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Friday, 27 April 2012

Classic Film Review: Bringing Up Baby (1938)

I was astounded to learn that Bringing Up Baby was a commercial flop on release but relieved that the hilarity has since been recognised in numerous 'Best Film' lists. It's certainly going on mine. Like Monkey Business (1952, reviewed a few weeks ago), this film stars Cary Grant as a scientist, this time a zoologist called David Huxley who's about to take delivery of a very important dinosaur bone. Oh, and he's getting married to the rather prim Miss Swallow as well. A chance encounter with odd Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) on the golf course sets off a chain of events that involve chasing a tame leopard (the 'Baby' of the title), David trying desperately to cling onto his promised funding from Susan's aunt and chasing around a dog with a bone (yes, the priceless dinosaur bone). It all makes for an hilarious film that had me laughing from start to finish.

Grant really excels as the irritable yet chivalric David. He might not like Susan but when he thinks she's being clawed to death by a leopard he rushes to her defence. That sets him off on one of the craziest paths I've seen in film. However, one of my favourite moments of the film has to be close to the beginning when David accidentally rips the back of Susan's dress and tries to cover her up. Another is when he sees Baby for the first time and learns that the leopard's favourite song is 'I Can't Give You Anything But Love'. Well, what leopard wouldn't love that song?

The film is full of twists and turns, some expected and some not. I could tell as soon as the dog was introduced that he would take an interest in the bone but I didn't anticipate Cary Grant with a butterfly net over his head. The ensemble cast is excellent and, despite Hepburn apparently having no comic practice prior to this film, she brings it off marvellously. Susan is an eccentric character, not a purposefully comic one so I think the lack of experience helped rather than hindered. I didn't see the chemistry between Susan and David as that of lovers, they came across as more of exasperated friends but they certainly sparked off each other in this film and that's what matters. A fantastic script, a wonderful cast and a laugh-out-loud film I want to see again: perfect!

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