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Monkey Business

Recently Restored
Directed by Howard Hawks.
With Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Charles Coburn.
US, 1952, DCP, black & white, 97 min.
DCP source: 20th Century Fox

Hawks’ final collaboration with Cary Grant sets a tall task for the star. As Dr. Barnaby Fulton, a chemist who drinks an experimental fountain of youth potion and regresses through various stages of his development, Grant must play multiple parts in one: a stuffy, unhappily-married adult; a manic, horny young man; and an inexhaustible, euphoric child. Naturally, Grant is up to the challenge, resulting in one of the actor’s greatest comic performances, a psychologically convincing progression through his gifts of verbal repartee and physical horseplay alike. But Barnaby isn’t the only one who drinks the potion. Monkey Business’ ingeniously silly structure plays like a tweak on the slasher movie, with various members of the cast imbibing the mysterious substance until eventually everyone is reduced to juvenile behavior—all because a monkey goes haywire in the lab. Among the overdose recipients is Barnaby’s discontented wife Edwina (Ginger Rogers), for whom both an inner brattiness and a girlish spunk re-emerge from under her surface docility to match Barnaby’s increasingly wild energy. As a result, this seemingly anarchic farce turns into a poignant reflection on the importance of maintaining youthful passion in romance.

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