Cary and Irene (THE AWFUL TRUTH)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

The screwball comedy extraordinaire with the zaniest situations and characters you will ever see. This is my second favorite film of all time; right behind that other comedy classic His Girl Friday. And when you think of screwball comedies, you can’t help but think of this film. Things start off normally as paleontologist David Huxley is preparing to marry his fiancĂ©e, Ms. Swallow. But first he must meet with Mr. Peabody, a lawyer representing Mrs. Carlton Random, who is ready to give the museum a million dollar donation for research. David meets Peabody at the golf course and it’s there where he runs into Susan (Katherine Hepburn). Susan is a scatterbrain rich girl who immediately is attracted to David. Susan's aunt also happens to be the same Mrs. Random. The more time Susan spends with David, the crazier the situations get. From chasing George, the family dog (who was Asta in the Thin Man films) around the Random home, who has buried David's rare dinosaur bone to pursuing Susan’s pet leopard named Baby to dealing with another leopard that is dangerous and has just escaped from the circus.

Then the whole cast winds up in a small town jail ran by one of the funniest constables you will ever see. Constable Slocum is played marvelously by Walter Catlett. Also on hand is Charles Ruggles as a would be suitor to Mrs. Random. May Robson is Mrs. Random. And Barry Fitzgerald is a hoot as the Irish gardener Gogarty. The entire cast is marvelous and I laugh furiously every time I watch this film. There have been rumblings on the message boards about this film being over-rated and not that good. To those people, I can only say to that is bollocks. They need to see this film again. Baby represents everything that is good about screwball comedies. Sheer and tremendous fun to be had by all those who watch it.

Favorite Quotes:

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.

Mrs. Random: Well who are you?

David Huxley: I don't know. I'm not quite myself today.

Mrs. Random: Well, you look perfectly idiotic in those clothes.

David Huxley: These aren't my clothes.

Mrs. Random: Well, where are your clothes?

David Huxley: I've lost my clothes!

Mrs. Random: But why are you wearing *these* clothes?

David Huxley: Because I just went gay all of a sudden!

Mrs. Random: Now see here young man, stop this nonsense. What are you doing?

David Huxley: I'm sitting in the middle of 42nd Street waiting for a bus.

Susan Vance: Now, don't lose your temper.

David Huxley: My dear young lady, I'm not losing my temper. I'm merely trying to play some golf!

Susan Vance: You choose the funniest places; this is a parking lot.

Side notes:

Despite now being one of the most beloved classic films of all time, upon initial release Baby was a box office bust. The film earned only $1.2 million dollars. And caused the theatre chains to label Hepburn as box office poison.

No love from the Academy. Once again the Oscars dropped the ball when it came to getting things right. Baby received no major nominations for film, director, writer, or any of its stars. As I am fond of saying when it comes to some of the choices the Academy has made…are you kidding me?

This was the second pairing between Grant and Hepburn and the first of three comedy pairings they would do. Years earlier they made the very off beat film Slyvia Scarlett (1935) and it had Kate pretending to be a boy. Strange indeed but still a film worth seeing. The pair would team up for two more comedy classics, Holiday (1938) and The Philadelphia Story (1940).

Bringing Up Baby was directed by the versatile Howard Hawks who also helmed His Girl Friday. Hawks other classic films include Only Angels Have Wings, The Big Sleep, I Was A Male War Bride, Rio Bravo, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Grant was on the cusp on stardom and his flair for comedy was very evident in his early film roles. After Baby, Grant became the leading man of screwball comedies. His resume of certifiable comedy classics includes Holiday, The Philadelphia Story, My Favorite Wife, The Bachelor & the Bobby-Soxer, and I Was A Male War Bride. Throw in 1937’s The Awful Truth and Topper and you have the best actor in the best comedies doing his best work. He would later evolve into other types of films specifically thrillers with Alfred Hitchcock. But to me Cary Grant will always be remembered for those zany films he did so well.


KimWilson said...

This is one of the best srewball comedies ever made. Everything and everyone in this film is good.

Dawn said...

Monty, wonderful post. I agree.. when you think of screwball comedies, you can’t help but think of this film.