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1 Year, 100 Movies #88 Bringing Up Baby (1938)

by Trey Hock on July 26, 2010

in 1 Year, 100 Movies,Columns

For 1 Year, 100 Movies, contributor/filmmaker Trey Hock is watching all of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list (compiled in 2007) in one year. His reactions to each film are recorded here twice a week until the year (and list) is up!

bringing up baby posterDr. David Huxley (Cary Grant), an awkward, yet honest paleontologist, has almost finished his brontosaurus skeleton after fours years of painstaking effort. He is trying to secure a million dollar gift for his museum in order to continue his research, and is one day away from his wedding.

Enter Miss Susan Vance (Katherine Hepburn), a young heiress with a penchant for misadventure. Oh, and throw in two leopards, a dog, as well as some bumbling small-town cops.

Sound zany enough? “Bringing Up Baby” is a screwball comedy from  director Howard Hawks and is the precursor for any of the largely plot and character-free comedies of later years.

Just think of any film over the last 10 years that has a silly premise and then just jumps from funny scene to funny scene. “The Hangover” is a pretty solid recent example. A guy and his friends are in Vegas for a bachelor party. Enter alcohol, a tiger, and a lost groom, stir and voila! Hilarity.

The point of any screwball comedy is not to have a gripping story line or even believable characters. It is to play on farce and pack as many laughs in as possible. “Bringing Up Baby” is not as contemporary as “The Hangover”, “Anchorman” or “So I Married an Axe Murderer”, but many of the jokes still land on their feet.

Since “Bringing Up Baby” is a farce, it is important that no one ever have the full story. Each character has a piece of information that, if paired with the other character’s piece, would tell them something valuable. Instead, each character acts independently, with only their portion of the puzzle.

Watch this video clip below and you’ll see what I mean. Embedding was disabled so click on the photo to check out the clip:

“You’ve got to get out of here.”

“But I can’t. I’ve got a lease.”

That’s great.

Katherine Hepburn has her moments of brilliance, but Cary Grant is fantastic throughout. Check out this scene, which has Grant cross-dressing after Hepburn has sent his clothes out to be washed and pressed. Grant’s emotions run from frustration to anger to crazed acceptance of his bizarre circumstance.

Again, the photo will lead you to the clip:

It has moved up nine spots on the AFI list from 1998 to the revision in 2007, and it’s not surprising with the influx of screwball comedies in recent years. Don’t expect any real substance or moments of cinematic gravitas in “Bringing Up Baby.”

Instead, expect a number of solid laugh-out-loud moments in this 1938 precursor to any of the modern feel-good comedies. Definitely worth (re)watching.

Up next # 87 “12 Angry Men” (1957)

1 Year, 100 Movies #89 The Sixth Sense (1999)

1 Year, 100 Movies #90 Swing Time (1936)

1 Year, 100 Movies #91 Sophie’s Choice (1982)

1 Year, 100 Movies: #92 Goodfellas (1990)

1 Year, 100 Movies: #93 The French Connection (1971)

1 Year, 100 Movies: #94 Pulp Fiction (1994)

1 Year, 100 Movies: #95 The Last Picture Show (1971)

1 Year, 100 Movies: #96 Do the Right Thing (1989)

1 Year, 100 Movies: #97 Blade Runner (1982)

1 Year, 100 Movies: #98 Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

1 Year, 100 Movies: #99 Toy Story (1995)

1 Year, 100 Movies: #100 Ben-Hur (1959)

In addition to contributing to Scene-Stealers, Trey makes short films and teaches at the Kansas City Art Institute. Follow him here:

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 You know who I am. August 1, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Why are Hollywood leading men lame now and unlike Cary Grant? Who is responsible for this? Why is he good looking, yet one does not hate him, like one might feel about, say, George Clooney? Why did they keep making those Ocean 11 movies? Why do they make movies with George Clooney? Why don’t they make movies with a Cary Grant hand puppet instead of movies with George Clooney? If they made Cary Grant handpuppet movies, Tony Curtis could do the voice and Frank Oz could work the handpuppet. Wouldn’t this be better? Why don’t you get some of your fancy-pants friends to do something about this? Was it Whitney Houston who believed that children are the future or was that R.Kelly? Bring out the handpuppet.


2 Amanda Beggs November 12, 2010 at 12:46 pm

I have seen this film about 5 or 6 times now – thanks Mom, for educating your children with great movies – and this film and “Arsenic and Old Lace” will always be favorites of mine. Sure, it’s silly, but I love that funny and silly can be done without the crude jokes and adult overtones (whether sex or drugs) that seem to always exist in today’s screwball-type comedies. It’s so nice to just laugh at a movie and not feel dirty afterwords. Cary Grant is one of the best comedic actors (North by Northwest – case in point) and Katharine Hepburn is so brilliant in everything that she does.


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