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  • Writer's pictureThomas Duncan

Bringing Up Baby (1938) ft. Christine Duncan


Guest: Christine Duncan


Cast:

  • Howard Hawks, Director

  • Dudley Nichols and Hagar Wilde, Writers

  • Katharine Hepburn as Susan Vance

  • Cary Grant as Dr. David Huxley (alias Mr. Bone)

  • May Robson as Elizabeth Carlton Random

  • Charles Ruggles as Major Horace Applegate

  • Walter Catlett as Constable Slocum

  • Barry Fitzgerald as Aloysius Gogarty

  • Fritz Feld as Dr. Fritz Lehman

  • Virginia Walker as Alice Swallow

  • George Irving as Alexander Peabody

  • Leona Roberts as Hannah Gogarty

  • Tala Birell as Mrs. Lehman

  • John Kelly as Elmer

*Recognition:

  • Based on Bringing Up Baby 1937 short story in Collier's by Hagar Wilde, Bringing Up Baby released on February 16, 1938.

  • Despite Bringing Up Baby's reputation as a flop, it was successful in some parts of the U.S. The film premiered in San Francisco (where it was a hit), and was also successful in Los Angeles, Portland, Denver, Cincinnati and Washington, D.C. However, it was a financial disappointment in the Midwest, as well as most other cities in the country, including NYC; to RKO's chagrin, the film's premiere in New York on March 3, 1938 at Radio City Music Hall made only $70,000 and it was pulled after one week in favor of Jezebel with Bette Davis.

  • Due to its perceived failure, Hawks was released early from his two-film contract with RKO and Gunga Din was eventually directed by George Stevens. Hawks later said the film "had a great fault and I learned an awful lot from that. There were no normal people in it. Everyone you met was a screwball and since that time I learned my lesson and don't intend ever again to make everybody crazy." The director went on to work with RKO on three films over the next decade.

  • The popularity of Bringing Up Baby has increased since it was shown on television during the 1950s, and by the 1960s film analysts (including the writers at Cahiers du Cinéma in France) affirmed the film's quality. In a rebuttal of fellow New York Times critic Nugent's scathing review of the film at the time of release, A. O. Scott has said that you'll "find yourself amazed at its freshness, its vigor, and its brilliance-qualities undiminished after sixty-five years, and likely to withstand repeated viewings." Leonard Maltin stated that it is now "considered the definitive screwball comedy, and one of the fastest, funniest films ever made; grand performances by all."

  • Bringing Up Baby has been adapted several times: Man's Favorite Sport, What's Up, Doc, The French film Une Femme ou Deux, and Who's that Girl.

  • In 1990, Bringing Up Baby was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. Entertainment Weekly voted the film 24th on its list of greatest films. In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted it the 47th-greatest comedy film of all time. Premiere ranked Cary Grant's performance as Dr. David Huxley 68th on its list of 100 all-time greatest performances, and ranked Susan Vance 21st on its list of 100 all-time greatest movie characters. The National Society of Film Critics also included Bringing Up Baby in their "100 Essential Films", considering it to be arguably the director's best film.

  • The film was recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

    • 1998: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – #97

    • 2000: AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs – #14

    • 2002: AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions – #51

    • 2005: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:

      • Dr. David Huxley: "It isn't that I don't like you, Susan, because after all, in moments of quiet, I'm strangely drawn toward you; but, well, there haven't been any quiet moments!" – Nominated

    • 2007: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – #88

    • 2008: AFI's 10 Top 10:

      • Nominated Romantic Comedy Film

  • Bringing Up Baby currently holds a 95% among critics on RT, a 91 score on Metacritic, and 3.9/5 on Letterboxd.

What is this movie is about?/Elevator Pitch: Our most important relationships can manifest themselves in very unexpected ways and unexpected people.


Plot Summary: "Bring Up Baby" is a delightful screwball comedy about David Huxley (Cary Grant) a paleontologist who is about to marry his prudish fiancee Alice Swallow (Virginia Walker) and needs to secure a one million dollar donation to complete his museum project. However, his plans take an unexpected turn when he meets the free-spirited and impulsive Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) who repeatedly and accidentally introduces chaos into his life.


After a series of misunderstandings and misadventures, Susan decides to court David leading to a hilarious and chaotic series of events that involve a golf course, a jail break, a missing bone and mistaken identities. Along the way, David and Susan fall in love, but their differences threaten to keep them apart.


Director Howard Hawks' masterful direction and the outstanding chemistry between Grant and Hepburn make this film a timeless classic. Grant delivers a pitch-perfect performance as the uptight scientist who learns to loosen up and enjoy life, while Hepburn shines as the eccentric heiress who relentlessly pursues him. The film's fast-paced dialogue, zany antics and witty one-liners make for a joyful and entertaining ride that will leave you laughing out loud. "Bringing Up Baby" is a true gem of the Golden Age of Hollywood and a must-see for anyone who loves classic comedies.


Did You Know:

  • Christopher Reeve based his performance as Clark Kent in Superman (1978) and its three sequels on Cary Grant's character David Huxley from this film.

  • The scene in which Susan's dress is ripped was inspired by something that happened to Cary Grant. He was at the Roxy Theater one night and his pants zipper was down when it caught on the back of a woman's dress. Grant impulsively followed her. When he told this story to Howard Hawks, Hawks loved it and put it into the film.

  • Katharine Hepburn had one very close call with the leopard. She was wearing a skirt that was lined with little metal pieces to make the skirt swing prettily. When Hepburn turned around abruptly, the leopard made a lunge for her back. Only the intervention of the trainer's whip saved Hepburn. The leopard was not allowed to roam around freely after that, and Hepburn was more careful around it from then on.

  • Howard Hawks modeled Cary Grant's character, David, on silent film comedian Harold Lloyd, even having Grant wear glasses like the comedian.

  • Though Katharine Hepburn never received royalties as an actress in the film, because she was a part investor, the film did provide a financial return for her (and still does for her estate).

  • This movie fared so badly at the box office that Howard Hawks was fired from his next production at RKO and Katharine Hepburn bought out her contract to avoid being cast in the film Mother Carey's Chickens (1938). Coincidentally, Hepburn was labeled "box office poison" on the same day that her contract was dissolved. Also on that list were Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich.

Best Performance: Cary Grant (David)/Kattherine Hepburn (Susan)/Howard Hawks (Director)

Best Secondary Performance: Katherine Hepburn (Susan)/Howard Hawks (Director)/Cary Grant (David)

Most Charismatic Award: Cary Grant (David)/Katherine Hepburn (Susan)

Best Scene:

  • Par for the Course

  • Dinner Mishaps

  • Here's Baby

  • Going to Connecticut

  • George Buries a Bone

  • Leopard Mating Call

  • Through the Woods

  • Leopard Mixup

  • In Jail

  • Back at the Museum

Favorite Scene: George Buries a Bone/Par for the Course

Most Indelible Moment: Back at the Museum/I've Gone Gay/Capturing the Other Leopard


In Memorium:

  • Jerry Springer, 79, American Talk-Show Host and Politician (former Mayor of Cincinnati and longtime host of the Jerry Springer Show, America's Got Talent)

  • Rob Faber, 90, American Actor (The Exorcist, TV credits include Kojak, The Edge of Night, Law & Order, Third Watch and Hope & Faith.)

  • Harry Belafonte, 96, American Singer, Actor, and Activist (Emmy, Grammy, and Tony award winner; Banana Boat Song (Day-O); films: The World, the Flesh, and the Devil, Odds Against Tomorrow, The Angel Levine, Buck and the Preacher, Uptown Saturday Night)

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

David Huxley: Now it isn't that I don't like you, Susan, because, after all, in moments of quiet, I'm strangely drawn toward you, but - well, there haven't been any quiet moments.


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: If I were engaged to you, I wouldn't mind waiting forever.


David Huxley: You don't understand: this is *my* car!

Susan Vance: You mean *this* is your car? *Your* golf ball? *Your* car? Is there anything in the world that doesn't belong to you?

David Huxley: Yes, thank heaven, YOU!


Susan Vance: You've just had a bad day, that's all.

David Huxley: That's a masterpiece of understatement.


David Huxley: Privately, I'd like to think I have some dignity.


David Huxley: The only way you'll ever get me to follow another of your suggestions is to hold a bright object in front of my eyes and twirl it.


[reading letter about new leopard]

Susan Vance: "He's three years old, gentle as a kitten, and likes dogs." I wonder whether Mark means that he eats dogs or is fond of them?


Susan Vance: You're angry, aren't you?

David Huxley: Yes, I am!

Susan Vance: Mm-hmm. The love impulse in man frequently reveals itself in terms of conflict.


David Huxley: But Susan, you can't climb in a man's bedroom window!

Susan Vance: I know, it's on the second floor!


The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 6.33

Impact/Significance: 3.17

Novelty: 6.5

Classic-ness: 7.83

Rewatchability: 6.5

Audience Score: 8.8 (87% Google, 89% RT)

Total: 39.13


Remaining Questions:

  • I still don't understand David's character arc in this movie unless it is to always be at the whim of the woman who's affection he has?

  • What kind of name is Baby for a pet?

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