IMDB #206 Bringing Up Baby

I'm calling an audible on today's entry because of availability issues, and inserting 1938's Bringing Up Baby into spot #206 (even though it's presently at #242), because I couldn't get a copy of The Ox-Bow Incident. How do I justify this seeming compromise of my list-following ethics? Simple: I'm not being paid, and His Girl Friday was one of my favorites so far.

Plus, leopards!

The Key Players:

What's really beautiful about this entry is that I've already introduced director Howard Hawks as well as stars Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn on previous films! Laziness five!

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The Story:

Grant stars as paleontologist David Huxley, a bumbling man engaged to his humorless colleague Alice Swallow- why take a honeymoon after they get married the next day when there's so much work to do, she asks.

That work involves finishing a one-of-a-kind brontosaurus skeleton, which awaits the arrival of an "intercostal clavicle" in the mail (googling informs me that this is not a real thing, since we don't have clavicles, or collar bones, in between our ribs ("intercostal") and neither did brontosauri). It also involves David playing a round of golf with an Alexander Peabody, lawyer to a wealthy client that may donate $1 Million to the Museum (which is like $15 Million in today-money).

His golf-game and subsequent donor's lawyer-impressing goes humorously awry when socialite Susan Vance (Hepburn) crashes it by mistaking David's golf ball and then his car for her own. Later that night, she bumps into him again at the restaurant where David is meeting Peabody to make amends- those plans are forgotten when she accidentally rips his suit jacket, and then he tears her skirt by standing on it.

The next day she somehow has gotten ahold of his phone number, and pretends to get attacked by a leopard in order to get him over to her house. The leopard, though real, is tame- it's the titular "Baby"- and Susan just wants David's help transporting it to her aunt's house, as she's mistaken him for a zoologist.

Hi-jinks after hi-jinks follow as Susan contrives to make David late for his wedding, having decided she's in love with him. They steal a car, David wears a nightgown after Susan steals his clothes, a dog buries the intercostal clavicle (which David has inexplicably brought with him) and they need to follow him around until he unburies it...

Also there's another, much less tame leopard that's escaped from the circus.

The Artistry:

Man, do I love these movies. The lines never stop, and the pace never slows down. This movie just took everything I loved about His Girl Friday and added other things I love, like dinosaurs, leopards, and a stronger female lead (sorry, Rosalind Russell, but we can't all be Katherine Hepburn).

The chemistry between Hepburn and Grant isn't really that great, but it doesn't exactly have that much time to blossom between the constant action- besides, it only had to beat that of Grant and his shrewish fiancee anyway. And sure, Hepburn's character is basically stalking Grant's for a while, but funny makes up for a lot. And now, some quotes:

-"When a man is wrestling a leopard in the middle of a pond, he's in no position to run."

-DAVID (After seeing a leopard): "Susan, you have to get out of this apartment!"
SUSAN: "I can't, I have a lease."

-"'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?"

-SUSAN: "Now, certainly you can't think I did that intentionally!"
DAVID: "Well, if I could think, I'd have run when I saw you!"

There's also no end to pratfalls and sight gags in this movie. Of all the classic movie stars I've seen for this countdown, I've become the biggest fan of Cary Grant's sense of timing and put-upon harried-ness: the dinner scene- where, livid at the loss of his dinosaur bone, he spends the entire meal staring at the dog and following it from the room abruptly whenever it left- just killed me.


After falling in a river, chasing leopards through the woods and ending up in jail, David saves Susan from the untamed leopard and finally makes it home.

His fiance storms out on him, fed up with his crazy shenanigans, but he seems hardly bothered. When Susan shows up, having finally found the intercostal clavicle, he soon admits that he had the most fun of his life with her.

Susan promptly knocks over the entire brontosaurus skeleton. But hey, love is a fine consolation.



The Verdict: Higher!

Well, I've included it in this countdown a full thirty or so spots higher than it is at the moment, so...

The Legacy:

NFR inclusion, AFI lists galore, a reputation as Howard Hawks' best film, now one of mine... pretty much the exact opposite of the film's reception upon release: Bringing Up Baby was a box-office-bomb, Hawks was fired from his next RKO picture, and Hepburn had to buy out her contract with the studio and eventually produce a film herself as a comeback vehicle.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube:

"But why are you wearing these clothes?"

This was apparently the first use of the word "gay" on film- in the modern, orientation implying sense of the word. I like how he jumps about three feet in the air on that line, which was apparently ad-libbed.

Leftover Thoughts:

-If you enjoyed Bringing Up Baby, IMDB thinks you would also enjoy (scroll down to the bottom) American Psycho.

-Sorry for the late, special Saturday edition of the countdown. I always do intend to do two of these a week.

Coming Up...

Tuesday, October 6th: The Battle of Algiers

Thursday, October 8th: The Adventures of Robin Hood

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