Monkey Business (1952)

Monkey Business (1952)

“I’m beginning to wonder if ‘being young’ is all it’s cracked up to be.”

A scientist (Cary Grant) experimenting with a potion to restore youth and vitality tries it on himself and is shocked to discover how effective it suddenly is — not realizing that one of his lab chimpanzees accidentally got into his supplies and tainted the water supply with the secretly powerful new brew. Meanwhile, Grant’s wife (Ginger Rogers) insists on trying the potion herself, while his boss (Charles Coburn) is desperate to determine exactly what is making the new mixture work so well.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Cary Grant Films
  • Charles Coburn Films
  • Comedy
  • Ginger Rogers Films
  • Howard Hawks Films
  • Hugh Marlowe Films
  • Marilyn Monroe Films
  • Scientists

With Howard Hawks at the helm, a script by Ben Hecht, Charles Lederer, and I.A.L. Diamond, and a cast including Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, and Marilyn Monroe, one can’t help expecting more from this somewhat disappointing screwball farce. The premise is an overly simple one and doesn’t really go anywhere interesting, other than to reveal the subconscious marital tensions behind the oh-so-perfect fa├žade of Grant and Rogers’ “ideal” 1950s marriage (he’s the genius, she lovingly supports him even when he’s infuriatingly distracted).

While Peary nominates both Grant and Rogers as Best Actor and Actress of the Year in his Alternate Oscars, I find their depictions as increasingly regressive adolescents silly rather than engaging. It is fun to see Monroe in an early sexpot role as Coburn’s secretary-in-name-only (she can’t even type):

Her freeway drive with Grant makes one wonder where their flirtation may go, but her character sadly fizzles into the background.

The best part of the film comes during its final half-hour, when true chaos has erupted and the pace picks up enough to carry us along in its true silliness.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • The absurdly slapstick final half-hour

Must See?
No; while many find it amusing, it’s ultimately not must-see. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Monkey Business (1952)

  1. Skip it.

    Limp, forced, painfully unfunny – just an all-around waste of time.

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