Monkey Business (1952 film)
Promotional movie poster for the film
|Directed by||Howard Hawks|
|Produced by||Sol C. Siegel|
|Written by||Harry Segall (plot)
|Music by||Leigh Harline|
|Cinematography||Milton R. Krasner|
|Edited by||William B. Murphy|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$2 million (US rentals only)|
Monkey Business is a 1952 American screwball comedy film directed by Howard Hawks and written by Ben Hecht, which stars Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Charles Coburn, and Marilyn Monroe. To avoid confusion with the famous 1931 Marx Brothers film of the same name, this film is sometimes referred to as Howard Hawks' Monkey Business.
Dr. Barnaby Fulton (Cary Grant), an absent-minded research chemist for the Oxly chemical company, is trying to develop an elixir of youth. He is urged on by his commercially minded boss, Oliver Oxly (Charles Coburn). One of Dr. Fulton's chimpanzees, Esther, gets loose in the laboratory, mixes a beaker of chemicals, and pours the mix into the water cooler. The chemicals have the rejuvenating effect Fulton is seeking.
Unaware of Esther's antics, Fulton tests his latest experimental concoction on himself and washes it down with water from the cooler. He soon begins to act like a 20-year-old and spends the day out on the town with his boss's secretary, Lois Laurel (Marilyn Monroe). When Fulton's wife, Edwina (Ginger Rogers), learns that the elixir "works", she drinks some along with water from the cooler and turns into a prank-pulling schoolgirl.
Edwina makes an impetuous phone call to her old flame, the family lawyer, Hank Entwhistle (Hugh Marlowe). Her mother, who knows nothing of the elixir, believes that Edwina is truly unhappy in her marriage and wants a divorce.
Barnaby takes more elixir and befriends a group of kids playing as make-believe Indians. They capture and "scalp" Hank (giving him a Mohawk hairstyle). Meanwhile, Edwina lies down to sleep off the formula. When she awakens, a naked baby is next to her and Barnaby's clothes are nearby. She presumes he has taken too much formula and regressed to a baby. She takes the child to Oxly to resolve the problem.
Meanwhile, more and more scientists (and Mr Oxly) at the laboratory are drinking the water and reverting to a second childhood. The formula is lost with the last of the water poured away.
The parting adage is "you're old only when you forget you're young."
- Cary Grant as Dr. Barnaby Fulton
- Ginger Rogers as Edwina Fulton
- Marilyn Monroe as Lois Laurel
- Charles Coburn as Oliver Oxley
- Hugh Marlowe as Hank Entwhistle
- Henri Letondal as Dr. Jerome Kitzel
- Robert Cornthwaite as Dr. Zoldeck
- Larry Keating as G.J. Culverly
- Douglas Spencer as Dr. Brunner
- Esther Dale as Mrs. Rhinelander
- George Winslow as Little Indian
Allusions to other films and in later films
Monkey Business is reminiscent of Bringing Up Baby (1938), which also starred Cary Grant and was directed by Howard Hawks, but had a leopard instead of a chimpanzee. The denouement, involving a chemical that causes a board of directors to act like schoolchildren, is echoed by Lover Come Back (1961), a Doris Day–Rock Hudson vehicle, although in that film the chemical—in pill form—simply causes everybody to get extremely drunk.
Hawks said he did not think the film's premise was believable, and as a result thought the film was not as funny as it could have been. Peter Bogdanovich has noted that the scenes with Cary Grant and Marilyn Monroe work especially well and laments that Monroe was not the leading lady instead of Ginger Rogers. However, Gregory Lamb of The Christian Science Monitor described Rogers as "a comedienne par excellence" in the film.
Note on opening credits
Hawks' voice is heard telling Grant "Not yet, Cary" during the opening credits, potentially the only time Hawks spoke in one of his own pictures.
- 'Top Box-Office Hits of 1952', Variety, January 7, 1953
- The Christian Science Monitor, November 4, 2011: Celebrating the Ginger Rogers century
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