Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Grant and Hepburn put Baby in the Corner
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. - Susan
Considering when originally released back in 1938 it was a flop it's kind of ironic that now "Bringing Up Baby" is held in such high esteem as one of the greatest screwball comedies ever made. And to be honest it deserves the accolade because "Bringing Up Baby" is a wildly funny and daft movie. But at the same time it is brilliantly written and features great comic chemistry between Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, which if you consider that this was Hepburn's first foray into screwball comedy is all the more impressive. Even now over 70 years later "Bringing Up Baby" is still brilliantly funny and very few movies have come close to ever matching it.
It's been 4 years in the making but finally Dr. David Huxley (Cary Grant - Sylvia Scarlett) is about to complete his brontosaurus skeleton with the arrival of an intercostals clavicle bone. Not only that but with his wedding to his assistant Alice Swallow (Virginia Walker) just a day away and a good chance to win a $1 million endowment from wealthy dowager Mrs. Carleton Random (May Robson) everything seems to be going right. But that is until he bumps into Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn - Stage Door) on the golf course and from that moment on his life turns into chaos as she keeps on throwing a spanner in the works and he finds himself ending up helping her deliver a leopard called "Baby" to her home in the country.
One of the greatest things about "Bringing Up Baby" and a reason why it is still hugely funny is that the storyline is timeless. Yes it may have been made in the 1930s but the storyline revolving around Dr. David Huxley firstly trying to complete his dinosaur exhibit, secondly winning a huge grant and thirdly marrying his assistant could be set now. Yes the fashions are set in a bygone era and the language is most certainly from the past but the humour is timeless and so now even over 70 years since "Bringing Up Baby" was released it still works.
Aside from its timeless quality everything about it epitomises screwball comedy from the slightly head in the clouds Dr. David Huxley through to the mischievous and stronger Susan Vance manipulating him. Even the other characters are classic screwball from his domineering girlfriend Alice through to the police who end up arresting both David and Susan. And so before you even get into the actual storyline you have a wide array of funny characters who bounce off of each other quite brilliantly.
And as for the storyline well in fact it is quite simple as Susan manages to put a spanner in the works or in fact take over David's life from the initial meeting when she ends up playing his golf ball through to her dog stealing the dinosaur bone which he has been waiting on to complete his exhibit. Plus there is the whole subplot about a Leopard, yes a leopard called Baby which is the catalyst for a lot more trouble and strife. Of course you can guess where all this will end up with David and Susan becoming an item despite the strained series of adventures they share but the journey from start to finish is simply fun.
And the reason why it is fun is partly down to it being incessant comedy with every scene, every line of dialogue delivering a spark of comedy. The actual writing, the one liners and the level of comedic frustration which come from the words is spot on and director Howard Hawks does such a brilliant job to get it all across. The fact that "Bringing Up Baby" gallops along at such a break neck pace and flies off on comedy tangents never becomes an issue and you get carried away on a wave of simply brilliant screwball comedy, never caring that in fact everything is bordering, in fact it is absurd.
And to top all of this off you have the wonderful comedy partnership of Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn who spark off of each other brilliantly in every scene. Now you have to say that in Cary Grant you are assured of great comedy with a track record of working in comedies and the head in the cloud element along with the frustration he brings to David Huxley is just marvellous. But Grant is almost out shone by Katharine Hepburn who whilst having appeared in comedies had never been called on to front a screwball comedy. Her comic timing is just as good at Grant's and whilst Hepburn is playing a variation on the bossy, spirited character which she did so often it is just a pleasure to watch.
And to be honest Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn work so well together that no one else really gets a look in despite some solid performances from the likes of May Robson as Aunt Elizabeth Random and Walter Catlett as Constable Slocum.
What this all boils down to is that "Bringing Up Baby" is still after 70 years one of the greatest screwball comedies ever made. It epitomises everything which is great about screwball comedies from the break neck pace through to the witty dialogue and absurd situations. But it is the pairing of Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn under the direction of Howard Hawks which brings it to life and makes it one of the most memorable movies you will ever watch, well who can forget a leopard called Baby.
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