Cary Grant, not an easy task for anyone, let alone some yet to be discovered starlet.

    Now that we’re in a gross out downward spiral for comedies, this might be the best tonic–a movie that’s very silly, and very funny.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.