In this engagingly bizarre story, soppy socialite Susan Vance and absent-minded palaeontology professor David Huxley hunt for her missing pet leopard (the Baby of the title) and a fossil – the latter stolen by the heroine’s dog, while Major Horace Applegate makes loony ‘phone calls (don’t ask!). All the increasingly befuddled Huxley is trying to do is secure a $1 million donation for his museum.
Dir: Howard Hawks, USA, 102 mins, 1938
Welcome to the opening film in ABCD’s new Online programme which we hope will provide you with some cinematic sustenance in these Covid restricted days.
Director Hawks’ priceless farce is high on the list of the all-time great American film comedies, being distinguished by a truly witty screenplay (by Dudley Nichols and Hagar Wilde – based on the latter’s story) that’s packed with endless funny situations and hilarious lines. Hawks takes all the nonsense, as you must with farce, at a breathless gallop, frantically picking up the pace into a frenzy.
Bringing Up Baby is most fondly remembered for the delightful, delirious, slapstick playing from a perfectly matched Hepburn and Grant. Adding enormously to its appeal, not one of the magnificent supporting cast puts a foot wrong – Ruggles is hilarious, May Robson is superbly bewildered as Aunt Elizabeth and Fritz Feld has a field day as the psychiatrist.
An admired classic today, the film (surprisingly) flopped commercially on its release, perhaps because Hepburn was then suffering under the soubriquet of ‘box-office poison’, because of disputes with her studio. Now it’s valued especially because of the impeccable star pairing, its good humour and its genius in turning nonsense into an art form. Hawks blamed the film’s box-office failure on its characters being too madcap, with no straight men or women to ground it.
This, of course, is the film’s actual appeal.
Bringing Up Baby was reworked by old movie buff Peter Bogdanovich as What’s Up Doc? in 1972 with Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neil which we’ve screened twice – once in 1976 and again in 2015.
Acknowledgements: Derek Winnert, derekwinnert.com
“Without peradventure of a doubt Bring Up Baby will take its place among the most insane comedies of the year, and yet one of the most original […] fantastically amusing [with] never a dull moment. And you can’t tell what’s going to happen next” – Anon, Los Angeles Times, Feb 19th 1938
Machine-gun dialogue, relentless pace, unforgettable characters, Hepburn and Grant at their sparkling best. It certainly lifted my gloom!
What a novelty, and more comfortable!, watching an ABCD film without trekking down to the Health and Wellbeing Centre. Wouldn’t have been my choice for a new season opener but do recognise the impossibility of trying to please all the people all the time! Looking forward to the next film. Committee does very well.
Interesting to see Katharine Hepburn as a flighty, witless young girl – my recollection of her is as a dedicated, serious actor. Just shows how good she was! Extremely good production values throughout, particularly the animal scenes – without the help of modern CGI. Script and acting showed great speed and agility.
An acquired taste. Casting of Cary Grant as ‘nerdy’ zoologist (sic) somewhat at odds with his back catalogue. 100mph dialogue shoehorned in a multitude of quips. Despite an explanatory ending, this was a product of its time. Predictable pratfalls but some unforgettable characters.
Reminded us of Tony Hancock sketches from the ’60s. Too dated and silly.
Like a lot of the films of its time, it hasn’t aged well.
The Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw has ranked Katharine Hepburn’s 20 best films and Bringing Up Baby was assigned as her best performance.
The article may be found at :-