Bringing Up Baby (1938)

bringing up baby poster 1938 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Classic screwball romantic comedy

Hepburn's character is made too annoying

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Bringing Up Baby

Studio:  RKO Radio Pictures

Genre(s):  Comedy/Romance

Release Date(s):  February 16, 1938 (Premiere)/February 18, 1938 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

bringing up baby cary grant meets katharine hepburn

Romance would be over for me already…I’d kick this woman to the curb over the golf ball incident

Dr. David Huxley (Cary Grant) is a paleontologist who hopes to fund his research by getting a loan from philanthropist Elizabeth Carlton Random (May Robson).  When he encounters a flighty woman named Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) who has come into the possession of a leopard named Baby and happens to be Random’s niece, Huxley finds his life turned upside down.  Huxley is engaged to be married to Alice Swallow (Virginia Walker), but now finds himself not only fighting for his museum but his freedom…Susan is getting David deeper and deeper into her weird and wild world.

Directed by Howard Hawks, Bringing Up Baby is a screwball comedy.  The film is based on the 1937 short story “Bring Up Baby” by Hagar Wilde (who helped pen the script with Dudley Nichols) which first appeared in Collier’s Weekly (April 10, 1937).  It was selected by Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1990 and the Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #1085).

bringing up baby cary grant leopard

Baby attacks…movie over

Bringing Up Baby was a big hole in my viewing records.  It often makes the “Best of” lists and all time classics.  I’m not that into screwball comedy, but I can recognize when it is good.  Bringing Up Baby is a perfect example of screwball comedy and though personally I recognize its crafted skill, I still struggle with it.

The movie has straight laced David faced with an infuriating Susan…but she really, really is infuriating.  This infuriation eventually leads David to fall in love with Susan (she falls much more quickly).  The love faces challenges (like the fact that they are having to lie about everything to cover their tracks and the fact that David is engaged to be married…add in the leopard, some police, and a second leopard), and you have zaniness.

Cary Grant had done comedy before and he does it well.  This was Hepburn’s first foray into it and she had to be trained in timing.  While she’s really good, I feel the writers made her character a bit too annoying which makes David falling in love with her a bit more unrealistic (I do find it ironic that he is building a brontosaurus…which often isn’t considered a real dinosaur itself).  Both Grant and Hepburn are surrounded by some great character actors that amplify the absurdity of the situation and add into the plot.

bringing up baby katharine hepburn cary grant net

I’ve caught a man!

The movie feels like a movie from which it was made.  It is largely set based and the set is pretty necessary toward the plot.  The house and various set designs (like the jail) are pretty specific to get the plot to play out…Hawks uses it well to tell the story (and I’m always impressed when a trained potentially dangerous animal is part of filming).

Bringing Up Baby is a classic, but it isn’t necessarily the classic that I love.  It is just a bit too screwball and too wacky for me to enjoy, and if it had been slightly more toned down, I think I would have liked it more.  Despite this the skill put into the scripting, delivery, and timing of the cast is shows its level of complexity and why it is important in the world of comedy and romance.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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