The first Marx Brothers film to be written directly for the screen (its authors included S. J. Perelman, Arthur Sheekman and Will B. Johnstone), Monkey Business is also the merry Marxes' first Hollywood production. Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo are brilliantly cast as four stowaways on an ocean liner, bound for New York. As our heroes endeavor to elude dimwitted First Mate Gibson (Tom Kennedy), each of the brothers gets involved in an adventure of his own. Groucho finds himself in a menage a trois with gangster Alky Briggs (Harry Briggs) and Briggs' sexy wife Lucille (Thelma Todd); Harpo joins a "Punch and Judy" puppet show, driving the ship's crew into a frenzy of confusion; Chico hires himself out as bodyguard to retired bootlegger Joe Helton (Rockliffe Fellowes); and Zeppo romances Joe's pretty daughter Mary (Ruth Hall). Once they've arrived in New York, the Marx boys head to Helton's Long Island mansion, where, after the obligatory harp-and-piano musical interludes, the fearsome foursome team up to rescue Mary from her kidnappers. There are far too many wonderful moments in Monkey Business to detail here, but highlights include Groucho's initial confrontation with Alky Briggs ("With a little study, you'll go a long way, and I wish you'd start now!") and his romantic tete-a-tetes with Lucille ("Come with me, and we'll lodge with my fleas in the hills -- er, flee to my lodge in the hills"); Harpo and Chico's attempts to shave a sleeping barbershop customer ("You know what, partner? I think we give-a him one snoop too much"); and the classic setpiece, "borrowed" from the team's early Broadway hit I'll Say She Is, in which all Four Marx Brothers try to slip past the customs officials by posing as Maurice Chevalier! Though not the best of their Paramount features, Monkey Business is still among the funniest Marx Brothers comedies ever made -- and one of the funniest comedies, period.
by Hal Erickson synopsis