S.J. Perelman, whom I featured in an earlier post, was a brilliant humorist. His relationship with the Marx Brothers in general, and Groucho in particular, was a stormy one. Groucho was a fan of Perelman's prose, including his first book, Dawn Ginsbergh's Revenge, of which Groucho wrote, "From the moment I picked up your book until I put it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day, I intend reading it." Groucho subsequently asked Perelman to work on a radio script for the Marx Brothers. His cowriter was W.B. Johnstone, who had written the Marx Brothers' stage show I'll Say She Is. The writers came up with the idea of the Marx Brothers as stowaways on a luxury oceanliner. Groucho liked the idea so much, he convinced Paramount Pictures to hire Perelman and Johnstone to write the next Marx Brothers movie. When Perelman arrived in Hollywood from New York, producer Herman J. Mankiewicz told Perelman that the Marx Brothers were "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." Mankiewicz' words came true when Perelman read the completed script to the Marx Brothers. After he finished, Groucho said (depending on which version of the story you believe) either, "It stinks," or "I think we need a script."
Over the ensuing months, with the input of the brothers and other writers, an acceptable script for Monkey Business was produced. When Monkey Business was released in 1931, Arthur Sheekman received credit for the screenplay. Even though Perelman was uncredited, undoubtedly some of his material remained in the script.
Perelman hated Hollywood, but stayed around long enough to work on the script for Horse Feathers, for which he, along with Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar, did receive screen credit when it was released in 1932.
After he left Hollywood, Perelman resented the fact that much of of his reputation was based on his relatively brief association with the Marx Brothers, of whom he said, "I did two films with them, which in its way is perhaps my greatest distinction in life, because anybody who ever worked on any picture for the Marx Brothers said he would rather be chained to a galley oar and lashed at ten-minute intervals until the blood spurted from his frame than ever work for those sons of bitches again."
The interested reader may want to read a more in-depth and thoroughly engaging profile of S.J. Perelman by Becky Karush at her blog.