Comedy / Musical
Comedy / Musical
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While stowing away on a ship to America, the boys get involuntarily pressed into service as toughs for a pair of feuding gangsters while trying desparately to evade the ship's crew. After arriving stateside, one of the gangsters kidnaps the other's daughter - and it's up to our unlikely heroes to save the day. —scgary66.
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
Sep 03, 2021 at 05:00 AM
grade Movie Reviews
The Ship of Fools
MONKEY BUSINESS (Paramount, 1931), directed by Norman McLeod, and written by S.J. Perelman, presents those four zany Marx Brothers in their third feature comedy. Following their previous efforts in THE COCOANUTS (1929) and ANIMAL CRACKERS (1930), each based on their 1920s stage works filmed at Paramount's Astoria studios in Long Island, NY, MONKEY BUSINESS, produced in Hollywood, was the team's first original comedy and one of their most funnier outings. While no relation to the 20th Century- Fox 1952 comedy starring Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers, except in title only, and having nothing to do with monkeys, this presentation does get right down to business when comedy is concerned.Here Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo play four stowaways aboard ship bound for the states who, after being discovered hiding in barrels singing "Sweet Adeline," they are pursued by First Officer Gibson (Tom Kennedy) and his crew, which has the foursome running all over the ship, eluding authorities and driving practically everybody out of their minds. Eventually the four stowaways separate, with Chico and Harpo posing as barbers; Groucho acting as the captain, invading the sanctity of the captain's quarters where he and Chico makes themselves at home by eating his meals; Harpo later chasing the young ladies as well as entertaining little children at a puppet show while at the same time making a fool out of Gibson. Harpo even finds time making friends with a frog, but keeps it under his hat. As for Zeppo, in between chases, he finds time escorting a young lady named Mary (Ruth Hall) around the deck. Afterwards, they all encounter rival gangsters, Groucho encounters Alkie Briggs (Harry Woods), after being found with his wife, Lucille (Thelma Todd) in her state room. Briggs, however, takes a liking to Groucho and offers him a job, along with Zeppo, as his personal bodyguards. Chico and Harpo encounter Briggs' rival, Joe Helton (Rockcliffe Fellows), Mary's father and Zeppo's love interest, each becoming Helton's bodyguards as well. After docking in New York, the Marx Brothers find they must get past custom officials to get off. After obtaining the passport belonging to the popular French entertainer, Maurice Chevalier (who does not appear), they pass themselves off as Chevalier, singing one of his current hit songs, "You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me," but to no avail. How the silent Harpo gets by with this must be seen to be believed. While the final 25 minutes shifts over to a swank party given by Kelton to introduce his daughter, Mary, to high society, the Marxes join in the function with dysfunctional tendencies as Groucho insults the guests, Chico and Harpo entertain with their traditional piano and harp interludes, while Briggs and his gang sneak in, posing as musicians, to carry out their plot of kidnapping Kelton's daughter, Mary, by holding her hostage inside a barn.Virtually plot less in a sense, MONKEY BUSINESSS plays like an extended comedy short that would have worked equally well had it starred the Three Stooges. MONKEY BUSINESS is pure Marx Brothers nonsense that appears to be every bit as funny today as it possibly was way back in 1931. Anything goes with this film, including many memorable shipboard moments including Groucho's comedic dance with Thelma Todd; Groucho doing his bit by posing as a reporter interviewing and insulting the cultured Madame Pucchi (Cecil Cunningham, in a manner somewhat similar to Margaret Dumont, Groucho's frequent foil and straight-woman). GROUCHO: "Is it true you're getting a divorce as soon as your husband recovers his eyesight? Is it true you wash your hair in clam broth? Is is true you used to dance in a flea circus?" MADAME PUCCHI: "This is outrageous! I don't like this innuendo." GROUCHO: "That's what I always say. Love flies out the door when money comes innuendo."; the Chico and Groucho exchange regarding Christopher Columbus: GROUCHO: "Columbus sailed from Spain to India looking for a short cut," CHICO: "Oh, you mean a strawberry short cut?;" Harpo coming out from a barrel of hay in the barn and seen kissing a calf, and much more.As with most of the Marx Brothers films produced by Paramount, MONKEY BUSINESS is pure comedy at best. Had this been done over at MGM, where the Marx Brothers would be employed (1935 to 1941), MONKEY BUSINESS most definitely be toned down some in comedy antics with extended romantic subplots and straight-forward and lengthy musical numbers. MONKEY BUSINESS has none of that. Unlike most Marx Brothers comedies, their characters in MONKEY BUSINESS have no background, no professions and no spoken character names (the closing cast credits them with their first names only). They are just unusual stowaways trying to keep themselves from being caught and taken to the brig. However, in this case, MONKEY BUSINESS has its full quota of belly-laughs. Nothing really drags and nothing provided is unnecessary. And whatever scenes may not be of importance or interest to the viewers, it passes by very quickly. MONKEY BUSINESS, hailed as one of the top 100 comedies by the American Film Institute, has become a perennial favorite to many Marx Brothers enthusiasts. After many years being presented on commercial television on the afternoon or evening to after midnight hours, it became available on video cassette through MCA Home Video in the 1980s, and to cable television on several channels, from the Comedy Channel shortly prior to 1990, then to American Movie Classics (1991-1992), and, a decade later, on Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: December 17, 2001). Regardless of its age, MONKEY BUSINESS, for all its silliness, continues to bring laughter to a new generation of movie lovers whenever shown, thanks to those funny men billed as The Marx Brothers. Because of them, no ocean voyage would ever be the same again, which is why no self respecting ship should ever set sail without them either. Bon Voyage. (***)
aptly titled, and wacky good fun
How does one review a plotless movie? In "Monkey Business," the Marx Brothers spend the first hour running around on a ship, then they crash a fancy party, then they fist-fight gangsters in a barn. Is there connecting material? Well, yeah - of the thinnest sort imaginable. Does the lack of a coherent plot hurt the film? Not really. Bottom line: it's hilarious. Groucho in particular steals the show with his weird combination flirting/insulting routines.It's worth noting that, while I laughed a lot at "A Night at the Opera," I laughed even more at this movie. In fact, I was in exquisite pain by the end. Of course, "Opera" actually makes some sense, so it might still be the better movie.Definitely the best Marx Brothers film that doesn't feature Margaret Dumont, and the strongest showcase for the brothers' talents as physical comedians.
Zeppo's best Marx Brother Film
Zeppo Marx is frequently considered with a trace of a sneer: the fourth brother who was not worthy of membership in one of filmdom's two best comedy teams. He was the fourth brother of Groucho, Chico, & Harpo Marx (and is only slightly better remembered than fifth brother Gummo, who never appeared in any of their films). He looked the best of the brothers (he was the youngest) so he could play the romantic lead if nobody else had the role (like Oscar Shaw did in COCONUTS). However although his appearance was better than the other three brothers, he was not a really handsome man like Robert Taylor or Tyrone Power. Also he had a serious problem with his sense of humor - he had one but it was remarkably similar to Groucho's. In fact, during the Broadway run of COCONUTS, Groucho was ordered by a doctor to take a long, overdue rest. He took off for two weeks, and was replaced by understudy Zeppo. At the end of two weeks he talked to the producers, and they willingly allowed him to take an additional week off. In fact, when that was finished they said he could take more time off if needed. They were not in a rush to get him back. Suspicious, Groucho went unannounced to the theater one night, and watched Zeppo being so good the audience was laughing hysterically at his delivery and acting. In a single day Groucho returned to the show. Groucho never made that mistake again.It would have been impossible for Zeppo to have played a smaller version of Groucho on screen. There would have been an imbalance with two Grouchos in the films. So Zeppo was usually put into the films as Groucho's assistant, or secretary, or even his son (in HORSE FEATHERS). His part in COCONUTS, as the film exists today, is not very impressive (there is one scene where he and Groucho try to greet Chico and Harpo as new customers at the hotel, and keep missing their hands). In ANIMAL CRACKERS he is Jamison, the secretary to "Captain Spaulding", and has an amusing sequence regarding the immortal firm of "Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, & McCormick". In HORSE FEATHERS he did take part in the mad football game at the end of the film. In DUCK SOUP, as assistant to Rufus T. Firefly, he had more sequences that were funny, such as when he gets slapped for telling a story to Groucho that Groucho had previously told to him. He also takes part in the "Fredonia's Going to War" number, and in the battle section at the end. But only the Hungerdunger scene in ANIMAL CRACKERS (shared by Groucho), and this film, MONKEY BUSINESS, gives one an idea of Zeppo as an effective comic.Here, unlike the other four appearances, he is not connected in the past with Groucho. He is paired with him, when he and Groucho are hired by Alky Briggs to be his torpedoes. However, he is frequently chased on the boat, and finds time to romance the film's heroine, in one particularly good moment telling her of his eternal devotion to her just before fleeing from her side to avoid being captured by members of the ship's crew. He also is able to romance her at her coming out society party, and rescues her from Briggs' gang. Here he finally does something normal to assist the film. He is a passably pleasant leading man, but nothing spectacular. MONKEY BUSINESS was also surreal in it's humor, best in the puppet show sequence and also the attempt of the four brothers to get off the boat pretending to be Chevalier. It is a very funny movie - maybe not the best of all their films (DUCK SOUP or A NIGHT AT THE OPERA are that), but close to the best. As for Zeppo, he remained part of the act and the films for two more years, and then quit both to become a successful film agent. He would always be in Groucho's shadow as a comic, and even in death (soon after Groucho's death in 1977) passed on with hardly any impact on the public. Had he branched out on his own (if anyone had shown interest in such a move) he might have had a chance to show his talents, but it is problematical.
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