Bringing Up Baby - 1938

Bringing Up Baby - Released February 18, 1938. Directed by Howard Hawks

Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant spend the films runtime (102 minutes) trying to solve the problems that are caused by a pet leopard (named Baby) that gets loose in Connecticut, and then gets confused with a dangerous leopard escaped from a carnival, also in Connecticut. But the real friction (and humor) in Bringing Up Baby is from the ongoing humiliation of Prof. David Huxley (Grant) who just wants to get back to his museum and fit the final bone into an enormous Brontosaurus he's been building for years, but Susan (Hepburn) has developed an enormous infatuation for him and proceeds to contrive endless hurdles to keep him from reaching his museum. Like an ancient Greek warrior given a series of tasks on an epic journey, the cerebral Huxley is thrown into misadventure after misadventure, each one crazier than the previous, and usually with Hepburn helpfully at his elbow making sure something will go wrong.

The comedy looks pretty effortless on screen, but Director Hawks has said that the hardest part of making Bringing Up Baby was Katherine Hepburn learning to play her part straight and letting the humor come from the situations. They must have got it all solved because the cast, especially Hepburn, Grant and May Robson, operate like a well-oiled machine with the precision of a Three Stooges sketch. The screenplay from Dudley Nichols and original writer Hagar Wilde features sight gags, complicated slapstick, a romance with Grant and Hepburn sometimes reduced to funny babbling, and character identity switching, a lot of which has been used before in older films, but jammed together here in a multitude of new (for 1938) ways.

In the epic tales of ancient warriors, those stories usually show the change in the warrior by the end, where some major shift in character or the gaining of wisdom has taken place, and Prof Huxley is no different. Bringing Up Baby starts with Grant perched atop the scaffolding staring at his Brontosaurus, lost in thought, and ends with him again back on top of his Brontosaurus, but with Hepburn climbing up a ladder to reach him, something that almost certainly means disaster: but now he's delighted.

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Original Page March 2017

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