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Friday
Jun 15 2018

"Monkey Business" Giggles

I caught a retro matinee of Howard Hawk's silly delightMonkey Business(1952) for my birthday last weekend.I'd never seen it before and was giggling throughout.Cary Grant,Marilyn Monroe,Hugh Marlowe,and Charles Coburn were in great form but Ginger Rogers completely steals the movie -- no small feat with that cast!

She plays the ridiculously patient and then suddenly immature wife of a chemist (Grant) who is trying to find a formula for de-aging that he's testing on monkeys.Hijinx ensue!My main takeaway this week has been that modern comedies try too hard to have a message,a character arc,and "heart"to go with the laughs.This spring'sI Feel PrettyandLife of the Partyhad this problem and one assumes the newly openedTagdoes,too,merely because almost all comedies now do.Heart and message and meaty arcs (if you have to have them) should just spring from silliness rather than be inorganically thrown on top of the comedy like a blanket.That blanket is wet and it dampens the fun.

Do you have this problem with modern comedies and what do you love most aboutMonkey Businessif you've seen it?

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Reader Comments (14)

Howard Hawks may be the best studio director of all time.I love this movie (I have the Marilyn Monroe boxset).It's brilliant.How many brilliant comedies a filmmaker can direct?And then four brilliant westerns.And a brilliant musical.And wonderful noirs.And the best movie Hollywood has ever produced,Only Angels Have Wings.Jesus!

And I love the fact that,in spite of being seen as a macho director,Hawks was excellent with women,specially comediennes.

Let's make a top ten of best female performances in Hawks movies?

1 - Rosalind Russell,His Girl Friday
2 - Katharine Hepburn,Bringing Up Baby
3 - Lauren Bacall,To Have and Have Not
4 - Barbara Stanwyck,Ball of Fire
5 - Marilyn Monroe,Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
6 - Jean Arthur,Only Angels Have Wings
7 - Jane Russell,Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
8 - Charlene Holt,El Dorado
9 - Ann Sheridan,I Was a Male War Bride
10 - Rita Hayworth,Only Angels Have Wings

June 15,2018 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I am looking now at this list and I am wondering: if Hawks were alive,who could carry movies like these ones?Who could go this broad?The last hawksian performance I can remember is Depp in the first Pirates of the Caribbean,but other than that...JLaw in American Hustle,maybe.Nobody else.

June 15,2018 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

What,no Carole Lombard in Twentieth Century?!?Best comic performance of the 30s (or maybe even the century)

June 15,2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

Nathaniel: I haven't seen it,but from your write-up,it sounds as though I'd like it a lot.And yes,I do have that problem with most modern comedies.The other main problem I have with most modern comedies is that they are not funny enough.Maybe three laughs in the whole running time.In a comedy,I want to be laughing at least once every minute.Comedy-drama or comedy-romance,maybe half that.But no less.

cal roth: That's a great list of Hawks actresses.

June 15,2018 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Classic comedies have to be funny

June 15,2018 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

Monkey Business is such a delight and almost impossible to choose a best or MVP.Coburn throwing away the line to secretary MM "Find somebody to type this."Or Grant fearlessly acting the buffoon because of the serum than Ginger joining right in.And on and on.

Most modern comedies can't touch the classics of the 30's & 40's because they've lost the desire to be joyful and just entertaining.As you said they all want to mean something or let us know they care.It's not that those things can't be funny but they should come organically from the material not be forced in because when they are that's just the feeling presented,forced and therefore flat.

June 15,2018 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

My biggest problem is that they're always too long.90' is the magic number.

June 16,2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I always thought Ginger Rogers' Oscar win for "Kitty Foyle"was one of the Academy's worst decisions,but then I look at the number of brilliant comedy performances she gave and not one of them was even nominated,

June 16,2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoe (UK)

I came up with a Hawks list last year: https://humanizingthevacuum.wordpress.com/2017/07/19/the-best-films-of-howard-hawks/

June 16,2018 | Unregistered CommenterAlfred

that classic line to Marilyn's character..."go find someone to type this!"

June 16,2018 | Unregistered CommenterJesus Alonso

I saw Monkey Business a few years ago (back when Netflix still had lots of classic films available for streaming),and it was a delight.But if anything,it was MAYBE too silly for me?That said,I wouldn't trade the sight of Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers acting like monkeys for ANYTHING.

I don't necessarily have a problem with comedies pushing hard for character arcs and "meaningful"moments,but most of them do it so poorly!It would be nice to have a genuinely enjoyable pure comedy one of these days but such films have been on the decline for a while now.

June 16,2018 | Unregistered CommenterDancin' Dan

How to talk about Ginger Rogers' work and not to mention The Major and The Minor(1942)?The first direction of Billy Wilder in Hollywood after years writing the funniest scripts for directors like Ernst Lubitsch - his master - and Howard Hawks.The Major and The Minor is the typical Wilder - someone lying,assuming another identity - where Ginger pretends to be a twelve-year-old girl with Ray Miland as her victim.A great preview of comedies like Some Like it Hot and Irma La Douce.

June 16,2018 | Unregistered CommenterGwen

Even the "throwaway"lines in Monkey Business are great: "Stop by the automobile agency.Mr Peabody just called and says he had a very good buy.""A good buy?Well,goodbye to you!"Someone really needs to bring the screwball comedy back.And not just in the Coen brothers tribute kind of way.Peter Bogdanovich is probably the most recent filmmaker to get it right,but if Damien Chazelle can bring back the old fashioned Hollywood musical,I think someone should be capable of doing this genre justice too.

June 18,2018 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel

Trivia: After starring together in Vivacious Lady(1938),a charming romantic-dramatic comedy about young newlyweds and morality,Ginger Rogers and James Stewart won their only acting Oscars in the same year,亚博主页respectively,for Kitty Foyle and The Philadelphia Story.

June 19,2018 | Unregistered CommenterMelchiades

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