DCIB Movie Club! CORRECTION!!! Bringing Up Baby!!!

Ooops! Thank you Kainat, I somehow got confused in my head and thought we had decided on His Girl Friday. Oh well, for those of you who also know His Girl Friday, go check out that fun post!

Bringing Up Baby! One of the classic screwball comedies, and Howard Hawks’ first defining Hawksian film. It was his second comedy, Twentieth Century was his first. Twentieth Century is pretty good, but he hadn’t quite figured out his rhythm yet. It’s a little slow in parts, and a little too serious, and at the same time too cynical. Bringing Up Baby is Perfection.

I saw Bringing Up Baby as a kid, when I was going through my Cary Grant phase and watching all his movies. It was fine, but not nearly as good as His Girl Friday or The Awful Truth or My Favorite Wife. And then years later in college I saw it in a packed movie theater at a Saturday matinee and it was HILARIOUS. Comedy in particular changes a lot depending on whether you see it with a crowd or alone. And Bringing Up Baby is a movie that is at it’s best in a crowd.

If I think about it as a comedy, it is structured more like a classic stage farce than a screwball comedy. The 1930s screwball comedies are funny straight through, the narrative escalates but the jokes hit at the same pace start to finish. A stage farce relies on the audience picking up the jokes. It starts slow, gets you comfortable, maybe there are a few titters. And then it grows more and more elaborate and crazed as the show goes on and the audience fully gives in to this crazy illogical world. That’s Bringing Up Baby. We start with a nice sort of “normal” rom-com. Our hero is dull and shy, our heroine is vibrant and wacky, she brings an element of chaos to normal situations like a golf course or a nightclub. The over the top plot device is our heroine’s pet tiger, “Baby”. It’s a movie about how love is the chaos, two people who should never be brought together falling in love.

But then in the last third, Grant ends up at Katherine Hepburn’s aunt’s country cottage, and we enter into a new world of absolute illogic. Her aunt is crazy, her guests are crazy, the whole world is crazy. Watching alone at home as a child, the movie felt strange at this point. The first bits were fun and funny and familiar, the last bit was just too weird. But watching with an audience, by that last bit we were laughing so hard, as a group, that you could barely hear the dialogue. We were completely swept away.

This stage farce nonsense ending is something Hawks never really achieved in any of his other comedies, I don’t think he even set out looking for it again. It was lightening in a bottle with this movie, getting the audience to a point where they could accept this sort of story. Too risky to try again, better to stick with films that feel like the first 2/3rds, man and woman with very different personalities meet and clash.

In terms of romantic chemistry, this film is perfection. Cary Grant with his acrobat training can sometimes be almost too much onscreen, too broad, too extreme. And Katherine Hepburn can come off as stiff, too mannered, too upright. Having Hepburn’s stiffness balance Grant’s slapstick and vice versa made them into a lovely onscreen couple. On the other hand, having Hepburn with her stiff intelligent manner playing the wacky socialite, and Grant with his charm and confidence play the shy scientist put an extra sort of verve and challenge to their performances. Just ideal casting. Grant would find this again with a variety of screen partners, from Irene Dunne to Doris Day, always shining when the woman is a bit stiff. While movies with Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe, and Shirley Temple just aren’t quite right. And Hepburn of course had her partnership with Tracy, Tracy playing the soft sweet emotional type to her harder version.

Anyway, things to talk about!!!!

  1. Why does Hepburn fall for Grant right away? And when does she fall for him? Their first few meetings are coincidences, but then she seeks him out and I’m not sure why.
  2. Did everyone else see the sexual element? Grant was pushing his proper fiancee for a honeymoon and so on, and she wasn’t interested. I read that as Grant having a healthy sexual appetite and needing a partner who embraced it.
  3. Do you think this is more Hepburn’s movie or Grants?
  4. Of the Hepburn-Grant films, which is your favorite? This one, Holiday, or Philadelphia Story? I’m a Holiday person myself.

8 thoughts on “DCIB Movie Club! CORRECTION!!! Bringing Up Baby!!!

  1. I’ll be with you in spirit.

    And speaking of remakes (?) what do you think of High Society, the Kelly/Crosby/Sinatra remake of Philadelphia Story? I didn’t think any remake could be worse than the June Allyson one of The Women, title doesn’t come to mind right now. But Ph Story is close. Crosby and Sinatra were doing Hollywood insider shtick and Kelly was wooden; can’t imagine 3 guys falling in love with her.

    A lot of Indian films are remakes; Hindi to Telugu to Bengali and so on. Yet they are either frame-for-frame copies
    with indigenous actors because that’s what the audience wants, or they somehow manage to be unique unto themselves and as good as, if not better than the original.
    The 3 American remakes of Rashomon (might be more) are all stinkers. Wonder why.

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    • The Opposite Sex, that’s the June Allyson musical. And it is, indeed, TERRIBLE. Except for the casting of Ann Miller, which is inspired.

      High Society I will give a pass because it has Bing and Frank and, weirdly, Louis Armstrong all doing duets with each other. And Grace Kelly is GORGEOUS and was a Philadelphia society woman in real life, so she should be well-cast, even if she isn’t really.

      My theory is that Hollywood films try too hard. The Indian films usually don’t even publicize they are remakes, they just take the story and do what they like with it. But Hollywood remakes are all “it’s like that thing you liked, but a musical!!!!” or whatever. No one was talking about An Affair to Remember versus Love Affair, because it wasn’t promoted that way, it was just an old script the studio owned that they dusted off and made again. And it worked both times because they just did what they wanted with it.

      On Sun, Jun 13, 2021 at 2:35 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. And speaking of Kunal Kapoor, WTF made him sign on to Koi Jane Na? I fell asleep when the girl stuck her head thru his car’s sun roof and started waving her arms. And boy was she stinky. I hear Atul Kulkarni was in it too. Does he need money? I checked the wikiplot this morning. Glad I didn’t make it thru to the end.

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  3. You know how you have talked about the moment you fell in love with Shahrukh onscreen? I have never had that moment with any actor, until this one! Within the first few minutes I knew I was going to enjoy Grant a lot, the enjoyment and affection kept growing till the first pratfall when I knew I loved this character, and by the time the whole act of trying to preserve Hepburn’s modesty was over, my love for Cary Grant was cemented, in between tears of laughter! The whole movie I kept thinking he’s adorable – adorably befuddled, adorably put upon, adorably mumbly and adorably hot! The way his voice rises almost to a whinny – even that I found adorable!

    1. The short answer is because he looks like Cary Grant! (Side-note – I was on board for all of Hepburn’s wacky schemes, but the only thing I disagreed with was her saying ‘You’re so good looking without your glasses’ – he’s equally good looking with glasses, I totally dug it!)
    Going by the movie’s logic, she’s seems enamored after he slips on the olive and when the psychiatrist gives her the lecture about ‘love impulse’ she’s convinced he loves her and maybe vice-versa? We get the next indication of her feelings after she sews up his jacket at her place and he talks about having to meet his fiance. She’s dejected upon hearing this so she’s already in love by then.

    2. Oh I totally did! Not only does she reject a honeymoon, she wants no ‘domestic entanglements’ at all! You’d think they’d have discussed such an important thing much ahead of the wedding; talk about dropping a bomb on poor David! I was reading up on all the innuendos in the film, and that she could be coded as lesbian. Also all the implications of a man searching for his bone throughout the movie! The dialog which shocked me was in the jail scene where Hepburn talks about unbuttoning the puss and shooting the works – I know she means ‘talking’ but what a way to put it!!!

    3. I think this is a rare movie where both the leads have almost equal weight, their partnership makes the movie work. Though she drives the story with her actions and he follows her, it belongs to both.

    4. BUB, Holiday close second, PS. This one will now forever be special to me as the movie I fell in love with Cary Grant!

    For such a madcap comedy, I realized Grant goes almost the whole movie without cracking a smile. First time he’s a bit relaxed and smiling is when they’re singing to Baby on the roof towards the end.

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    • 1. One of the best things about this movie, now that I think about it, is that they fall in love with each other for who the other person is. There is no “change yourself” at all. Grant loves Hepburn’s wackiness, and she loves his befuddled well meaning clumsiness.

      2. The Evil Fiance is such a standard character, and she is handled so well in this movie!!! You don’t even feel bad for her because clearly her heart isn’t going to be broken. It’s not so much that she is a bad person, but that she is proposing a form of marriage that Grant doesn’t really want. He seems like someone who would want it, because he is so shy and sweet, but really he wants a love marriage with a fun wacky person.

      3. What I’m stuck on is, I could picture someone else playing Hepburn’s part (like, Irene Dunne) but I can’t imagine anyone else pulling off Grant. You watched Man’s Favorite Sport, right? That one is such a reprise of this one, and I think Rock Hudson isn’t as good as Grant, but Paula Prentiss might be better than Hepburn.

      4. Yaaaay, love for Holiday! Such an under appreciated movie. And a movie that is just crying out for an Indian remake, with all the family issues and engagement pressure and stuff.

      On Sun, Jun 13, 2021 at 10:40 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • 1. and 2. Agree
        3. Yeah I liked Prentiss a lot, maybe better than Hudson. But after watching BUB, I can’t picture anyone else playing these exact same characters better than Grant and Hepburn (I of course say this with almost zero familiarity with classic Hollywood actors!) – which is funny because this was such a departure for both of them, I don’t think they played anything close to these roles ever again!

        4. Holiday is such a bitter-sweet movie! I wish it ended with both of them talking to each other about their feelings because they had such emotional journeys to get there. It’s ripe for a remake! Though the ‘falling for the wrong sister’ trope has been used sometimes, Sharmilee comes to mind.

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