Film / Monkey Business
This is the only way to travel.

Monkey Business is a 1931 comedy film starring the legendary Marx Brothers.

Much of the story takes place upon a cruise liner bound for America. Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo play four stowaways, who spend much of the journey trying to avoid the captain and his first mate. During and after the journey, the four become involved with an ongoing dispute between rivaling gangsters, which the four brothers solve in their own way. Thelma Todd co-stars as the flirtatious wife of one of the thugs. Much hilarity ensues.

Like other early Marx films such as Horse Feathers and Duck Soup, Monkey Business is much more anarchic and gag-driven than later movies like A Night at the Opera, which heavily feature romance, musical numbers, and, well, plots. This was also the Brothers' first film written expressly for the screen rather than adapted from a stage play; S. J. Perelman was one of the writers.

Not to be confused with the 1952 Howard Hawks screwball comedy starring Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers and Marilyn Monroe, which involves the accidental invention of a youth potion.

Tropes featured include:

  • Closet Shuffle: Used by the stowaways to avoid getting caught.
    Lucille: What are you doing in that closet?
    Groucho: Nothing — come on in!
  • The Family for the Whole Family: The rival bootleggers, Big Joe Helton and Alky Briggs.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: "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."
    • However, it didn't all get past the radar; the original line also had Groucho propose to "polish your frame and oil your joints", but that was nixed by The Hays Code.
  • Gilligan Cut: There's no actual cut, but Zeppo achieves the same effect when he tells his love interest he'll never leave her... then immediately bolts, as a ship's steward approaches.
  • Invisible Celebrity Guest: Maurice Chevalier is supposedly a passenger on the ocean liner, and a meeting with him leads into one of the film's most famous scenes, but the meeting takes place entirely off-screen.
  • No Name Given: None of the brothers' characters are actually named in the film, and each of them is credited just as 'A Stowaway' in the credits. The general consensus seems to be that each brother is essentially appearing As Himself.
  • Not So Above It All: Notable as one of the few times Zeppo gleefully goes along with his brothers' antics and even gets in a few zingers of his own.
  • Pass the Popcorn: Groucho cheerfully stands between Alky Briggs and his wife while they have a spat, clearly enjoying the show. He even referees the argument, letting the participants know when it's their turn to speak. When the wife gets a little too angry, Groucho hands Briggs a gun, saying, "Here, big boy, you're going to need this more than I will."
  • They Call Me Mister Tibbs:
    Briggs: Now, listen, bozo—
    Groucho: That's Mister Bozo to you.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Zeppo: He spends the first half of the film running from ship security and being nervous about holding a gun. He ends the movie brawling with gangsters, knocking one out.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Harpo infiltrates a Punch and Judy show in progress, and starts controlling and imitating the what happened to whoever was controlling them before he got involved?
    • While at the party towards the end Groucho starts to romance Lucille Briggs again but they are interrupted by her husband. Lucille runs away to avoid being seen and never turns up again, leaving that subplot unresolved.
    Briggs: Who was that, my wife?
    Groucho: Married for twelve years and you have to ask me?!
  • Which Restroom Dilemma: In one scene, Harpo stands in front of a bathroom sign that apparently reads "men". A guy enters then gets thrown out. Then Harpo leaves and we see that he was obscuring the "Wo" in "Women".