Bringing Up Baby (1938)



















Leopards, a million dollars, the bone belonging to a brontosaurus, a wedding forgotten, shredded clothing—there's no way to really do the madness encaged in "Bringing Up Baby" justice. It speeds from situation to situation with such a break-neck speed that you forget about the absurdities that you're watching and truly believe in the circumstances.
Behaving must like Tony Hale from "Arrested Development", Cary Grant plays David, a paleontologist who's kind of shy. Bordering on socially inept, he and his fiancee have plans to marry in one day. But the woman he's engaged to isn't exactly a woman of high passions. She thinks that their marriage will be dull and lifeless, even making comments about how there will be no honeymoon and no honeymoon activities...wink.
David isn't pleased at the idea of having a cold bed, but he's already committed so what's the point in fighting it all? The museum that the odd couple work at is receiving the last bone to a brontosaurus which would make every bone present in the animal's—a feat that took four years. This museum is also up for a million dollars from a generous donor. The day before his wedding, David must go meet with the gracious benefactor's lawyer. Trying to make the best impression, David finds that he is all shades of awkward around the lawyer—it all goes south when he bumps into a friendly and nutty woman named Susan.
He first notices her as she steals his golf ball and sinks it into the hole. Then she tries to drive off with his car, denting everything in sight.
The fade-out doesn't let us know exactly what happens between the two of them, but when we return to David, he's obviously mad. Having deserted the lawyer at golf, David has to meet the man for dinner; but guess what? Susan's at the club where he is meeting the lawyer. This time she manages to make him trip and fall, crush his hat, rip his coat, and make it seem like he was stealing a lady's purse.
It would seem that he and Susan's relationship hasn't gotten off to a very good start. Just when David is about to tell Susan off and storm out the door, which happens several times, she say something or an item of clothing tears and it forces him to stay. One particular incident involves the back of her dress falling off and him walking around with his hands around her backside, trying to explain what's happened.
One of the original non-silent screw-ball comedies, "Bringing Up Baby" is as hilarious as it is convoluted and twisted. It's this kind of dialogue and writing that will anticipate the later works of comedies such as "The Birdcage" or even "Little Miss Sunshine".
While all the shenanigans are consuming their lives, Susan suddenly realizes that she has fallen in love with David because he's the only man she has had fun with. Desperate to keep him around and from marrying an unloving woman, Susan tricks David into taking a tame leopard to Connecticut to her aunt's house.
This leopard is a present from Susan's brother and David is terrified of the beast. What's very interesting and quite shocking to see is that an actual leopard wanders about the set, brushing against Katherine Hepburn and following Cary Grant around. You can accept the idiocy of the story by the sheer fact that there is a leopard playing with Katherine Hepburn.
On the trip to Connecticut many more problems arise, but none so great as the fact that this aunt that the leopard apparently belongs to is the woman who could potentially donate a million dollars to the museum. Not knowing this, David makes a fool of himself by dressing up in a lady's bathrobe and claiming that he's suddenly gone "gay all of the sudden" (one of the first times the word meant something else than 'happy' in film).
Scrambling to save the situation, Susan lets everyone know that David is just crazy and that he's suffered a nervous breakdown...but there's so much more madness than that.
Quick paced and surprisingly adult (considering the time), "Bringing Up Baby" was rejected by the public and the critics. It was such a flop that Howard Hawks, the director, had trouble finding work after the movie debuted.
The censors thought the movie was referring to a lost masculinity (hence, the missing bone) and the didn't like the idea of the gender statements the film was making.
In my eyes, it's just a goofy movie—and a wickedly fun one at that. In hindsight, the film is considered revolutionary and hysterical...and it is.









Score: ★★★½

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