Bringing Up Baby (1938)

“Now it isn’t that I don’t like you, Susan, because, after all, in moments of quiet, I’m strangely drawn toward you, but — well, there haven’t been any quiet moments.”

Bringing Up Baby Poster

Synopsis:
When a wacky heiress (Katharine Hepburn) falls for a nerdy paleontologist (Cary Grant), she does everything in her power to keep him at her side.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Howard Hawks’ “zany, lightning-paced screwball comedy” received a scathing review from The New York Times upon its release, where it was panned as simply one predictable comedic gag after the other: “After the first five minutes of the Music Hall’s new show—we needed those five to orient ourselves—we were content to play the game called ‘the cliche expert goes to the movies’ and we are not at all proud to report that we scored 100 percent.” Indeed, …Baby bombed at the box office, Hawks was fired from his next production, and Hepburn was forced to buy out her contract.

Nowadays, however, Bringing Up Baby is recognized as a true classic of 1930s cinema, with hilarious dialogue, countless well-executed pratfalls, and excellent comedic performances by both Grant and Hepburn (who is accurately described by DVD Savant as “a female cross between Bugs Bunny and Groucho Marx”; see link below). As Peary notes, however, “your enjoyment of the film may depend on how long you can tolerate” watching Hepburn mischievously causing one problem after the other for Grant; indeed, in order to fully appreciate Bringing Up Baby, you must give yourself over to its inspired lunacy, and rest assured that everything will turn out — as it should — just fine in the end.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Katharine Hepburn’s marvelously loopy performance (her first comedic role) as the screwball heiress; as noted by DVD Savant, she “makes the script play like her own improvisation”
    Hepburn
  • Cary Grant as the put-upon, bespectacled scientist who wants nothing more than to retrieve his “intercostal clavicle” and get married at 3:00
    Grant
  • Charles Ruggles as “big game hunter” Major Horace Applegate
    Ruggles
  • Hepburn limping gaily after losing the heel of one shoe, chanting, “I was born on the side of the hill–”
    Heel
  • Countless hilarious lines and rejoinders: “There is a leopard on your roof and it’s my leopard and I have to get it and to get it I have to sing–”
    Leopard on Roof

Must See?
Yes. This classic comedy should be seen at least once by all film fanatics.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “Bringing Up Baby (1938)”

  1. As Hepburn is told early on, “The love impulse in man very frequently reveals itself in terms of conflict.”

    Ain’t it the truth! And the way that plays out in ‘BUB’ makes the movie one of the top five comedies of all time – well, one of my top five, at any rate – and one of the most delightful of musts.

    It is truly, as succinctly noted, “inspired lunacy”. The zaniness takes off like a shot from the get-go and does not let up. Not only is there a rather constant flow of visual hijinks (the best saved for last!), but the terrific script is peppered with beautifully timed throwaway lines. It’s inconceivable that this film bombed in its day – what the h did they want?! Apparently, more often than not (not unlike today – sigh), they wanted a lot less.

    Director Hawks would rarely match this level of comic bliss. (I can only designate three other Hawks comedies that are as satisfying: ‘Twentieth Century’, ‘His Girl Friday’, and, to a slightly lesser degree, ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’.) Quite honestly a film I never tire of and could probably watch anytime.

    A particular favorite among the scenes comes near the end, when the madcap antics lead everyone to a jail. Hepburn’s comic ability shines in a unique way when she takes on the ‘character’ of ‘Swingin’ Door Suzy’. And watch Grant’s face when that happens.

    And, yes, what are we to make of Grant’s famous line, “Because I just went GAY all of a sudden!”? – said while wearing Hepburn’s dressing gown and jumping in the air. All I can say is it’s a priceless moment – and an intriguing one…for 1938.

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