Tonight’s film connects the stream of connections seen in O. Henry’s Full House. Monkey Business is a 1950s screwball comedy directed by Howard Hawks. Hawks directed my favorite segment of last night’s O. Henry’s Full House, “The Ransom of Red Chief,” and will be seen again directing Marilyn in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. He’s a master of comedy and drama and has directed a bunch of my favorite movies including The Big Sleep and Bringing Up Baby! This is the second time I’ve watched Monkey Business and it continues to entertain me in taking two actors I’ve always had preconceived notions about, and allowing them to cut loose!
Dr. Barnaby Fulton (Cary Grant…swoon) is attempting to create a youth serum that isn’t working out. One night an escaped monkey mixes some stuff together and unknowingly creates the serum Barnaby’s been looking for. Throughout the day him and his wife Edwina (Ginger Rogers) take the potion and revert to teenagers and young children. This complicates things at Barnaby’s work as he finds himself attracted to his young secretary Miss. Laurel (Marilyn).
I try not to show my age, or nerdiness, but I’m pretty sure this led to the Disney Channel Original Film The Poof Point, both of which had adults reverting back to children. Off-topic and moving right along, this film is a classic example of the screwball comedy. The characters are placed in a role reversal and everyone’s left to figure out what’s going on. Of course there are characters completely out of the loop who you’d assume would pick things up quicker but it’s all about the actors doing insane things.
My experience with Rogers is limited. I haven’t yet gotten to her Astaire dance films which I’ve heard are excellent but she’s got amazing comedic timing in this movie. From the minute she enters a room doing the most hilarious dance she throws herself whole-heartedly into the character of Edwina, even attempting to hit Ms. Monroe! Rogers is the best towards the end of the film when Edwina becomes a little girl. Her “I’m going to tell” schtick is genius and she does start to look like a little girl at times. There’s just something about her sitting in a chair blowing bubbles with bubble gum that makes me giggle.
I’ve always been used to Cary Grant as the dashing gentlemen or loveable rake with a heart of gold. Here he plays a horny teen and an adorable little boy. Most of his scenes are where Marilyn shows up as the secretary Ms. Laurel and honestly, there’s not much for her to work with. She gets to take a crazy car ride with Barnaby, and has a hilarious line about Edwina coming in “and not trying to hit me” but there’s no depth to her, it’s a role that could have been filled by anybody.
The end is where all the craziness happens as Barnaby and Edwina drink so much they become little kids. There’s the typical “I don’t like you” element seen in children and a great moment where Barnaby gathers some neighborhood kids together to “scalp” his competition for Edwina’s heart, Hank Entwhistle (Hugh Marlowe). The film is zany and chuckle-inducing by this point, and also includes a droll child whose name I don’t recall stealing the show when he tells Barnaby “can’t scalp someone till you do a war dance!”
If you’re not a fan of zany, light comedy you’ll probably find Monkey Business boring and stupid. I find it a far better attempt at the “feeling young” genre set up in As Young as You Feel. It’s a product of its time and I don’t know if screwball comedies like this could work in today’s society. With my luck Adam Sandler would star in it (please don’t forward that idea to a Hollywood bigwig!). It’s a cute, sweet movie about appreciating youth and old age with two huge stars playing adorable children. Marilyn’s not a big draw but I enjoy this film and recommend comedy fans seek it out. It’s available on Netflix Watch Instantly!
Some light housekeeping – I’ll be posting part 2 of my 25 Days of Christmas movie shortly so be sure to check back tonight or tomorrow for it! I’m going to try to keep up on double posts! Also the blog is connected to Facebook so please like the Facebook page via the box on the left or at http://www.Facebook.com/JourneysinClassicFilm!
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.