Saturday, October 10, 2015

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

David (Cary Grant) is an awkward anthropologist desperate for a million dollar grant from an old rich lady. His efforts to impress the lady's lawyer is sabotaged by the eccentric Susan (Katharine Hepburn). She takes a fancy to him and manipulates him to miss all appointments, including his own wedding. Oh, yea, and she has a pet leopard.

There are a couple things strange about this film, which may have played into its commercial failure. One is the complete lack of an identifiable protagonist. Everyone is nuts. I didn't think It Happened One Night fit the Screwball Comedy title. It was simply a well done RomCom. Bringing Up Baby, however, is about as screwball as they get. Nobody is sane.

Secondly, there is a traditional role reversal between Grant and Hepburn. It is her money and crazy, manipulative behavior that ensnares the screen candy Grant. She is the fast talking smart aleck. Taking into consideration Hepburn's pantsuit public image, you can read what you wish into that.

Grant's David was modeled after Harold Lloyd's "Glasses Character", and Christopher Reeve based his version of Clark Kent after Grant. Hawks hired vaudevillians to work with Hepburn's comic timing, a skill that would server her well.

Bringing Up Baby was a box office disaster. Director Howard Hawks was fired from his next gig, Hepburn was released and labeled "Box Office Poison", and Grant, well he always comes out on top. It was from rereleases and television that it earned its reputation. For me, it was amusing enough, but the over the top style was a bit of a turn off. Still, AMRU 3.5.
"Because I just went gay all of a sudden!"

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