Monkey Business (1952)
Monkey Business (1952)
Director: Howard Hawks
Cast: Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Marilyn Monroe
Synopsis: A chemist finds his personal and professional life turned upside down when one of his chimpanzees finds the fountain of youth.
Cary Grant (His Girl Friday, To Catch a Thief) and Ginger Rogers (The Gay Divorcee, The Barkleys of Broadway) are the stars of Monkey Business, and are offered solid comedic support from crusty old Charles Coburn (The Lady Eve, Heaven Can Wait), but it’s the 26-year-old Marilyn Monroe (The Seven Year Itch, Some Like it Hot) that lingers in the memory. She only has a small part, but what an impression she makes, with her doll-like face, hourglass figure and flawless legs. ‘Anyone can type,’ Coburn coyly declares with a slight shrug after he and Grant have watched her sashay out of his office, and with the right lighting and attention, any beautiful girl can catch an audience’s attention, but Monroe also possessed impeccable comic timing which shines through in her every scene.
It’s a screwball comedy from an era when the genre was in decline. It’s pretty good, though. Grant is Barnaby Fulton, a chemist who wears coke-bottle glasses, and who believes he’s discovered a formula which makes people young again. In reality, the formula is a concoction cooked up by a lab chimp and dumped in a water cooler from which Barnaby drinks after consuming his own failed attempt. Rogers plays his wife, Edwina – and what a wife, she is. She’s all dolled up for a party, but is more than happy to stay in instead and cook eggs in her slip for her absent-minded husband. Coburn’s his impatient boss, and Monroe is Coburn’s dim but sexy secretary (“Mr Oxley’s been complaining about my punctuation,” she tells Barnaby, “so I’m careful to get here before nine.”).
Most of the humour is wrung from the childlike antics of Grant and Rogers, both of whom accidentally imbibe the formula on a couple of occasions – Grant’s first dose takes him back to his youth, the second takes both back to childhood – but it’s the adult lines like Coburn’s comment about Monroe that raise the biggest laughs. Grant and Rogers make a likable and believable couple – even if Rogers is too patient and understanding to be true – and the quality of the material remains consistent throughout its running time.
(Reviewed 24th September 2015)