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Monkey Business (1952)
Monkey Business (1952) is a screwball comedy film directed by Howard Hawks and starring Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Charles Coburn, Marilyn Monroe, and Hugh Marlowe. To avoid confusion with the famous Marx Brothers movie of the same name, this film is sometimes referred to as Howard Hawks' Monkey Business. Dr. Barnaby Fulton (Grant), a research chemist working on a fountain of youth pill for a chemical company, is trying to develop an elixir of youth, urged on by his commercially-minded boss Oliver Oxley (Coburn). One of Dr. Fulton's chimpanzees, Esther, gets loose in the laboratory and pours some chemicals into the water cooler — chemicals that just happen to have the rejuvenating effect for which Fulton is searching. Unaware of the monkey's antics, Fulton tests his latest experimental concoction on himself, and washes it down with water from the cooler. Naturally, he soon begins to act just like a 20-year-old, and spends the day out on the town with his boss's secretary Lois Laurel (Monroe). When Fulton's wife Edwina (Rogers) learns that the elixir "works," she drinks some, again washing it down with water, and turns into a prank-pulling schoolgirl.
The plot involves the hunt for a youth formula by Barnaby Fulton (Cary Grant), which he thinks he has discovered when a self-administered sample drives him to do such crazy things as buy a new car and crash it into a chain link fence with his boss's secretary (Monroe) riding shotgun. The only problem is that the sample hasn't done anything; it's the water, spiked by the chimp when no one was looking.
Hijinks ensue when Fulton's wife (Ginger Rogers) gives it a try (thus putting a fish down the pants of Barnaby's boss). Eventually Barnaby overdoes it, turning into a real baby (or so his wife believes). Oh, the humanity!
Director Howard Hawks knows his way around the screwball, but Monkey Business pales next to his inimitable classics like His Girl Friday. At 41, Rogers was near retirement, and her antics recall Lucille Ball (and not really in a good way). Grant is as wonderful as ever, pulling the film along when its plot drags or his co-stars ham it up too much (which is pretty often). Altogether it's good fun -- good, but not great.
Featured as part of the restored set of Monroe classics in The Diamond Collection II (see links at right).