Bringing Up Baby ★★★★

Bringing Up Baby was a last minute substitution for our Thursday with the neighbours series. A longer film had been programmed, but, like often happens, my chef duties took a bit longer than expected. I haven’t re-watched Hawks classic screwball in decades, so the choice was quite agreeable.

Katherine Hepburn literally explodes onto the screen. She is such a force that there is literally nothing that can stop her, there can only be those that are caught in the blast zone and have to duck and cover to survive .. thus is Cary Grant’s David. Perpetually befuddled and bemused, an ardently quiet academic simply trying to get out of the way of the wreckage that is Katherine Hepburn’s Susan.

It’s this fire and water combination that makes me think that this might just be my favourite Hawks film. It’s unbelievable that Hepburn had no comedy experience. Apparently Hawks and others in the cast coached her, but this isn’t something you can learn in a day. I think its Hepburn’s personality that just meshes so completely with the character, and makes it such an easy sell. Grant’s great deal of experience in comedy shows, and he seems to naturally key his exasperated bumbling performance off of the whirlwind of Hepburn.

While not as staccato perfectly paced as Hawks’ His Girl Friday, that would come a few years later pairing Grant and Rosalind Russell, both Hepburn and Grant’s performance give us characters to love. Bringing Up Baby does suffer from some horrible pacing in the third act which keeps it from being a perfect gem. Something that His Girl Friday adroitly avoids.

Doing a little digging after this watch I was completely surprised to discover this was a complete flop back in the day. It seems that the movie going public wasn’t too keen on Hepburn’s frank and non-Hollywood off-screen persona. Man, that must have been one big snit, as I can’t see anyone not at least falling partly in love with Hepburn’s infectious performance and Grant’s horribly pestered foil.

Bringing up Baby is a hell of a fun ride. Plus, it has a Leopard.

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