|Directed by||Norman Z. McLeod|
|Written by|| S. J. Perelman |
Will B. Johnstone
Nat Perrin 
|Produced by||Herman J. Mankiewicz|
|Starring|| Groucho Marx |
|Cinematography||Arthur L. Todd|
|Music by||John Leipold|
|Distributed by||Paramount Publix Corp |
|77-78 minutes |
Monkey Business is a 1931 American pre-Code comedy film.   It is the third of the Marx Brothers' released movies (Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo), and the first with an original screenplay rather than an adaptation of one of their Broadway shows. The film also features Thelma Todd, Harry Woods and Ruth Hall. It is directed by Norman Z. McLeod with screenplay by S. J. Perelman and Will B. Johnstone. Much of the story takes place on an ocean liner crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
On board an ocean liner, four stowaways hide in barrels in the ship's cargo hold. After singing "Sweet Adeline", they are discovered. The naval officers spend the rest of the voyage chasing and attempting to arrest the stowaways. Chico and Harpo disrupt a chess game and confiscate the board, taking it into the stateroom of racketeer Big Joe Helton and his daughter Mary, during a confrontation with rival gangster Alky Briggs. After they scare off Briggs, Big Joe hires Chico and Harpo to be his bodyguards. Groucho dances and romances with Briggs' wife, Lucille, until he is caught and threatened by Briggs. Groucho's audacity convinces Briggs to hire him and Zeppo. Briggs gives them loaded guns, which they immediately ditch in a bucket of water. Groucho offers his services to Big Joe, who says he will think it over.
As the ocean liner is about to dock in the United States, the stowaways realize that to get off the boat, they must steal passports and fool customs officials. Zeppo steals the passport of movie star Maurice Chevalier, and demonstrates his ability to mimic Chevalier's singing. The four butt in line at customs and Zeppo impersonates Chevalier. He is unsuccessful, however, and passes the passport to Chico, Groucho and Harpo, who each attempt unconvincing portrayals of Chevalier singing the same song, with Harpo resorting to a phonograph strapped on his back with an actual record of Chevalier singing. The four escape the authorities after hiding under a covered load of baggage.
Big Joe and his daughter, whom Zeppo met and romanced on board, host a party at which Groucho makes announcements, Chico plays piano and Harpo plays harp. Briggs' men kidnap Big Joe's daughter and take her to an old barn. The former stowaways follow and a fight ensues. The daughter is rescued, and Groucho attempts to find a needle in a haystack.
Except in the credits and in the screenplay, the Marx Brothers' characters have no names in this film. They are referred to simply as "the stowaways".
Writers S. J. Perelman and Will B. Johnstone were excited to be working with the Marx Brothers. However, producer Herman J. Mankiewicz advised them to lower their expectations. He called the brothers "mercurial, devious, and ungrateful ... I hate to depress you, but you'll rue the day you ever took the assignment. This is an ordeal by fire, make sure you wear asbestos pants." Of the original script delivered by Perelman and Johnstone, Groucho said, "It stinks." He considered Perelman too intellectual to write for the Marx Brothers manic comic style. The final script was the result of five months of work by the brothers, gag writers, director Norman Z. MacLeod and Mankiewicz.  MacLeod later said that up to 12 writers worked on the film, and that Eddie Cantor contributed when he visited the set during shooting. 
Typical for many Marx Brothers films, production censors demanded changes in some lines with sexual innuendo.  Monkey Business was banned in Ireland because censors feared it would encourage anarchic tendencies.    In Ireland, the film was passed on January 8, 1932, with '16 unspecified cuts to script', including characters falling over each other in a dance scene.  
This is the first Marx Brothers film not to feature Margaret Dumont: this time their female foil is comedian Thelma Todd, who would also star in the Marx Brothers' next film, Horse Feathers . In December 1935, Todd was found dead in her car, inside her garage apparently from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. A line of dialogue in Monkey Business seems to foreshadow Todd's death. Alone with Todd in her cabin, Groucho quips: "You're a woman who's been getting nothing but dirty breaks. Well, we can clean and tighten your brakes, but you'll have to stay in the garage all night." 
Early on in Monkey Business, the Brothers—playing stowaways concealed in barrels—harmonize unseen while performing the popular song "Sweet Adeline". It is a matter of debate whether Harpo joins in with the singing. (One of the ship's crew asserts to the captain that he knows there are four stowaways because he can hear them singing "Sweet Adeline".) If so, it would be one of only a few times Harpo used speech on screen, as opposed to other vocalizations such as whistling or sneezing. At least one other possible on-screen utterance occurs in the film A Day at the Races (1937), in which Groucho, Chico, and Harpo are heard singing "Down by the Old Mill Stream" in three-part harmony.
This was the first Marx film to be written specifically for film, and the first shot in Hollywood. Their first two films were filmed at Paramount Pictures' Astoria Studios in Queens, New York City.
The Marx Brothers' real life father (Sam "Frenchie" Marx) is briefly seen in a cameo appearance, sitting on top of luggage behind the Brothers on the pier as they wave to the First Mate upon alighting. Sam Marx was 72 at the time, and the appearance was his film debut. He was paid $12.50 each day for two days' work. 
Monkey Business was Norman MacLeod's solo directorial debut. 
One of the sequences in this film involves the four brothers attempting to get off the ship using a passport stolen from famous singer (and fellow Paramount star) Maurice Chevalier. Each brother impersonates Chevalier (complete with straw hat) and sings "You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me" ("If the nightingales could sing like you ...") in turn. This poses a problem for the mute Harpo, who mimes to a hidden phonograph tied to his back which plays the Chevalier recording. When the turntable slows down and he has to rewind it, the ruse is uncovered. Earlier, when Zeppo first meets gangster Joe Helton's daughter Mary on the promenade of the ocean liner, "Just One More Chance" by Arthur Johnston and Sam Coslow can be heard playing in the background. Chico performs two pieces on the piano, the "Pizzicato" from Sylvia by Léo Delibes, which then morphs into the song "When I Take My Sugar to Tea", written by Sammy Fain, Irving Kahal, and Pierre Norman. Harpo performs "I'm Daffy over You" by Sol Violinsky and Chico. The dance band at Mary's debut party is playing the song "Ho Hum!" when the Marx Brothers arrive.
Monkey Business was a critical and box office success,  and is considered one of the Marx Brothers' best and funniest films.  
Contemporary reviews were positive. Mordaunt Hall of The New York Times wrote, "Whether it is really as funny as 'Animal Crackers' is a matter of opinion. Suffice it to say that few persons will be able to go to the Rivoli and keep a straight face."  Variety's review began, "The usual Marx madhouse and plenty of laughs sprouting from a plot structure resembling one of those California bungalows which sprout up overnight."  Film Daily agreed that the plot was "flimsy", but also found the film "crammed all the way with laughs and there's never a dead spot."  John Mosher of The New Yorker thought the film was "the best this family has given us." 
The film was evidently based on two routines the Marx Brothers did during their early days in vaudeville (Home Again and Mr. Green's Reception), along with a story idea from one of Groucho's friends, Bert Granet, called The Seas Are Wet.   The passport scene is a reworking of a stage sketch in which the brothers burst into a theatrical agent's office auditioning an impersonation of a current big star. It appeared in their stage shows On the Mezzanine Floor and I'll Say She Is (1924). This skit was also done by the Marxes in the Paramount promotional film The House That Shadows Built (1931).
The concept of the Marx Brothers being stowaways on a ship would be repeated in an episode of their radio series Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel (1933) in the episode "The False Roderick", and would also be recycled in their MGM film A Night at the Opera (1935).  The essence of Groucho's joke, "Sure, I'm a doctor—where's the horse?" would serve as an integral plot element for their film A Day at the Races (1937). Also repeated in that later film would be the uproarious medical examination that Harpo and Chico give opera singer Madame Swempski (Cecil Cunningham).
According to Turner Classic Movies' Robert Osborne, a sequel was planned for this film that would continue the gangster theme. During the development of that film, aviator Charles Lindbergh's son was kidnapped and killed by what were believed to be gangsters. The writers quickly shifted gears and instead based the next film, Horse Feathers , very loosely on the Marx Brothers' earlier stage show Fun in Hi Skule.  
Julius Henry "Groucho" Marx was an American comedian, actor, writer, stage, film, radio, singer, television star and vaudeville performer. He is generally considered to have been a master of quick wit and one of America's greatest comedians.
The Marx Brothers were an American family comedy act that was successful in vaudeville, on Broadway, and in motion pictures from 1905 to 1949. Five of the Marx Brothers' thirteen feature films were selected by the American Film Institute (AFI) as among the top 100 comedy films, with two of them, Duck Soup (1933) and A Night at the Opera (1935), in the top fifteen. They are widely considered by critics, scholars and fans to be among the greatest and most influential comedians of the 20th century. The brothers were included in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Stars list of the 25 greatest male stars of Classical Hollywood cinema, the only performers to be included collectively.
Animal Crackers is a 1930 American pre-Code Marx Brothers comedy film directed by Victor Heerman. The film stars the Marx Brothers,, with Lillian Roth and Margaret Dumont. It was based on their Broadway musical of the same name, in which mayhem and zaniness ensue when a valuable painting goes missing during a party in honor of famed African explorer Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding. A critical and commercial success upon its initial release, it was filmed at Paramount's Astoria Studios in Astoria, Queens; it was the second of two films the Brothers would make in New York City.
Duck Soup is a 1933 American pre-Code musical black comedy film written by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, with additional dialogue by Arthur Sheekman and Nat Perrin, directed by Leo McCarey. Released theatrically by Paramount Pictures on November 17, 1933, it starred the Marx Brothers and also featured Margaret Dumont, Louis Calhern, Raquel Torres and Edgar Kennedy. It was the last of five Marx Brothers movies released by Paramount Pictures. In the film, Groucho portrays the newly installed president of the mythical country of Freedonia. Zeppo is his secretary, while Chico and Harpo are spies for the neighboring country of Sylvania. Relations between Groucho and the Sylvanian ambassador deteriorate during the film, and they go to war at the conclusion.
A Night at the Opera is a 1935 American comedy film starring the Marx Brothers, and featuring Kitty Carlisle, Allan Jones, Margaret Dumont, Sig Ruman, and Walter Woolf King. It was the first of five films the Marx Brothers made under contract for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer after their departure from Paramount Pictures, and the first after Zeppo left the act. The film was written by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind from a story by James Kevin McGuinness, with additional uncredited dialogue by Al Boasberg. The film was directed by Sam Wood.
Arthur "Harpo" Marx was an American comedian, actor, mime artist, and harpist, and the second-oldest of the Marx Brothers. In contrast to the mainly verbal comedy of his brothers Groucho and Chico, Harpo's comic style was visual, being an example of vaudeville, clown and pantomime traditions. He wore a curly reddish blond wig and was silent in all his movie appearances, instead blowing a horn or whistling to communicate. Marx frequently employed props such as a horn cane constructed from a lead pipe, tape, and a bulbhorn.
Leonard Joseph "Chico" Marx was an American comedian, actor and pianist. He was the oldest brother in the Marx Brothers comedy troupe, alongside his brothers Adolph ("Harpo"), Julius ("Groucho"), Milton ("Gummo") and Herbert ("Zeppo"). His persona in the act was that of a charming, uneducated but crafty con artist, seemingly of rural Italian origin, who wore shabby clothes and sported a curly-haired wig and Tyrolean hat. On screen, Chico is often in alliance with Harpo, usually as partners in crime, and is also frequently seen trying to con or outfox Groucho. Leonard was the oldest of the Marx Brothers to live past early childhood, the first-born being Manfred Marx who had died in infancy. In addition to his work as a performer, he played an important role in the management and development of the act in its early years.
Herbert Manfred "Zeppo" Marx was an American comedic actor, theatrical agent, and engineer. He was the youngest and last survivor of the five Marx Brothers. He appeared in the first five Marx Brothers feature films, from 1929 to 1933, but then left the act to start his second career as an engineer and theatrical agent.
Horse Feathers is a 1932 pre-Code comedy film starring the Marx Brothers. It stars the Four Marx Brothers, Thelma Todd and David Landau. It was written by Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, S. J. Perelman, and Will B. Johnstone. Kalmar and Ruby also wrote the original songs for the film. Several of the film's gags were taken from the Marx Brothers' stage comedy from the 1900s, Fun in Hi Skule. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term "horse feathers" is U.S. slang for "nonsense, rubbish, balderdash," attributed originally to Billy DeBeck.
Abraham Elieser Adolph Schönberg, known as Al Shean, was a comedian and vaudeville performer. Other sources give his birth name variously as Adolf Schönberg, Albert Schönberg, or Alfred Schönberg. He is most remembered for being half of the vaudeville team Gallagher and Shean, and as the uncle of the Marx Brothers.
The Cocoanuts is a 1929 pre-Code musical comedy film starring the Marx Brothers. Produced for Paramount Pictures by Walter Wanger, who is not credited, the film also stars Mary Eaton, Oscar Shaw, Margaret Dumont and Kay Francis. It was the first sound film to credit more than one director, and was adapted to the screen by Morrie Ryskind from the George S. Kaufman Broadway musical play. Five of the film's tunes were composed by Irving Berlin, including "When My Dreams Come True", sung by Oscar Shaw and Mary Eaton.
Hips, Hips, Hooray! is a 1934 American Pre-Code slapstick comedy starring Bert Wheeler, Robert Woolsey, Ruth Etting, Thelma Todd, and Dorothy Lee. During its initial theatrical run, it was preceded by the two-color Technicolor short Not Tonight, Josephine, directed by Edward F. Cline.
The House That Shadows Built (1931) is a feature compilation film from Paramount Pictures, made to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the studio's founding in 1912. The film was a promotional film for exhibitors and never had a regular theatrical release.
Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel is a situation comedy radio show starring two of the Marx Brothers, Groucho and his older brother Chico Marx, and written primarily by Nat Perrin and Arthur Sheekman. The series was originally broadcast in the United States on the National Broadcasting Company's Blue Network beginning November 28, 1932, and ended May 22, 1933. Sponsored by the Standard Oil Companies of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Louisiana and the Colonial Beacon Oil Company, it was the Monday night installment of the Five-Star Theater, an old-time radio variety series that offered a different program each weeknight. Episodes were broadcast live from NBC's WJZ station in New York City and later from a sound stage at RKO Pictures in Los Angeles, California, before returning to WJZ for the final episodes.
Humor Risk, also known as Humorisk, is a lost unreleased 1921 silent comedy short film that was the first film to star the Marx Brothers.
Hawkshaw the Detective was a comic strip character featured in an eponymous cartoon serial by Gus Mager from February 23, 1913, to November 12, 1922, and again from December 13, 1931, to 1952. The name of Mager's character was derived from the common American slang of the time, in which a hawkshaw meant a detective—that slang itself derived from playwright Tom Taylor's use of the name for the detective in his 1863 stage play The Ticket of Leave Man.
I'll Say She Is (1924) is a musical comedy revue written by brothers Will B. Johnstone and Tom Johnstone (music). It was the Broadway debut of the Marx Brothers. A revival of I'll Say She Is, as "adapted and expanded" by the writer-performer Noah Diamond, was seen Off Broadway at the Connelly Theater in 2016.
The Mad, Mad, Mad Comedians is a 1970 American animated television special produced by Rankin/Bass Productions. After the Christmas special Frosty the Snowman (1969), it was Rankin/Bass' second hand-drawn animated work to be outsourced to Osamu Tezuka's Mushi Production in Tokyo, Japan. The show aired on ABC on April 7, 1970 before the airing of that year's Oscars. It was a tribute to early vaudeville, and featured animated reworkings of various famous comedians' acts.
Samuel Marx was the father of American entertainment group (the) Marx Brothers, stars of vaudeville, Broadway and film, and the husband of Minnie Marx, who served as the group's manager.
Joe Adamson is an author of several books, including:
The Marx Brothers 'Monkey Business' was also banned in Ireland in 1931 for fear it would "provoke the Irish to anarchy".