Sometimes you need to clean out the ol’ system with a classic farce. You know what I mean? Oh, you don’t. I see. Let me explain. In this jolly thing we call “life”, things have a way of being less than thoroughly jolly. Bills need paying, jobs need doing, weather basically making a nuisance of itself when it should just busy making those altocumulus clouds we like so much. Then there are those child soldiers out in Africa which are just about the most rummy thing you can think of. And you can believe me, because when it comes to thinking of rummy things, I’m a natural.
So I says to myself, “Self, you have been filling your time with rummy thoughts, haven’t you?”
“I have,” says myself to I, “what do you think we should do about it?”
“Now don’t start calling us ‘we’ or we’ll be in trouble again,” says I to myself. “No,” continues I, “what’s called for here is some Cary Grant.”
“I think you’re on to something,” sayeth myself.
“We’re on to something,” I correct.
“Quite,” says myself, “But O what is there for us to see of the Cary Grant oeuvre—if oeuvre is the word I want—perhaps we should inspect Netflix.”
We do. And do you know what we found? A little Monkey Business (1952).
Dr. Barnaby Fulton (Grant) is a quirky fellow. He’ rather absent-minded, using all his brain muscle on this formula he’s working on. The object of the thing is to make people younger and he’s testing the stuff on monkeys. As it is, he’s making very slow progress of it. Well, would you know it, a young whipper-snapper of a monkey, Esther, comes up with a formula herself! Nobody realizes it, however, because Esther, the cheeky monkey, poured all the youth juice into the water cooler. So, in turn, people take Fulton’s formula and wash it down with water from the cooler and bang-zoom, you’ve got yourself a farce on your hands. “Farce on my hands! Don’t be disgusting.”
Cleanses the palate, as I say. It isn’t what you might call brilliantly acted, but the material is marvelous. Howard Hawks directs the fun and he does it well. I can’t say I noticed him at all and I have no better compliment for a comedy. The screenplay from Ben Hecht, Charles Lederer, & I.A.L. Diamond (with the story by Harry Segall), is top notch—recall the ampersand means they wrote it together—and makes it horribly difficult for the terrific cast to screw it up. That’s a conflicted sentence! Well, let me explain. “Oh, please, not again,” says Malcontented Me. “I thought we’d done with you,” says I. “Oh, you’ll never be done with me,” says Me. “Quiet, you’re in the muted corner today,” says myself. “Suits me,” says me.
As we were saying…I was saying, Monkey Business has a great cast. With Cary Grant is Ginger Rogers, Marilyn Monroe (who is really quite good, don’t mistake yourself), and Hugh Marlowe. Of those figures, you might say that personality and ham are the better part of their method. Even so, when Grant and Rogers go back into their more youthful behaviors and they lay it on thick, I’m loving it completely. The jokes are utterly timeless. One joke, though, I had to read again to understand:
“Say terrify,” asks childish Barnaby to Lois (Monroe).
“Terrify,” she complies.
“Now say tissue,” says Barnaby.
“Tissue,” she says.
“Now say them both fast together,” says Barnaby.
“Terrify tissue?” she says, uncomprehending.
He and, presumably, we laugh. I certainly didn’t understand it in situ. Probably because I don’t believe baby talk does that with consonants.
I think this is the first movie I’ve seen with Ginger Rogers in it and was happy to find something like a quieter Doris Day with hints of “modern woman.” Only hints, mind, as she does dote on her husband in the most unfeministic fashion. She gets her dance in, though, and is mighty pretty. Everyone looked like they were having heaps of fun and, in this movie, that’s a formula for success rather than mediocrity. It usually finds itself going the other way.
Enjoy. Oh, and buy of course.