In spite of having no flashy frocks, no dancing and no musical numbers, Howard Hawks’ Monkey Business is one of my favourite films of all time because the plot is so quirky and the characters are so bizarre, and yet the actors manage to behave as if it’s all entirely normal.
Potty chemist Barnaby Fulton (Cary Grant) is working on a youth-inducing serum, but unknown to anyone, one of the laboratory chimps has already mixed the potion and poured it into the water-cooler. Needless to say everyone in turn inadvertently drinks the potion. Fulton takes his secretary (Marilyn Monroe) out swimming, goes dancing with his wife (Ginger Rogers) and the usual madcap comedy follows. In lesser hands, it wouldn’t be funny but as it is Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers are beguiling and hysterical, keeping the whole mix frothing until the final frame, and Marilyn and Charles Coburn as her lecherous boss are also very amusing.
The film is beautifully paced; even now, 50 years after the film was made, when so many others of that era seem slow and pedantic, Monkey Business shuttles along like a steam train. The jokes come thick and fast, there’s a lovely scene where Cary Grant plays Red Indians with a bunch of local kids, Ginger Rogers is hysterical when she thinks her husband has turned into a baby... children adore this film.