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Bringing Up Baby (1938)

I rewatched Bringing Up Baby for my Women in Film and it is a hotly debated movie in terms of how it portrays gender.  Aside from that though the movie is the quintessential screwball comedy with hysterical performances from its two leads.  The script is pitch perfect and filled with rapid-fire dialogue and who doesn’t love how the premise just keeps building on the most insane of events.  If you haven’t seen a screwball comedy, or need to revisit one, Bringing Up Baby it is.

David Huxley (Cary Grant) is trying to secure a $1 million dollar donation to his museum as well as complete a brontosaurus skeleton and get married to the workaholic Alice Swallow (Virginia Walker).  Through a series of misadventures David meets the wealthy Susan Vance (Katherine Hepburn) who leads David through a series of misunderstandings and wacky adventures to get his money.  Their journey takes them from finding a leopard named Baby, to the local jail where they’re suspected of being bank robbing gangsters.

There’s many films in the screwball genre, and of the few I’ve seen I haven’t been disappointed yet.  Bringing Up Baby comprises pretty much everything you’d expect to see in this genre.  You have the wealthy and zany Susan Vance, proving that wealthy people are just as crazy and fun as normal people (it was the Depression after all).  There’s a slew of adventures predicated on miscommunications and pratfalls.  The first few scenes where David and Susan interact revolve around Susan stealing his stuff (“your golf ball, your car.  Is there anything here that isn’t yours?”) and David accidentally ripping Susan’s dress.  When they aren’t getting into crazy situations they’re verbally sparring with each other in such rapid banter you have to rewatch the movie just to catch the jokes you might have missed.

The wacky elements are what makes the movie entertaining while throughout the two characters are slowly falling in love.  David is the emasculated workaholic while Susan is liar and possible stalker.  I mean the way she keeps deliberately sabotaging David “to keep you close to me” borderlines on insanity.  My personal favorite scene is when everybody, through a series of events of course, ends up in the county jail and Susan, realizing the constable wants a dangerous band of ruffians, plays along as gun moll.  Another great and hilarious sequence is when Susan calls up David to tell him about the leopard she’s received (“‘Please take care of Baby.  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?”)  and when she accidentally trips David assumes Baby has attacked her.  Instead of saying she’s fine, Susan starts thrashing around the apartment while screaming on the phone to get David to come rescue her.  Instead of describing it, here’s the video:

“Susan, be brave!”  Those lines always get me!  Grant and Hepburn have fantastic chemistry and it makes sense considering they followed this up with The Philadelphia Story which is good but not nearly as zany in my book.  Bringing Up Baby is a classic and should be seen and enjoyed by everyone!

Grade: A

Kristen Lopez View All

A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.

24 thoughts on “Bringing Up Baby (1938) Leave a comment

  1. What I find funny in general with Cary Grant is his trans-Atlantic accent. It helped make him a likeable character in North by Northwest. The movie I really need to see is Arsenic and Old Lace.

    • The accent is genius and I don’t know any actor that could have an accent like that in every movie (since Cary Grant never lost it in his work). I haven’t seen North by Northwest (sad I know) and I did see Arsenic and Old Lace a long time ago but for the life of me can’t remember it

      • I’ve only watched about 15 minutes of Arsenic and haven’t been inclined to finish it. I can’t really figure out why it’s not connecting with me because I love Grant.

  2. I enjoy your blog posts and am glad that there are young people still interested in classic film. Bringing Up Baby is definitely a favorite of mine and a classic screwball comedy. Keep up the good work. I too write about what I am watching, mostly TV but some film, old and new. You can check it out here
    and if you want to add it to your blogroll, I would be thrilled.

    • Thanks for reading and the comments. It’s incredibly sad that people love movies, yet know nothing about the heritage of it. I have a younger brother who refuses to watch anything in black or white and any made before 2000 (because it’s “too old”). Bringing Up Baby is still hilarious no matter the time period, thus why it’s considered “timeless.” I love TV as much as the next gal and I’ll definitely be sure to add your blog to my roll (lol). If you would add mine I’d be much obliged!

  3. Great post about a great movie! Bringing up Baby is one that I have watched many, many times. Cary Grant is sooo handsome, but I really love Katharine Hepburn – her voice, her spunk, the strong, intelligent characters she played…well, she was that way in “real life” too. Love her!

    • Thanks for reading! Bringing Up Baby is a classic screwball up there with My Man Godfrey (which also includes the equally handsome William Powell). Stay tuned to my Jean Harlow Film Retrospective, we’ll see Cary Grant return!

  4. Bringing Up Baby was my very first classic film and what an introduction to Old Hollywood it was. To this day, it is still one of my favorites and Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn are still my favorite actors. This one never gets old and will always hold a special place in my heart.

    • Bringing Up Baby opens the door to a lot of different things, whether it’s the first entry in a love of classic films or the first entry into screwball. My mom can’t stand the majority of screwball comedy but enjoys this.

  5. Pingback: Honeymoon (1947) |

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