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Howard Hawks: The Measure of Man

Saturday, March 31, 2012
8:35 p.m. Monkey Business
Howard Hawks (U.S., 1952)

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A pharmaceutical Fountain of Youth accidentally invented by a lab chimpanzee unleashes long-suppressed impulses in cautious chemist Cary Grant and sensible wife Ginger Rogers in a slapstick fable that “sets out—gaily, logically, and with an unholy abandon—to chronicle the fatal stages in the degradation of a superior mind” (Jacques Rivette). Reprising elements of Bringing Up Baby, the film recalls Hawks’s own screwball prime while turning the stars into the kind of kids they probably never were: Grant doffs his Coke-bottle glasses and takes off in a convertible with Marilyn Monroe; Rogers becomes a weepy, bashful bride. Even while it revels in the characters’ infantile adventures, the script pits young-as-you-feel bromides against the sheer horrors of immaturity. Grant’s character puts it pretty succinctly: “Maladjustment, near idiocy, and a series of low comedy disasters, that’s what youth is. I don’t see how anyone survives it.”

—Juliet Clark

• Written by Ben Hecht, I. A. L. Diamond, Charles Lederer, from a story by Harry Segall. Photographed by Milton Krasner. With Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Charles Coburn, Marilyn Monroe. (97 mins, B&W, 35mm, From 20th Century Fox)