Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Monkey Business (1952)
The screwball comedy genre was more or less played out by the early 40s but Howard Hawks never really gave up on the genre. He made two attempts to revive it, the first being Monkey Business in 1952, the second being the excellent and criminally underrated Man’s Favorite Sport? in 1964. It is with the first of these that we are concerned today. In Monkey Business brilliant but absent-minded chemist Dr Barnaby Fulton (Cary Grant) is trying to find a formula that will eliminate some of the symptoms of ageing. He doesn’t succeed but one of the chimpanzees he’s using in his experiments finds the formula by accident. The chimpanzee puts the mixture into the water cooler. Barnaby drinks it and the middle-aged scientist finds himself thinking he’s thirty years younger. He buys an MG sports car and has a bit of an adventure with his boss’s luscious but ditzy secretary Miss Laurel (Marilyn Monroe). His wife Edwina (Ginger Rogers) is the next to inadvertently sample the formula. She becomes an amorous teenager and wants to relive their honeymoon, which has unfortunate results for poor Barnaby. Even more mayhem ensues when they both take a larger dose - they both think they’re ten years old! Barnaby has always suspected that their lawyer Hank had designs in Edwina, so he enlists the help of a group of children playing Cowboys and Indians, dons war-paint and decides to scalp Hank. Of course you know that eventually everybody will sample the formula and there will be a great deal of inspired craziness. Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers really let themselves go and they’re both terrific. Charles Coburn is amusing as Barnaby’s boss. Marilyn Monroe doesn’t get much to do but she’s good and she impressed Hawks enough to lead him to cast her in his next movie, the wonderful Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The movie starts a little slowly but the pace soon picks up and it becomes classic Hawks screwball comedy. It’s all good-natured fun with perhaps more sexual innuendo than you expect in a Hawks movie. The Region 4 DVD is without extras but it’s a decent transfer. The DVD cover gives the impression this is a Marilyn Monroe movie but she is strictly a minor player here. A good cast, plenty of the ludicrous situations that characterise this genre and plenty of laughs - there’s really no reason not to enjoy this movie.