Today is National Classic Movie Day! For the occasion, I’m participating in the My Favorite Classic Movie Blogathon hosted by Classic Film and TV Café. As I have already written an article about my absolute favourite film, Some Like it Hot, I decided to write about my second favourite one: Bringing Up Baby. Just like Some Like it Hot, I love this film and never get tired to watch it. For a long time, I couldn’t say which one was my favourite between the two, but Some Like it Hot won the battle. Oh, and just to mention that, before I saw those two films, Forrest Gump was my favourite (and it’s still one of my very favourites). Anyway, it will be a great pleasure for me to write about Bringing Up Baby. This movie is so fun to watch, so I guess it will be fun to write about it. I also think it’s the perfect movie to review because, last Tuesday, it was Katharine Hepburn’s birthday. Indeed, this movie stars Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant in one of their funniest performances but also May Robson, Charles Ruggles, Walter Catlett, Barry Fitzgerald, Fritz Feld and George Irving. In other words, two big Hollywood stars and a delicious bunch of incredible character actors. This 1938’s movie was directed by Howard Hawks and produced by RKO Pictures.
I must admit, even if I have seen Bringing Up Baby a hundred times, I always have difficulties to resume it because so many things happen and I never know where to start and where to stop. I’ll give it a try.
David Huxley (Cary Grant), a zoologist, has been working during four years to “build” a brontosaurus skeleton. Only one bone is missing: the intercostal clavicle. Luckily, this one is about to arrive by mail and David is also about to marry his fiancé and assistant, Alice Swallow (Virginia Walker). David also needs a million dollars for the museum, an endowment from the rich Mrs. Carleton Random. So, David has to meet her lawyer, Mr. Peabody (George Irving), to obtain his favour and convince him that he needs the money for the museum and to complete his brontosaurus project. However, every time he wants to meet him, he is always disturbed by a young heiress named Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn). He doesn’t like her very much as she’s always lead him in awkward situations. However, Susan likes him and she’s not reading to let him go. Later, he learns that she is a good friend of Mrs. Peabody and that she has a leopard named Baby. Despite his opposition, David will find himself trapped in Connecticut at Susan’s aunt Elizabeth place with Susan, Elizabeth (May Robson), Baby, Elizabeth’s stupid dog George, Major Applegate (Charles Ruggles), and his intercostal clavicle. That’s where the real troubles begin.
That really surprised me when I learned that Bringing Up Baby was not a box office success on its released. Well, this sometimes happened to some movies that are today known as some of the best classics, movies that everybody should see. Another one I can think about is The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955). Of course, that’s a completely different style. Bringing Up Baby is now known as one of the best screwball comedies ever made. Of course, it has its imperfections but there are not enough to make it a bad movie. Bringing Up Baby is also number 88 in AFI’s 100 Greatest American Films of All Time’s top list and number 14 in AFI’ 100 Funniest American Movies of All Times. Well, that’s quite good. Bringing Up Baby is also one of these movies that I’ve waited too long before watching it and, when I saw it and immediately fell in love with it, regretted having waited such a long time.
Howard Hawks, Cary Grant, and Katharine Hepburn on the set of Bringing Up Baby
You may now know that comedy is one of my favourite movie genres, especially because my two most favourite movies of all times are comedies and my last three articles on this blog were all about comedies. Well, that’s simple: laughing is one of the things I enjoy the most. It’s such a great feeling and a good way to forget your problems and your miserable life. Don’t worry, I don’t have a miserable life, but if YOU do have one, just watch Bringing Up Baby. To me, Some Like it Hot, Bringing Up Baby, and Little Miss Sunshine are the three funniest comedy of all times. My mother could testify. Of course, this is just an opinion. Because of that, Bringing Up baby is such a captivating film. Once you’ve started watching it, you can’t stop. You want to know what will happen and want to see more hilarious gags. One more time, my mother could testify on that too, even if she thinks that a certain part of the film is a little long and repetitive. She’s kind of right. As I said sooner, this movie is not perfect, but I can’t help it if it’s one of my favourites. ❤
What makes this film so funny is, of course, its actors. I have to mention first that this was Katharine Hepburn’s first comedy. The actress was trained by Howard Hawks and some veteran vaudevillians hired by the director. It was not Cary Grant’s first comedy (we can think of The Awful Truth or Topper), but it was his first comedy co-starring Katharine Hepburn and also his second film with this actress. The first one was Sylvia Scarlett. Well, they both did an amazing job and gave an excellent performance. Susan Vance is one of my most favourite movie characters portrayed by Katharine Hepburn. She’s very clumsy but she’s also intelligent and willing. I also love Cary Grant’s character, Davi d Huxley because he pretends to be a serious man but we discover that he can be perfectly ridiculous and that’s how we love him. This film was also the chance for me to see another side of Cary Grant, his comical side of course, because I think the movies I’ve seen with him before this one were the Hitchcock’s ones, Holiday, The Philadelphia Story. Those two are comedies but the funniest Cary Grant is certainly the one in Bringing Up Baby. I finally have to mention the incredible character actors. This movie wouldn’t have been the same without May Robson, Charles Ruggles, Walter Catlett, Barry Fitzgerald, Fritz Feld and George Ivirng. The characters they portray are everything but ordinary. They each have their own personality and together they create a marvelous fresco.
Of course, the screenplay is also part of the amusing side of the film. It’s not a perfect screenplay, some scenes are two longs, some events are too sudden, but it was certainly written in the perfect mood to be funny, entertaining, and crazy (in a good way). After all, it’s a screwball comedy and the writers where perfectly faithful to this movie genre. However, the real force of this screenplay is the unforgettable dialogues. There are so many great lines to quote, but here are some of my favourites:
1- David Huxley [to Susan]: When a man is wrestling a leopard in the middle of a pond, he’s in no position to run!
2- Susan Vance: A lady killer? Why he’s a regular Don Swan. Loves the ladies, don’t ya, honey? He bops them over, one, two, three – boom – just like that.
[Pretends to open a cork and toss it away]
Susan Vance: He’s a wolf.
[Claps his head] Oh, so now I’m a wolf!
3- [In jail] Susan Vance: Anyway, David, when they find out who we are they’ll let us out.
David Huxley: When they find out who *you* are they’ll pad the cell.
4- Susan Vance [Limping after losing a heel from one shoe]: I was born on the side of a hill.
5- [repeated line] David Huxley: I’ll be with you in a minute, Mr. Peabody!
7- [talking about David] Elizabeth: Now see here, if you’re planning to marry him on my money you are very much mistaken. I don’t want another lunatic in the family I have lunatics enough already. When are you going to marry him? What’s his name?
Susan Vance: It’s uh Bone
Susan Vance: One Bone
Elizabeth: Well one bone or two bones it’s a ridiculous name.
8- Susan Vance: [to David] You know why you’re following me? You’re a fixation.
9- Elizabeth: What are you doing?
David Huxley: [exasperated and wearing Susan’s negligee] I’m sitting in the middle of 42nd Street waiting for a bus!
10- David Huxley: First you drop an olive, and then I sit on my hat. It all fits perfectly.
Bringing Up Baby is known for having no music, only in the opening and ending credits. However, it has its “theme song”: I can’t Give You Anything But Love. Of course, the song wasn’t composed for the movie. This song was written in 1928 and used 10 years later in the movie. This is Baby’s favourite song and it is often sung by Susan and David when they try to calm Baby. So that’s interesting because it’s really part of the story. I found this very nice video tribute to Bringing Up Baby with the song sung by Doris Day.
And that’s one of my favourite scenes of the film, when David meets Baby:
Well, it was a real pleasure to write about one of my favourite movies and to watch it again for the occasion. Of course, make sure to read the other entries. Click on the following link to discover other blogger’s favourite films! : My Favourite Classic Movie Blogathon And, of course, happy National Classic Movie Day to all! 🙂