Sunday, June 21, 2015

Screwball Watch: Bringing Up Baby (1938)

So, we started watching a different movie last night, gave up, and when I was about to start up Monkey Business (1952), Jamie mentioned she'd never seen Bringing Up Baby (1938).  Which...  we've been together for 20 years, so I'm not clear on how that happened.  I know I've seen it a couple of times, but I also remember watching it with my roommate back in film school, so that accounts for at least that screening.

So, we fired up the Roku and Amazon streaming services and watched the Katharine Hepburn/ Cary Grant, Howard Hawks-directed comedy.

if you ever want to see the world's worst Katharine Hepburn impersonation, I'm your man
Very much of the school of both Hollywood screwball comedies and the Broadway domestic comedies of the 30's and 40's, Bringing Up Baby is not, as you would expect, about a young couple fumbling with an actual baby.  It's about a daffy paleontologist who meets an even daffier socialite who immediately falls in love with him and isn't going to let the fact he's supposed to get married the next day slow her down.

As rings all too true from working at a university, Cary Grant's scientist is in pursuit on $1 million for his museum, plus he's receiving the final bone for his brontosaurus in the mail.  Golfing with the attorney of his potential patron, Grant meets Hepburn (or, David meets Susan), there's some confusion, destruction of a car, etc..  Susan, deciding she's in love with David, involves a tame leopard her brother has sent her from South America - a leopard who happens to be named "Baby" and who really likes the tune "I Can't Give You Anything But Love".

Anyway, just watch it.  As with many screwball comedies, describing it will make you feel like a lunatic.

I have some very favorite scenes from the movie, including the dinner sequence.  For whatever reason, this sort of comedy really works for me.  Sure, I love a good Mel Brooks movie with the cheap gags and all, but there's something pretty great about original formula for situation comedies that rely more heavily on absurdity and character-driven gags, and it's not necessarily the set up/ laugh/ set up/ laugh of the television sitcom.  It can be as complicated as keeping up with a Raymond Chandler story to keep the threads straight, even as characters are very clear about their motivations.

It's a pretty darn good movie, and there's a reason people keep coming back to it well after 1938, whereas, I'm not sure we'll still be revisiting the American Pie franchise in 20 years.  Then again, the kids keep surprising me when they're building the mythology of their own definition of classics.*

*@#$%ing Space Jam?  Really?


J.S. said...

I need to watch this again. You talked me into watching it a long time ago, I really liked it, and haven't seen it since. As memory serves, this movie has very little to do with the experience that Amy and I are having as we find ourselves Bringing Up Baby.

picky said...

"When you hear the tone, the time will be...7:38...and one quarter."

So you know this is my favorite movie, right? I mean, I have made love for this film. As you said, that dinner scene. And when he first gets to the house. And CG walking, not knowing Baby is behind him. It's all just too, too good.

Plus, CG is my favorite, and KH is another favorite, so it's all my favorites wrapped into one. Even thought The Philadelphia Story probably gets more critical love, this is my favorite pairing of these two.

The League said...

This is the most personal comment ever posted to this blog. "I have made love for this film" indeed!

picky said...


Stupid Freudian slip.