Monkey Business (1952 film)

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Monkey Business
File:Monkey businessposter.jpg
Promotional movie poster for the film
Directed by Howard Hawks
Produced by Sol C. Siegel
Written by Harry Segall (plot)
Ben Hecht
Charles Lederer
I.A.L. Diamond
Starring Cary Grant
Ginger Rogers
Marilyn Monroe
Charles Coburn
Music by Leigh Harline
Cinematography Milton R. Krasner
Edited by William B. Murphy
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • September 2, 1952 (1952-09-02) (USA)
Running time
97 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $2 million (US rentals only)[1]

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 movie of the same name, this film is sometimes referred to as Howard Hawks' Monkey Business.


Ginger Rogers, Robert Cornthwaite, Cary Grant, and Marilyn Monroe in 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."


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 DayRock Hudson vehicle, although in that film the chemical — in pill form — simply causes everybody to get extremely drunk.


Critical response

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.[2]

Note on opening credits

The voice telling Grant "Not yet, Cary" during the opening credits is indeed Hawks'. It may be the only time his voice was heard in one of his own pictures.


External links