AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Monkey Business
Director: Norman McLeod (Dir)
Release Date:   19 Sep 1931
Duration (in mins):   77-78
Duration (in feet):   6,947
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Cast:   Groucho Marx (Groucho)  
    Harpo Marx (Harpo)  
    Chico Marx (Chico)  
    Zeppo Marx (Zeppo)  
    Rockcliffe Fellowes (Joe Helton)  
    Harry Woods ([Alky] Briggs)  
    Thelma Todd (Lucille)  
    Ruth Hall (Mary Helton)  
    Tom Kennedy (Gibson)  
    Otto Fries (Second mate)  
    Ben Taggart (Captain Corcoran)  
    Evelyn Pierce (Manicurist)  
    Maxine Castle (Opera singer)  
    Samuel Marx    

Summary: Four stowaways, Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo, are discovered aboard a luxury liner and are chased for the entire voyage by Captain Corcoran and his crew. At various times during the chase, Harpo becomes part of a Punch and Judy show, and Chico and Harpo impersonate the barber. Groucho hides in a closet in gangster Alky Briggs's stateroom, and when Groucho emerges from the closet, he finds Lucille, Briggs's wife, alone and flirts with her. Briggs suddenly comes in, and after Zeppo also bursts into the room, Briggs hires Groucho and Zeppo as his bodyguards. Meanwhile, Chico and Harpo wander into rival gangleader Joe Helton's room to play a game of chess and become his bodyguards. Briggs enters Helton's stateroom and announces his takeover of Helton's territory, but Helton orders him out, with the help of Chico and Harpo. Groucho later hires himself out to Helton as his personal bodyguard in an attempt to baffle logic. When the ocean liner docks, the stowaways try to impersonate singer Maurice Chevalier, whose passport Zeppo stole, but are unsuccessful. When a man faints, the stowaways hide in his stretcher and are carried off the ship. Later, Mary Helton is kidnapped at her coming-out party by Briggs's men and is held in the barn. Because Briggs has told Groucho of his plan, Groucho and the boys warn Helton and then go to the barn. A fight ensues, during which Zeppo rescues Mary and later knocks Briggs out just as Helton arrives. 

Production Company: Paramount Publix Corp.  
Distribution Company: Paramount Publix Corp.  
Director: Norman McLeod (Dir)
  Charles Barton (Asst dir)
Producer: Herman J. Mankiewicz (Assoc prod)
Writer: S. J. Perelman ([Wrt] by)
  Will B. Johnstone ([Wrt] by)
  Arthur Sheekman (Addl dial)
  J. Carver Pusey (Contr wrt)
  Al Shean (Contr wrt)
Photography: Arthur L. Todd (Photog)
Country: United States

Songs: "O sole mio," music by Edoardo di Capua, lyrics by Giovanni Capurro; "Sweet Adeline," music by Harry Armstrong, lyrics by Richard Gerard; "You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me," music and lyrics by Irving Kahal, Pierre Norman and Sammy Fain.
Composer: Richard Gerard
  Harry Armstrong
  Edoardo di Capua
  Sammy Fain
  Irving Kahal
  Pierre Norman

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Paramount Publix Corp. 17/9/1931 dd/mm/yyyy LP2486

Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Noiseless Recording

 
Genre: Comedy
 
Subjects (Major): Bodyguards
  Gangsters
  Impersonation and imposture
  Ocean liners
  Stowaways
 
Subjects (Minor): Barbers and barbershops
  Barns
  Chases
  Maurice Chevalier
  Fights
  Flirtation
  Kidnapping
  Masked balls
  Opera singers
  Passports
  Pianos
  Punch and Judy (Puppets)
  Puppets

Note: The opening title card to the film reads "Paramount Presents The Four Marx Brothers in Monkey Business ." In a contemporary interview, Norman McLeod mentions that there were up to twelve writers working on this film, and when Eddie Cantor visited the set, he made some contributions. A FD news item notes that Samuel Marx, father of the Marx Brothers, made his film debut at the age of 72 in this film. A modern source reports that he earned $12.50 a day for two days. This was McLeod's first solo directorial work. Although copyright records credit cartoonist J. Carver Pusey as contributing writer, modern sources refute any contribution to the final film by him. Modern sources do credit Nat Perrin as a contributing writer. Thelma Todd also appeared in the Marx Brothers' 1932 Paramount film Horse Feathers (see above). Scenes shot for Monkey Business are included in the 1931 Paramount promotional film The House That Shadows Built (see above). 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Film Daily   20 May 31   p. 21.
Film Daily   27 Sep 31   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Jul 31   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald   1 Aug 31   p. 30.
New York Times   8 Oct 31   p. 22.
Variety   13 Oct 31   p. 14.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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