Wednesday Editor’s Pick: Monkey Business (1952)

by on July 5, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Wed July 6 at 6:50, 9:15 at BAMcinématek [Program & Tix]


BAM’s Marilyn Monroe retrospective continues through July 17. Make sure to read Dan Callahan’s full-career analysis, Tom McCormack’s rundown on Bringing Up Baby – both for Alt Screen – and ready yourself for Howard Hawks’  other marvelous comedy starring Cary Grant. While occasionally dismissed by audiences with no sense and fun and Hawks himself, who had a less than respectful initial impression of Monroe,  Monkey Business has found a deservedly devoted following by critics and academics alike.


Peter Bradshaw for the Guardian:

It is part romp, part druggie-surrealist masterpiece, and a complete joy. Monkey Business is undervalued by some, on account of its alleged inferiority to the master’s 30s pictures, and the accident of sharing a title with a film by the Marx Brothers. I can only say that this film whizzes joyfully along with touches of pure genius: at once sublimely innocent and entirely worldly. Cary Grant plays Dr Barnaby Fulton, a mild-mannered, bespectacled industrial scientist working on a “rejuvenation” elixir for his tetchy boss Mr Oxley (Charles Coburn). One of Dr Fulton’s test chimps escapes and mixes up the lab chemicals in a random way so as to create the perfect “eternal youth” recipe – somewhere between Viagra and LSD – and dumps it in the water supply.


Dr Fulton drinks it; his short sight is cured and he instantly gets a new youthful haircut, jacket, and snazzy roadster, in which he takes smitten secretary Lois (Marilyn Monroe) for a day’s adventures. (The memory of Grant with his Coke-bottle glasses exchanging dialogue with the entranced Marilyn was revived eight years later by Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot.) His wife Edwina (Ginger Rogers) and Mr Oxley drink it too, with anarchic results. I think the role of Edwina in this film has been misread by some critics. It isn’t simply that she becomes a wacky, carefree schoolgirl under the influence. She takes her husband to a hotel and is chemically compelled to recreate her wedding night, becoming the terrified young woman she was on that occasion: frightened of seeing her groom’s naked body, overwhelmed with sadness at the thought of leaving her mother, querulous at the thought of Barnaby’s ex-girlfriends. It is a brilliant and subtle invention – and like everything else packed with gags.


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Howard Hawk’s “Bringing Up Baby” (1938) at Film Forum through Thursday (Jun 23)

by on June 20, 2011Posted in: Essay

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