Sunday, September 15, 2013

Monkey Business (1931)

How fitting.

A movie that's a barrel of laughs starts with the Marx Brothers in four barrels. They're stowing away on an ocean liner. Don't let the labeling on said wooden containers fool you. It's no herring to say this is a comedy worth seeing.

Puns and wordplay aplenty are stashed in the screen play of this 1931 film from director Norman McLeod, who also directed Groucho and company in Horse Feathers. That film followed in 1932.

Groucho: "Tell me, has your grandfather's beard got any money?"

Chico: "Money? Why, it's heir to a fortune."

Second Officer: "Who are you?"


Groucho: "I'm the tailor."

Second Officer: "That reminds me. Where are my pants?"

Groucho: "You've got 'em on."


Groucho: "Would you mind getting up off that fly paper and give the flies a chance?"

Chico: "Oh, you're crazy. Flies can't read papers."

Just like The Cocoanuts, reviewed last week on this site, Monkey Business centres its plot on criminal shenanigans. Here, gangster Briggs (Harry Woods) wants to muscle in on the territory of fellow crime king Joe Helton (Rockcliffe Fellover). Each bad guy recruits a pair of Marx Brothers to act as their respective muscle. Good luck with that.

The singing and dance numbers that kept pulling viewers away from the comedy in The Cocoanuts is tempered this time around. There's little rug cutting, save Groucho making some moves on Briggs' dame, but Maxine Castle makes her sole film appearance singing O Sole Mio. Harpo accompanies her on harp.

The laughs slow down a bit when the Marx Brothers arrive on land, but there's still the occasional zinger to keep audiences amused.

Henchman: "Keep out of this loft."

Chico: "Well, it's better to have loft and lost than never to have loft at all."

Keep your ears tuned to the dialogue. You'll likely miss a great laugh if you're distracted.

RATING: 8/10

FUN FACTS: Director Norman McLeod's last credit was for an episode (Once Upon a Time) of The Twilight Zone in 1961.

Billy Barty (Legend, Willow) makes an uncredited appearance in Monkey Business.

Magic store owner Al Flosso is a puppeteer in his second and final film appearance.

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