Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

For a long time I only owned Bringing Up Baby on vhs, but I finally broke down and bought the dvd (I hate re-buying movies I already have) and celebrated with a viewing! Howard Hawks's classic slapstick comedy stars Cary Grant as Dr David Huxley, a mild-mannered paleontologist/zoologist/professor (?) attempting to secure funding for a big dinosaur-assembly project from a wealthy elderly lady. While trying to appeal to her financial consultant, he experiences multiple collisions with a wacky, self-absorbed hurricane of a woman named Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) and is soon swept up in her fast-talking, law-bending, ridiculous lifestyle.

She is the niece of David's potential donor and promises to get the money for him, but in the meantime the two must contend with her new pet leopard on the loose in rural Connecticut and a missing intercostal clavicle bone that David needs to complete his skeleton, all on the day he was supposed to be married to his uptight assistant.

Well it's always nice to see two of my favorite people hanging out in a clever comedy and speaking remarkably quickly to one another, I must say. Katharine Hepburn had never done comedy before and her career was in decline, but she really gave it her all as the delightfully bubble-headed Susan. She's weird and disruptive and nonsensical and just generally all over the place, resulting in a fun and fascinating performance that's always smile-inducing. Her character is very over the top and it's clear Hepburn is dedicated to pushing her to the limit. Grant, already a master of comedic timing, is his usual adorable, excitable self, imbuing David with a range of exasperated faces and unexpected outbursts. There are other people in this movie too, but to be honest no one really sticks out because Hepburn and Grant totally dominate the production. Well, except for Baby, obviously, who does a fine job as a lovable, potentially dangerous leopard.

The script is fast-paced and funny, with inventive dialogue and goofy physical comedy that charms me as much now as when I was a kid. There are some impressive special effects with the leopard, several cute renditions of "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby", and a look at Katharine Hepburn's underwear. Not to mention Cary Grant in a sheer ladies' robe. Mhmm.

It's totally prejudice against studious ladies who wear glasses though. Not all of us are so uptight, you guys! Sorry that I have poor eyesight and like to read!


Pair This Movie With: It definitely got me in the mood for Arsenic and Old Lace, one of my all-time favorite classic comedies. Or if you just like slapstick humor mixed with animal rearing, there's always Going Ape!

My original poster design for this film is available for purchase.


  1. Ha! I remember this film as being totally brilliant and also notable for one of the earliest (the earliest?) usage of the word "gay" being used to denote homosexuality in popular cinema. The censor didn't know what it meant and so left it in the movie.

    This was one of the very first VHS cassette movies i bought back in the early days of the sell-thru market... for the princely sum of six pounds and ninety nine pence. I think this review has inspired me to go do what you did. Time for me to upgrade it to DVD! Hope the transfer and print are up to scratch!


  2. I thought Bringing Up Baby helped revive Hepburn's career? She was considered poison for profits until B.U.B, when she finally became a success. I haven't seen it yet, but it sounds like a fun movie.

  3. Looooooove this movie! This is absolutely one of my favourite Hepburn performances and I love the way that she and Grant play off of each other.

  4. Nuts: Yes- many film historians consider it the first use of the word "gay" as it is currently defined! It was an ad-lib from Grant.

    Allison: Actually if I remember correctly, the film didn't do that well at the time and sort of solidified the "Hepburn is box office poison" thing. She didn't make too many films in the next two years but had a comeback with The Philadelphia Story, which was her personal project.

    Norma: Yes they are so fantastic together! I still need to see Holiday and Sylvia Scarlett, though.

  5. Don't forget to check out 'The Philadelphia Story' too, which also has Jimmy Stewart.

  6. Rich: Oh my, of course I've seen The Philadelphia Story, it's one of my favorite movies! Another one I only have on vhs though since I bought it so long ago. That might be the next upgrade.

  7. Howard Hawks was amazing. I was bothered by a friend of mine to watch this movie for the longest time. After I finally saw it with her I went out and bought it.

  8. One of the best comedies ever, Cary Grant was such an underappreciated comedic actor. I quote this one endlessly. "What's in the box?" "I'll be with you in a minute, Mr. Peabody!"