Saturday, April 4, 2020

(97) Bringing Up Baby - 1938

This film was a fun one, for sure. One never knows for sure how a film from 1938 will hold up against the passage of time, but this comedy definitely does. Name just about any comedy you've seen in your life, and you might be able to draw comparisons to Bringing Up Baby.

Due to life and technology, it took me several attempts to fully get into it, but I am very glad I stuck with it. Having never seen it prior to now, I had no idea what it was about or even what genre it belonged to. In fact, seeing the beginning credits showing mega-stars Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant, you could have easily stopped me there and told it was a drama of some sort.

Even the title didn't really give away what the movie is about. I definitely assumed that the "baby" was human (spoiler alert, it's not) and perhaps it was about a couple raising a child. Nothing could be further from the truth. I wondered if audiences when this first came out were as surprised as I was. If you go by the original poster or other promotional images, I'd think not. In the poster, Grant IS holding a baby human's bottle, so you could think it was about raising the non-human. Ok, no way to tell the story here without saying that Baby is actually a leopard. Yup.

As I was watching, I kept thinking about Hepburn (who plays Susan) and what came to mind was a young Julia Roberts. Maybe around the Pretty Woman timeframe. The youthful exuberance (through Hepburn was around 31 at the time) and her antics are what steals the show. I guess it goes to show her versatility as an actress that she did such great comedy and yet did far more dramatic roles as well. I'm thinking, of course, of Look Who's Coming To Dinner, which I recently saw and reviewed in this space.

And then there is Grant, another titan of early Hollywood. I've seen him already in quite a few movies, mostly dramas like those he did with Alfred Hitchcock. More on some of those later in this series. I wondered what it was about him that made him a top-notch leading man of his time. He certainly is handsome enough, but has quite a peculiar accent that I read is due to being born British but growing up in the USA, perhaps. Suffice to say, I was pleasantly surprised by how his character of David was such a wonderful foil for the mischievous Susan. Their timing together is tremendous.

For a lot of the movie, I just watched in wonder at how Susan continually plagues David and seems to be ruining everything for him, and yet though he wants her to leave him alone, he doesn't really. Susan is definitely a polar opposite of his bride-to-be Alice. While that impending marriage would seem to be very bereft of life, any adventure with Susan certainly would never be boring.

There is no way I can properly describe all the antics and classic comedy elements (many of which involve misunderstandings and some great physical comedy), so I won't try. You have to see it to enjoy it. In fact, if I even describe the plot, a modern viewer might consider it too silly to bother with. That would be a mistake, in my opinion. Suffice to say this about the plot: Susan wants David, doesn't want to lose him, and will literally say and do ANYTHING to keep him around.

I'm trying to think of a 21st-century comparison for this, but so far I don't have one. I was reminded a lot of the old sitcom Three's Company, its male/female elements, of just one thing being not quite understood the same by Jack and any of the girls who lived with him was enough to create chaos, as well as the brilliant physical comedy of that show, might be something that, if you are my age, grabs your attention.

Bringing Up Baby is a fun movie if you allow yourself to just indulge in the craziness. And if you aren't convinced by what I have had to say about it, as always, I present a contemporary review. Watch it, you won't regret it. Let me know in the comments what you think.

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