Monkey Business (1952) B
Howard Hawks hoped to—but ultimately did not–capture the comic fervor and dazzling wit of his 1938 screwball comedy, “Bringing Up Baby,” co-starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, with his 1952 comedy, “Monkey Business.”
As in the earlier film, Grant stars as an absent-minded scholar, Professor Barnaby Fulton, involved in an important (or so he thinks) research project.
This time around, he’s a chemist seeking a “fountain of youth” formula that will revitalize middle-agers both mentally and physically.
Though Grant’s own laboratory experiments yield little fruit, a lab monkey, let loose from its cage, mixes a few random chemicals and comes up with just the formula Grant is looking for.
This mixture is inadvertently dumped in the lab’s water supply, and soon the staid, uptight Grant drinks some of the “bitter” water himself, which turns him into a naughty, rebellious teenager.
Fulton’s boss, Oxley (Charles Coburn), sends his sexy secretary, Lois Laurel (Monroe) to find him. But when she does, Fulton takes her swimming, roller skating, and riding at fast speed in a new car.
Spending a harmless afternoon on the town with Monroe’s luscious secretary rouses the ire of Grant’s wife (Ginger Rogers). The formula wears off, and Edwina overlooks the extremes of her hubby’s behavior. But Edwina’s own behavior is even more infantile, when she falls under the spell of the youth formula. She begins acting like an adolescent, and causes a scandal when she forces Fulton to take her to a hotel for a second honeymoon.
Later on, Oxley and his board of directors drink some water from the cooler to some disastrous effects. They all revert to a juvenile level of conduct, and Oxley chases Laurel, squirting seltzer water at her. But, alas, they too return to normalcy.
In the end, having experienced the hazards of temporary existence as youths, Fulton and Edwina are relieved that he did not perfect the formula.
Many viewers remember what’s the best line in “Monkey Business”: Foxy-grandpa research supervisor Charles Coburn hands the curvacious Monroe a letter and says “Get someone to type this”.
Even better is his next line: after Monroe sashays out of the room, Coburn turns to Grant and, with eyes at winkle, murmurs “Anyone can type.”
There’s a great pre-credits gag, wherein Cary Grant opens a door and is about to step forward when director Hawks, off-camera, says, “Not yet, Cary.”
The loose, carefree script is by Ben Hecht, Charles Lederer and I.A.L. Diamond (known as Billy Wilder‘s writing partner), with an original story by Harry Segall (“Here Comes Mr. Jordan”) as their inspiring source.
Running time: 92 Minutes.
Directed by Howard Hawks
Written By: Ben Hecht, Charles Lederer, I. A. L. Diamond
Released: September 5, 1952
DVD: May 14, 2002
Twentieth Century Fox
Cary Grant as Prof. Barnaby Fulton
Ginger Rogers as Edwina Fulton
Charles Coburn as Oliver Oxley
Marilyn Monroe as Lois Laurel
Henri Letondal as Dr. Siegfried Kitzel
Hugh Marlowe as Hank Entwhistle
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