Monkey Businessmen is the 92nd short subject starring American slapstick comedy team The Three Stooges. The trio made a total of 190 shorts for Columbia Pictures between 1934 and 1959.
The Stooges are inept electricians who manage to electrocute themselves as well as their boss, "Smilin'" Sam McGann (Fred Kelsey). After predictably getting fired from their job, Curly suggests that the boys take "a nice, long rest." They spot an ad for Mallard's Rest Home, and embark on their R&R trip.
Upon arrival, the boys are introduced to Dr. Mallard (Kenneth MacDonald, in his debut appearance with the Stooges) who prescribes a detailed, regimented schedule of exercise, only to be fed a "nice bowl of milk" for breakfast and lunch. Mallard then assigns two nurses to train the Stooges, which sends the boys head over heels into fits of love — until the nurses turn out to be men (Cy Schindell and Wade Crosby).
While the Stooges are vigorously training in the gym the following day, Moe and Larry attempt to help Curly flex his muscles by removing the individual weights, pound by pound. The weights land on the nurses' heads, knocking them cold. In their daze, the two spill the beans that Mallard is a quack, and the Stooges realize that the phony doctor is out to swindle the trio from their hard-earned money. In their efforts to escape, Curly bumps into a wealthy man with a bad foot (Snub Pollard), and is handsomely rewarded with a $1,000 for his "efforts." When Curly suggests using the money to take "a nice, long rest," Moe and Larry promptly clobber him.
Monkey Businessmen was shot in January 1946, the first entry to be filmed after the Stooges' annual seven-month production hiatus. 42-year-old Curly Howard had suffered a series of minor strokes in early 1945, and his performances had become marred by slurred speech and slower timing. Novice director Edward Bernds had to deal with Curly's condition while simultaneously learning the ropes of directing. Understandably, Bernds hoped the hiatus would allow Curly enough time to recover from the effects of his strokes and resume his abilities as the lead Stooge.
Curly was in such bad shape that brother Moe Howard had to coach Curly on his lines. Though most of the coaching never made its way onscreen, Moe can be seen nudging Curly in Dr. Mallard's office, reminding him to say his line, "I know: a nice big bowl of milk!"
Bernds painfully remembered the grueling filming process:
- "...it was strange the way he (Curly) went up and down. In the order I shot the pictures, not in the order they were released, he was down for A Bird in the Head and The Three Troubledoers, he was up for Micro-Phonies, way down for Monkey Businessmen, and then up again, for the last time, in Three Little Pirates. In Monkey Businessmen, he (Curly) was at his worst. Moe coached him the way one would a child, getting him to repeat each line after him. We had to shoot Curly repeating one line at a time."
- The title is a play on the expression "Monkey Business."
- Two special effects in the film were achieved as follows: a smoke tube was hidden in Larry's hand when he feels Curly's burning forehead, and compressed air pipes were used to blow Moe's hair upwards.
- When McGann is about to hit the Stooges across the wall, two pencil crosses can be seen on the wall, showing the actor where to punch. A closer look at the wall reveals the edges of two square patches, which are to be broken through by the actor's blows.
- When Doctor Mallard knocks Curly off the operating table, he screams as he plummets, but the voice heard is not Curly at all, but rather late actor Bud Jamison.
- The gag where the Stooges constantly bumps a patient with a bad foot recycled in 1953 Bowery Boys comedy Private Eyes with Emil Sitka as the man in the wheelchair.
- Solomon, Jon (2002). The Complete Three Stooges: The Official Filmography and Three Stooges Companion. Comedy III Productions, Inc.. pp. 278. ISBN 0-9711868-0-4.
- Okuda, Ted; Edward Watz (1986). The Columbia Comedy Shorts. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. pp. 66–67. ISBN 0-89950-181-8.
- Maurer, Joan Howard; Jeff Lenburg, Greg Lenburg (1982). The Three Stooges Scrapbook. Citadel Press. pp. 76, 242. ISBN 0-8065-0946-5.