Series: Charley Chase

Director: Charley Chase
Producer: Hal Roach
Photography: Francis Corby
Editor: William H. Ziegler
Sound: Warren B. Delaplain

Stars: Charley Chase, Joyce Compton, James Finlayson
Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Released: 09 November 1935
Length: 2 reels
Production No.: C-34
Filming dates: September 1935
Rating: -/10

Manhattan Monkey Business

Available on DVD:

It's evening as Charley walks along a busy street dressed impeccably on his way to a top-class restaurant, when he is stopped by an old friend and taxi driver, Harry (BOWEN). Charley tells him that all his life he has wanted to eat at the Ritz Plaza hotel just once, and finally after saving his money he now has the opportunity to fulfill his dream. Pleased for him, Harry offers to drive Charley to the restaurant, which is just a short distance.
Upon arrival, Charley tips the elderly doorman a $20 bill by mistake, keeping only $1 for his meal. Charley goes into the hotel and is (eventually) shown to a table by the head waiter, who seems surprised to find Charley without a dinner guest. A wig-wearing JAMES FINLAYSON is seated with his daughter, JOYCE COMPTON, and her pompous boyfriend at a nearby table. Father Fin asks his daughter, who is staring starry-eyed at Charley, if she knew him, but she confesses she does not. On the way to his table, Charley bumps into (literally) a diner who is returning to her seat.
Charley is seated and carefully calculates the cost of each item on the menu. Across the way, Finlayson is shown a lesson in table etiquette by his daughter's boyfriend, but fails miserably to engage his napkin up his jacket sleeve. Charley rushes outside the hotel to seek out the doorman whom he tipped earlier in order to get back the $20 bill he gave him in error.
A new doorman (HARRY BERNARD) informs Charley that the previous guy has quit his job on account of coming into the huge tip! Poor Charley has no money to pay his bill and is ushered back inside where he is given "temporary employment" by the head waiter. Assuming the deliberately-French name of 'Francois', Charley is put to work, greeting the guests as they arrive. His first customers are an obnxious man (BEN TAGGART) and his insanely jealous (and nipple-showing) wife (GERTRUDE ASTOR). Charley tries to engage in some pleasant conversation with the gentleman but receives only a cold look and a kick in the rear for his troubles!
Fin's inquisitive daughter is again caught staring over in Charley's direction. Fin makes out that he knows the man and engages Charley in small talk before inviting him over to the table and introducing his daughter. In an obvious plot to snub his daughter's boyfriend who is sitting with them, Fin encourages Charley to get close to the girl but the pleasure is short-lived when the head waiter forces Charley away to serve a lady guest. Charley discreetly pulls off a tail from the back of a customer's fur coat and then glues it onto his face as a moustache, then proceeds to take the lady's order - in French. After enduring a one-sided discussion with the lady, Charley surmises that she wants welsh rarebit for her meal. Finlayson wonders where 'Francois' has gone and goes to find him.
He bumps into Charley in disguise (with the silly moustache) and asks after Francois. Charley delivers a speech in French (quite well, it must be observed!) to Fin before resuming his duties. Charley takes the welsh rarebit to the French guest but is alarmed when he smells it. He attempts to serve the dish but the food is all gooey and elastic. The French woman looks on impatiently and in disbelief at the waiter but finally loses her patience when the food catapults across the table! The head waiter apologises to her profusely before pushing Charley (who now has sticky hands after putting them in the food) across the room.
Charley's hands end up on snobby boyfriend's dickie, pulling it off his chest and exposing a large navy tattoo, much to the amusement of the other diners. Meanwhile, Fin and his daughter have just finished dancing when Charley's hands get accidentally stuck to the back of her dress. As he attempts to pull away, his hands pull half of her dress off. Quickly realising this, Charley tries to cover up by dancing with the girl. He starts to sing to her, but eventually the inevitable happens and her dress is ripped off!  If this wasn't bad enough for poor Charley, his sticky hands then inadvertently remove Fin's wig off the top of his head as well!
The final scene sees Joyce running out into the yard on her farm as her father, along with a group including Charley ride into the farm on horseback. After Charley dismounts, he is excited to see the daughter and they all go inside... but not before he bangs his head on a large triangle hanging in the porch.

Favourite bit
Following the dance with his daughter, James Finlayson returns to his table to find her boyfriend with his chest exposed (after Charley has ripped off his dickie). When Finlayson sees the man's tattoo, he does a very funny close-up double-take! Makes me laugh every time!

Copyrighted October 16, 1935.
Joyce Compton makes her first of three appearances co-starring with Charley Chase.
The song Charley sings on the dancefloor is "When I Grow Too Old To Dream".
The film opens with a long shot (matte painting) of Manhattan.
It took Charley three months to save up the money to rent his uniform and the $21 he has for the meal.
Harry Bowen works for the Yellow Cab Company.
As Charley is waiting to be shown to a table, he briefly loses sight of the waiter. When he catches up with him, Charley rushes over and knocks a chair over with his left hand (just as he comes to a stop at James Finlayson's table).
There is a couple sitting on a table behind Charley. The man momentarily looks around at Charley, whilst the woman smokes in an elegant fashion. She is Symona Boniface.
Charley's meal comes to $19.65. There are two bottles of wine and three glasses, each still full, on his table when the cheque arrives.
When we first see Gertrude Astor (the obnoxious man's wife, Gwendolyn), she looks a bit cold, don't you think? It's amazing that scene passed the censors in 1935! Incidentally, the film was released on her 46th birthday.
James Finlayson makes a quip by saying, "that's the trouble with this country - there's too many foreigners in it!" Quite cheeky, considering Finlayson was Scottish!
Joyce's boyfriend has a tattoo of a boat on his chest, bearing the initals USN (United States Navy).
Although Charley is trying to free his sticky hand from the girl's dress, it is rather provocative towards the camera, as he continues to expose her naked back.
'The End' credit card is the same one used in Laurel & Hardy's Them Thar Hills.

Charley Chase
Joyce Compton
James Finlayson
Joyce's father
Harry Bowen
Harry, taxi driver
Edgar Norton
First doorman
Jean De Briac
Head waiter
Ellinor Vanderveer
Haughty dowager diner
Milton Owen
Symona Boniface
Dinner guest behind Charley
Lester Dorr
Dinner guest
Harry Bernard
Second doorman
Ivan Linow
Raymond, the busboy
Ben Taggart
Surly diner
Gertrude Astor
Marcelle Corday
French dowager diner
Baldwin Cooke
Diner in French restaurant
Polly Chase
Constant Franke
Second waiter
Albert Pollet
Third waiter
Rich (Joyce's boyfriend)

CREDITS (click image to enlarge)

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Smile When The Raindrops Fall by Brian Anthony & Andy Edmonds (book)
The Charley Chase Talkies 1929-1940 by James L. Neibaur (book)
Richard Finegan (stills, press sheet and help)
Jesse Brisson (identification of Polly Chase)

This page was last updated on: 09 November 2023