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BRINGING UP BABY (1938)

Bringing Up Baby - Cover'The Criterion Collection' have recently released a digitally enhanced version of the 1938 classic, 'Bringing Up Baby'. It was directed by Howard Hawks; it starred Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Charles Ruggles, and May Robson; and it lasts for 102-minutes. Plus, as an extra added bonus, the Blu-ray edition comes with audio commentary narrated by the filmmaker, Peter Bogdanovich, as well as four featurettes, two audio excerpts, one theatrical trailer, and a documentary about Howard Hawks. Please enjoy.


Bringing Up Baby (The Criterion Collection)


THE STORY:
Now you listen here, young lady. Over the last twenty-four hours we've accidentally bumped into each other on at least two separate occasions, and each time we've met, you've prevented me from raising funds to support my work at the museum.

Well, all I wanted to do was to speak with a lawyer called Peabody (George Irving) so I could ask him to find an investor for my prehistoric project. But every time we came face-to-face, be it at the golf course or a posh nightclub, somehow you'd get in the way by either smashing things up or putting me down. 

So, what are you going to do next, Susan (Katharine Hepburn)? What are you going to do next so I, David Huxley (Cary Grant), won't be able to achieve my goal? 

Growl!

Wait a minute! Did you hear that sound coming from the other room? As it strangely sounded like a tiger or some type of ferocious animal! Either way, that's most probably why what next transpires goes to Susan's aunt's farm in Connecticut with a semi-dangerous leopard. As a big cat sits boldly upon his throne - a small dog steals somebody's bone - a cast of characters perpetually moan - and at the end of the day, please remember, falling in love is as easy as throwing a stone.




THE REVIEW:
Now, on a narrative level, I'd say 'Bringing Up Baby' was a somewhat silly film because it peddled a plot that didn't make much sense. Not totally, anyway, as the main driving force behind it revolved around a highly-strung heiress who was trying to win the affections of a pious paleontologist by messing up his life. Well, she didn't intentionally try to mess up his life, but that's what she ultimately did - at first - despite genuinely seeming to care for him.

Bringing Up Baby - Cary in Gown
The paleontologist, on the other hand, refused to return her affections because he was already engaged to be married to another woman and was preoccupied with raising funds for his work. Work, I hasten to add, that generally stayed on his mind for the vast majority of this movie, until, yadda-yadda-yadda, bing-bang-bong, and eventually he gave in to her feminine charms. The end. But not the end of this review as I gave in to this film's charms too.

Well, as I said before, it's a somewhat silly film due to its rather illogical storyline. But in the same breath, it did feature a cast of crazy characters who were very well-defined as they each had their own contradictory style. For instance, the heiress, Susan, presented herself as being an irritating person who talked too much and didn't really listen to anybody around her, even though she was a lively figure with a positive attitude. Whereas the paleontologist, David, appeared to be a continuously clumsy clod, in spite of exhibiting some fairly academic qualities. Or in other words, they both possessed positive and negative character traits that most of us should identify with or relate to. In fact, they were so relatable - as archetypes, at least - that their personalities outshone the silly storyline they were a part of.


Bringing Up Baby - With Baby Leopard


Similarly, I could also say exactly the same thing about the visual style of this film. Although, in this particular case, everything seen on the screen was easy to digest because most of the cast were nicely dressed and lit for maximum effect, while the numerous backgrounds were populated by a copious amount of diverse scenery. This included things like, a glamorous nightclub, a gloomy prison, a rustic farmhouse, two spacious apartments, overgrown woodland areas, a sterile museum, a golf course, as well as a variety of different styles of furniture, ranging from Art Deco designs to more traditional and conservative designs. Acoustically, however, there wasn't much music played throughout this movie, except for a couple of incidental tunes harmonized here and there.

Bringing Up Baby - Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant
Anyway, that's enough of that for the time being, because now seems like a pretty good time for us to sit back, relax, and check out the following filmic facts: (1) 'RKO' first released this $1.1 million production in San Francisco, California, on the 16th of February, 1938. (2) The screenplay for this film was based on a short story written by the American playwright, Hagar Wilde, which was originally published in 'Collier's Weekly' magazine on the 10th of April, 1937. (3) Loosely translated, this project was entitled, 'Desperate Times Call for Desperate Actions' in Finland, 'Nursery Stories' in Taiwan, and 'Susanna!' in Italy. (4) While he was directing this classic comedy, Howard Hawks decided to model Cary Grant's character on the silent film star, Harold Lloyd. Yet little did he know that Harold was the visual inspiration for Superman's alter ego, Clark Kent, and that years later, Christopher Reeve would base his version of Clark Kent on Cary Grant's character in this flick. (5) One of the taglines used to promote this picture, states, 'A Lady, a leopard and a timid professor make all the fur-flying fun!'. (6) The 'baby' leopard featured in this film was handled by the Swedish actor/animal trainer, Olga Celeste, and wasn't liked by Cary Grant but was tolerated by Katharine Hepburn. (7) The majority of this movie was shot inside five major American studios, including Twentieth Century-Fox Studios in Los Angeles, RKO Studios in Hollywood, RKO Encino Ranch in Encino, Arthur Ranch in Malibu, and Columbia/Warner Bros. Ranch in Burbank. Although, for the sake of necessity, several scenes were shot on location throughout certain parts of America, ranging from the American Museum of Natural History in New York, all the way to Oakgrove Park in Flintridge and the Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles. (8) During pre-production, Ronald Colman, Fredric March, Ray Milland, Robert Montgomery, and Leslie Howard were each considered to play the part of David, whereas Carole Lombard was briefly considered to play the part of Susan.


Bringing Up Baby - Prison


Now I normally conclude my movie reviews by ranking each notable performance in order of preference. But in the case of 'Bringing Up Baby', I don't honestly think I can because this film will always be epitomized by three key players. Firstly, there's Cary Grant (the paleontologist), who took on David Huxley in the same vein mentioned in point 4 of my list of filmic facts… as if he were the love child of Clark Kent and Harold Lloyd! Next, comes Katharine Hepburn (the heiress), who portrayed Susan Vance as if she were a spoiled debutante desperately chasing after the man of her dreams. And finally, there's Nissa (the leopard), who somehow held his own against two Hollywood legends... meow!

Bringing Up Baby - Supporting Cast
Having said that, though, I would also like to praise some of the supporting cast as well. Most notably, May Robson (Aunt Elizabeth), Charles Ruggles (Major Applegate), Walter Catlett (Constable Slocum), and Asta (George the dog), as their respective roles were broader in terms of performance but less interesting in terms of plot. Either way, I'd like to say, 'good job' to everyone involved, and I would highly recommend this film to fans of Cary, Katharine, classic screwball comedies, furry animals, or hilarious scenes like this one… 



THE RATING: A

BRINGING UP BABY (1938) BRINGING UP BABY (1938) Reviewed by David Andrews on July 26, 2021 Rating: 5

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