Monkey Business (1952)


(director: Howard Hawks; screenwriters: Ben Hecht/I.A.L. Diamond/Charles Lederer/from the story by Harry Segall; cinematographer: Milton Krasner; editor: William B. Murphy; music: Leigh Harline; cast: Cary Grant (Prof. Barnaby Fulton), Ginger Rogers (Edwina Fulton), Charles Coburn (Oliver Oxly), Marilyn Monroe (Lois Laurel), George Winslow (Voice of Deep-voiced Boy), Hugh Marlowe (Hank Entwhistle), Henri Letondal (Dr. Siegfried Kitzel), Robert Cornthwaite (Dr. Zoldeck); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sol C. Siegel ; 20th Century-Fox; 1952)

“Plenty of funny moments.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director Howard Hawks’ screwball comedy has plenty of funny moments, but it didn’t make me laugh as much as it should have considering its great cast of Cary Grant, Charles Coburn, Ginger Rogers, and Marilyn Monroe, and talented screenwriters Ben Hecht, I.A.L. Diamond, and Charles Lederer. It’s based on a story by Harry Segall. When it comes to Monkey Business, I’ll take the Marx brothers anytime. Hawks’ Bringing up Baby, also a screwball comedy starring Cary Grant, remains the better of the two and is still considered as one of the greatest madcap films ever.

Straight-laced Cary Grant is a research chemist working in his lab on a “fountain of youth” formula for a chemical company. The monkey business starts when a chimpanzee let loose in the lab randomly mixes his own magic potion into the water cooler, and that turns out to be the exact formula Cary was shooting for. Cary and his equally dull wife Ginger Rogers after a few swigs of the stuff temporarily regress into childhood. Cary gets a crew-cut, some snappy new youthful clothes, and drives a flashy new fast sports car with reckless abandon, while Ginger dances the hoochie-coochie, plays a practical joke on her hubby’s boss, and heats up sexually.

Charles Coburn, Cary’s boss at the chemical company, hands his sexy secretary Marilyn Monroe a letter and says “Get someone to type this.” Later when Marilyn has left the room, Coburn turns to Grant and answers his unasked thoughts by blurting out “Anyone can type.”

Hawks’ attempts to draw out the thin idea and carry it off in a zany slapstick manner is only marginally successful, though certainly worth seeing and pondering what went wrong in the film’s formula from making it a great flick.