*Note: I’ve been holding onto this one because I didn’t want to post them out of order. But its taking me forever to watch the next movie, so I figure I’ll just post this one and move along.
Bringing Up Baby (1938) was apparently a box-office flop. I’m going to have to agree with the masses on this one. While it eventually gained notoriety and popularity, the audience of the time didn’t seem to resonate with the screwball and slapstick comedy that the film offers. Staring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, Baby wasn’t a complete loss, but it wasn’t my favorite either.
The film centers around the relationship of Susan Vance (played by Hepburn) and Dr. David Huxley (played by Grant). Dr. Huxley is a prominent paleontologist, awaiting two things to make his life complete: the final bone of his brontosaurus skeleton, and his marriage to the dour Alice Swallow. While trying to acquire funding to complete his project, he runs into the “help” of Miss Vance. I say “help” because everything Miss Vance does seems to put Dr. Huxley behind the eight-ball. Little does he know that Miss Vance is the niece of the owner (Mrs. Random) of the funding he is trying to acquire. Through some twists and turns common to slapstick comedy, Dr. Huxley ends up at a country estate with Miss Vance, chasing her dog all over the property after it had stolen the final bone for his skeleton.
So who is “baby”? Baby is in fact the name of a tame Brazilian leopard, sent to Mrs. Random as a gift. Miss Vance hopes to procure the help of Dr. Huxley in raising Baby, as she is under the impression that he is a zoologist rather than a paleontologist. The entire second half of the movie is consumed with comedy surround the chasing of the dog, the control of Baby, and of Miss Vance falling in love with Dr. Huxley.
Baby wasn’t my favorite film because it seemed too formulaic. Within 5 minutes of Miss Vance’s introduction, you could tell that she would sabotage all attempts by Dr. Huxley to make a good showing. She was instantly a 1 dimensional character, and Dr. Huxley faded likewise. He was the bumbling genius, she was the witty flake. All other characters served primarily as comic relief, and none of them particularly impressed me (although I did some some laughs out of Dr. Peabody’s quirky facade).
This is the second Hepburn film I have seen, and I much preferred her in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. In Dinner, she played a dynamic character dealing with an surprising situation. In Baby, she plays a flighty young woman that falls in love. Cary Grant was a big name from the pre-war era, and this was my first taste of him. I’m hoping that he was genuinely acting the part of the bumbling scientist, as I found the character boring. When I watch another Grant film, I hope to see more range out of him.