Friday, September 8, 2017

MOVIE SCIENTIST BLOGATHON: Monkey Business (1952)


Christina Wehner and Ruth of Silver Screenings are hosting, for the second time mind you, the Movie Scientist Blogathon. The good, the mad and the lonely lab rats can be found online from September 8 - 10. My guy, Barnaby Fulton, is one of the good ones. Day 1 recap  Day 2 recap  Day 3 recap



Barnaby and Edwina Fulton
Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers

Edwina (to Barnaby): "You're not often the absent-minded professor, but, darling, when you are, you're a real zombie."

Barnaby Fulton (Cary Grant) is the chief chemist at the Oxley Chemical Company. Barnaby has been working on a rejuvination formula and it is preying on his mind when he should be thinking about his wife Edwina (Ginger Rogers) and the party they are dressed to attend.



Miss Laurel, Barnaby, Mr. Oxley
Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, Charles Coburn

The lab team has been testing their recent formula on chimpanzees and tests show that only 23% of the formula is being assimilated. Mr. Oxley (Charles Coburn), who owns the company, is 70 and more than a little anxious that they come up with what he terms a "youth" formula. Perhaps his secretary, the luscious Miss Laurel (Marilyn Monroe) has something to do with his overly anxious attitude.



When the white coats are away, the simians will play.

Barnaby is assisted in the lab by Dr. Kitzel (Henri Letondal), Dr. Brunner (Douglas Spencer), and Dr. Zoldeck (Robert Cornthwaite). These eminent brains are assisted in turn by Esther! Esther is the youngest of the chimps and she plays a bit of "monkey see, monkey do" by getting out of her cage and pouring this into that and that into this. Perhaps dissatisfied with her work, Esther disposes of her formula in the water cooler. 

Barnaby Fulton, in that way of brainy types, decides to test the most recent formula on himself. It leaves a bitter after-taste that Barnaby decides to chase with water. Funny thing, the water also has a bitter aftertaste. It's incredible! Barnaby can see without his glasses. Barnaby has astounding reservoirs of energy. Barnaby feels young again!

Barnaby doesn't strictly follow protocol by chronicling his reactions to the formula. He wants to have fun! Barnaby goes joy riding with Miss Luscious, I mean Miss Laurel. He gets a younger haircut, buys a snazzy car, goes roller skating and swimming until the formula starts to wear off. A then exhausted and sore Barnaby smashes the car into the factory's fence and takes a well-deserved nap.

Mr. Oxley is over-the-moon in his excitement about the formula. Edwina is less than thrilled with Barnaby's antics of the day. Instead of allowing Barnaby to take more of the formula, Edwina takes the larger dose chosen for the next experiment. Nothing happens until, of course, she chases the bitter aftertaste with water from the cooler.



The blackboard says it all.

Edwina is once again the fun loving, empty-headed girl of her youth. Her love and affection for Barnaby is as strong as ever, and she wants to drive to the coastal hotel of their honeymoon. She wants to dance the night away. Once there, however, she is overcome by sudden shyness and blazing anger at anything her beloved says that strikes her as untoward. Edwina has phoned her old boyfriend Hank Entwistle (Hugh Marlowe) and her mother (Esther Dale), who always disliked Barnaby, to announce their break-up. Barnaby and Edwina both have a lot of embarrassing incidents to explain. Is the formula really worth all of this nonsense?

Again under the influence of what they understand to be the formula, Edwina and Barnaby commit further silliness. Edwina believes a neighbour's baby is a reverted Barnaby (don't ask!). Meanwhile, Barnaby plays a game of "let's scalp Hank Entwisle" with the neighbourhood kids.



I don't believe all labs look like this one.

It is obvious that the chief chemist at the Oxley Chemical Company is not going to be of any help to the corporate world. His assistants finally figure out the mystery of Esther and the water cooler. What was left of the miracle concoction is inadvertently destroyed, and things go back to normal. Poor Mr. Oxley!

Dr. Fulton has come to some conclusions concerning his current line of research:

"I'm beginning to wonder if being young is all it's cracked up to be. We dream of youth. We remember it as a time of nightingales and valentines. But what are the facts? Maladjustment, near idiocy, and a series of low comedy disasters. That's what youth is."

Barnaby's newest formula:  "You're old only when you forget you are young."

No word on Esther's theories after these hectic days in the lab.

The very funny script for Monkey Business is by Ben Hecht (The Front Page), Charles Lederer (I Was a Male War Bride) and I.A.L. Diamond (Some Like It Hot).

Monkey Business is the last of 5 films Hawks and Grant made together beginning with 1938s Bringing Up Baby where Grant also played a bespectacled absent-minded professor involved in romantic entanglements.

Ginger Rogers as Edwina was nominated for the Golden Globe in the category of Best Actress - Comedy or Musical, along with Katharine Hepburn for Pat and Mike and the winner, Susan Hayward in With a Song in My Heart.


Movie trivia

Douglas Spencer and Robert Cornthwaite, who play two of the scientists, appeared in the previous year's Howard Hawks film The Thing from Another World as Scotty, the newspaper reporter and Dr. Carrington, the obsessive head of the expedition.

Harry Carey Jr. plays a newspaper reporter and his mother, Olive Carey, is the Fulton's next door neighbour who leaves her infant son to the tender mercies of the Fultons while she runs errands.






28 comments:

  1. In the long and distinguished history of primate performances in film, I'd have to say Esther's ranks up there with the greats: TARZAN THE APE MAN, EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE,and DUNSTON CHECKS IN.

    Odd how so many actors we think of as high-quality thespians (even Marilyn, to an extent) are in this movie with monkeys, acting silly, directed by a legend like Hawks. If this had been made today, it would be considered kiddie fare, and it certainly wouldn't attract actors the caliber of Grant or Rogers unless it was animated.

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    1. Yes, Esther's has long been an underrated talent. I suspect some (however distant) relation to Josephine, the Capuchin who acted with LLoyd and Keaton.

      I would say the world is not a better place if the quality folk decline to get silly. This is the stuff I call art.

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  2. This is just a really funny/really silly movie with a great cast, particularly Monroe whose razor-sharp comic timing is as good as Grant's (and that's saying something).

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    1. High praise for Marilyn indeed, and she deserves it. Released the same year as her disturbing performance in Don't Bother to Knock, her versatility was certainly showing.

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  3. I can't believe I haven't seen this yet! I've seen clips, but not the entire film, which definitely needs to be remedied. Especially with cast like that.

    Your comment about the world being less well off when quality folk refuse to get silly is very wise. It seems like part of the comedy and appeal of Cary Grant was his willingness - handsome and suave as he was - to be silly and not take himself too seriously.

    Thanks so much for joining the blogathon!

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    1. My pleasure to take part in this blogathon again.

      You are so right about Cary. His willingness to tap into his goofy side may be the greatest part of his appeal. You'll have to check this movie out soon.

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  4. I've never seen a Marilyn Monroe film. This seems like a good one to start with! Thanks!

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    1. It would be an excellent introduction. Marilyn had strong dramatic chops, but she was also a polished comedienne and this supporting role at the beginning of her career highlights her strength in that area.

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  5. Everyone is a delight in this film, which doesn't take itself too seriously. My fave performer, though, is the one kid with the gravelly voice. (It's been a while since I've seen this and I forget why he and Grant are in the scene together.)

    This is an excellent choice for the blogathon. Thanks so much for reminding me to see this gem again. :)

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    1. Little George Winslow! A delight indeed. Every adult who worked with him must have realized the kid was stealing every scene. A really fun part of the movie.

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  6. I love the way the gracious, mature Ginger turns into a firecracker of a tomboy!

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    1. It is one of my favourite of Ginger's performances. She really could do it all, and do it better than many.

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  7. I was going to make a rather unfunny remark about Grant and the monkey being on the screen at the same time, but I held myself back...:-) Must admit Ginger Rogers sure looks a heck of a lot cuter than I remember, but its been a while since I watched one of her movies. Good review.

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    1. H'm. We appreciate your self-control.

      I guess the cycle of movie actresses has come around to Ginger Rogers. There's plenty to choose from, and who knows what new fave you'll find.

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  8. I love Coburn here. He is every bit as funny as Grant and Rogers!

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    1. Truly. Coburn was an expert at comedy. I seem to recall reading somewhere that Cary Grant said Coburn got a great kick out of chasing Marilyn with the water gun. Guys!

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  9. Thanks for the wonderful look at this very enjoyable (and enjoyably silly) film. ;)

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    1. My pleasure, and thank you very much for reading. It means a lot.

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  10. When I was a wee lad, I thought this was a very funny film. I still find it amusing; it certainly looks like everyone involved with it was having a good time, too.

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    1. It is one of those movies where it looks like a good time was had by all, isn't it? I think Hawks and Grant must have been very simpatico in the all-important funny bone connection.

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  11. First, I loved the new look of your blog.
    Second, I love this movie. My favorite part is when Barnaby plays with the kids and wants to get Hank's scalp - it's hilarious!
    You did great once again with your writing.
    Thanks for the kind comment!
    Kisses!
    Le

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    1. Thank you for two very charming compliments.

      First, I felt it was time for a change and, second, Cary Grant acting like a kid is one of my favourite things as well.

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  12. I love your new look! I also enjoyed you reminding me how funny this film is and how important it is that I rewatch it immediately. Right from the opening credits you know you're in for a good time. Plus, who would ever want to resist that cast?

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    1. Truly irresistible cast, and that opening. What cheeky fellows were Hawks and Grant!

      Thanks. I rather like my new digs. Think I'll keep them.

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  13. Wow, a Marilyn Monroe early movie, this is so nice...I'm fascinated by this woman. I didn't know the film, but I'll try to search and watch it.
    Nice blog <3
    xx
    Iza

    http://vintageiz.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you. I'm so pleased I could point you in the direction of this early, and really terrific performance from Marilyn.

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  14. Ooh, this sounds fun! It's always interesting to see Ginger Rogers in straight comic or dramatic roles--she seemed to like mixing things up. Can't blame her, because musicals were strenuous. Another one for the list. :-)

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    1. Ginger could do it all! Sometimes I forget that, but Monkey Business is a great reminder of her comedy chops, and Grant a charming co-star.

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