Friday, September 26, 2014

#1,502. Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Directed By: Howard Hawks

Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Charles Ruggles

Tag line: "And so begins the hilarious adventure of Professor David Huxley and Miss Susan Vance, a flutter-brained vixen with love in her heart!"

Trivia: Christopher Reeve based his performance as Clark Kent in Superman (1978) on Cary Grant's performance as David Huxley in this film

Of all the screwball comedies to emerge from the ‘30s and ‘40s, Bringing Up Baby, directed by Howard Hawks and starring Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn, is easily the screwiest, not to mention one of the funniest.

Things are looking up for Dr. David Huxley (Grant), a paleontologist working for a prestigious museum in New York City. He’s about to marry his longtime assistant Alice (Virginia Walker), and has just received word from an overseas expedition that they’ve uncovered a rare intercostal clavicle, the last bone needed to complete the brontosaurus skeleton he has been reconstructing for the past four years. What’s more, socialite Elizabeth Random (Mary Robson) is looking to donate a million dollars to a worthy organization, and the museum is at the top of her list! 

To seal the deal, Huxley heads to the local country club to play a round of golf with Ms. Random’s lawyer, Alexander Peabody (George Irving). While there, he has an unfortunate run-in with heiress Susan Vance (Hepburn), and all at once his life is turned upside-down. After ruining one of his shots on the golf course, Ms. Vance steals (albeit by mistake) Dr. Huxley’s car, causing the frustrated scientist to take off after her and leave poor Mr. Peabody alone on the links. 

Hoping to explain what happened, Huxley makes arrangements to meet Peabody at the club restaurant later that evening, only to once again run into Susan Vance, resulting in yet another disaster (both Huxley and Susan tear their clothes and are forced to make a hasty exit). 

From that moment on, Huxley finds he’s unable to shake the flighty heiress, who has taken a fancy to him. He eventually winds up in Susan's car, which is headed to Connecticut to drop off a pet leopard named Baby, a gift from Susan's brother (sent from Brazil) for their aunt. 

As crazy as the above may seem, it’s nothing compared to what happens once the mismatched couple finally reaches Connecticut!

The performances in Bringing Up Baby are superb. Cary Grant is pitch-perfect as Dr. David Huxley, the once-stable scientist who becomes an unwitting accomplice to Susan Huxley’s flights of fancy, and as a result slowly begins to unravel. Along with Grant’s controlled hysterics, Bringing up Baby gives us Katherine Hepburn as we’ve never seen her before, playing a ditzy, love struck girl who can’t stay out of trouble. While driving to Connecticut with Dr. Huxley and Baby the Leopard, Susan crashes into a truck hauling chickens and ducks. As the birds flutter around on the road, a hungry Baby licks its lips and jumps out the back of the car. When the smoke clears, several chickens and ducks are missing, leaving poor Dr. Huxley to pay for the damages. Yet as good as Grant and Hepburn are, what really makes Bringing Up Baby an unforgettable experience are the insane situations its two main characters get themselves into, a few of of which amount to petty crimes (after accidentally stealing a purse at the club restaurant, Susan purposely swipes a car on the road to Connecticut).  

With its strong cast, some fast-paced overlapping dialogue, and enough anarchy to make the Marx Brothers beam with pride, Bringing up Baby is cinematic insanity of the highest order, a cauldron of craziness that gets loonier with each passing minute. 

It is also one of the greatest screen comedies ever made.

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