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Monkey Business (1952)

“You’re old only when you forget you’re young.”

In zany Howard Hawks fashion comes this screwball comedy which re-teams the famed director with an actor unlike any other. Mr. Cary Grant. Joining Grant are two seasoned pros. Ginger Rogers stars as his wife and Charles Coburn his employer. Young and on the rise, Marilyn Monroe gets some decent screen time and above the title billing as well playing Coburn’s fully rounded secretary.

Cary-Grant-in-Monkey-Business-1952

It all concerns Grant’s professor who is trying to discover a formula that could be considered the fountain of youth. Madcap scenarios ensue which begin thanks to an escaped monkey that plays professor and mixes up some of Cary’s chemicals pouring them into the water cooler. First up is Cary who after taking a drink is off and running like an 18 year schoolboy. New haircut, a roadster and Marilyn on his arm. Comedy is sure to ensue.

After the chemicals wear off he believes he’s made the greatest discovery known to man. Next up is his lovely wife Ginger who is hilarious as she goes about reliving her wedding day and subsequently the wedding night. Things don’t bode well for Cary.

The film goes a little off the deep end as we move towards the conclusion. But isn’t that what a screwball comedy calls for?

ginger-monkey-58

Howard Hawks had of course given us these films before including Bringing Up Baby. There’s a kitchen scene in this one that recalls one of Baby’s best gags. Hawks borrowing from Hawks? This was Grant’s final film with Hawks. Their most recent duet was I Was a Male War Bride in ’49.

While watching this I picked up Ginger telling Cary he is an “absent minded professor.” I guess the term wasn’t coined when Fred MacMurray was cast in the Disney film from 1961. I just assumed it had.

Marilyn Monroe in ‘Monkey Business’, 1952

As for Miss Monroe, she plays her part perfectly and is eye candy for the young men of the day. Naturally Hawks plays up her figure. From a leg for Cary to study, a swimsuit for guys to ogle and taking paperclips off her well rounded behind, Hawks makes good use of her figure. There’s even a line in here from Marilyn that somehow seems to sum up what I perceive is something she was always wondering in reality. “Do you like me a little.”

Monkey Business (1952)_02

Along with our four well known actors sharing above the title billing we have a cast of well known faces filling out the costarring roles. Hugh Marlowe as Cary’s competition for lovely Ginger. Esther Dale, Kathleen Freeman, Olive Carey and son Harry Carey Jr. Then of course there’s Kathleen Freeman and Dabbs Greer who seem to turn up in countless films from the fifties to the late eighties.

While I found that this monkey faded a bit down the stretch it’s a great example of the entertainment that doesn’t really exist anymore in our screen comedies. With this cast assembled by Hawks it’s hard not to appreciate the effort and the laughs within.

9 Comments »

  1. An excellent and welcome writeup of a movie of which I’m very fond (and one that wax surprisingly raunchy, I think, for a mainstream piece of that era).

    As for Miss Monroe, she plays her part perfectly and is eye candy for the young men of the day.

    She was still eye candy for the young men of the early 1980s, which was when i first saw the movie! Hawks manages to make her very sexy indeed here, and I’m not sure quite how he did it. (Well, obviously, he had some help from Monroe herself, but . . .)

    • It is raunchy for the day. The whole Monroe character and her shapely figure on display. Not to mention she’s Coburn’s secretary and you have to wonder why? I say good for you old timer! The marriage night flashback as well. It’s just a good time at the movies.

  2. Haven’t seen this film for a long time! I love how Hawks borrows from his own back catalogue – I know that Bringing Up Baby is considered the definitive screwball but I think I prefer this movie as its a little (!) less frantic. And of course, I love Monroe 😉

    • This one is really done in thirds if you will. Really like the first 2 but less so on the third section. Hawks was accused of borrowing from his past more than once. Rio Bravo and El Dorado are perhaps the best example.

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