(Howard Hawks, USA, 1938) 102 minutes


Director: Howard Hawks
Producer: Howard Hawks
Screenplay: Dudley Nichols, Hager Wilde
Design: Van Nest Polglase, Perry Ferguson
Cinematography: Russell Metty
Editor: George Hively
Music: Roy Webb
Cary Grant (David Huxley)
Katherine Hepburn (Susan)
Charles Ruggles (Major Horace Applegate)
Walter Catlett (Slocum)
Barry Fitzgerald (Gogarty)
May Robson (Aunt Elizabeth)
Fritz Feld (Dr Lehmann)

Reviews and notes

One of the finest screwball comedies ever, with Grant - a dry, nervous, conventional palaeontologist - meeting up with madcap socialite Hepburn and undergoing the destruction of his career, marriage, sanity and sexual identity. The catalyst in the process is Baby, a leopard that causes chaos wherever he goes, and finally awakens Grant to the attractions of irreponsible insanity. Fast, furious and very, very funny.
– Geoff Andrew, Time Out.

'What does it matter, it’s only a game,' says uncontrollable heiress Katharine Hepburn to perturbed paleontologist Cary Grant as she proceeds to wreck his car, his career, and his impending marriage in this swiftest and screwiest of screwball comedies. A wonderfully graceless Grant endures a series of Hawksian humiliations and reversals as he is tossed into a tumult of rich eccentrics, lookalike leopards, and loons of the avian and human variety - all thanks to Hepburn, as dotty as a leopard and just as dangerous, despite the supposedly civilizing effects of wealth and culture. 'Our relationship has been a series of misadventures,' Grant laments; 'everything’s going to be all right,' Hepburn repeats en route to a happy ending that is the biggest disaster of all.
– Juliet Clark, Pacific Film Archive.

Comedian Harold Lloyd called this the most perfectly constructed comedy he'd ever seen, and he was right. Howard Hawks directs Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in the screwball to end all screwballs. Grant plays a spineless zoologist who accidentally meets up with crazy heiress Hepburn at the wrong place at the wrong time. She takes a shine to him and begins to construct all kinds of wacky plans to keep him from getting married (to an ultra-conservative female scientist played by Virginia Walker). One of her plans includes a leopard named Baby.

Bringing Up Baby is the fastest, craziest movie ever made. It doesn't stop or come to its senses for one second. As a result, some viewers may have a hard time grasping ahold of anything, which may explain why the movie flopped in 1938. Amazingly, the screenplay was written by Dudley Nichols (from Hagar Wilde's short story) who was known for penning some of John Ford's more somber works. Hawks made many great movies in all kinds of genres, but Bringing Up Baby is the one that seems the most like an attack on the senses. It's a brilliant movie, and one of the greatest and most intense ever made.
- Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid.

Cary Grant can't find his bone... or perhaps it's his manhood?

A committed - if rather nerdy - archeologist/museum curator, David (the ever-fabulous Cary Grant) can't find his "intercostal clavicle" - the last bone he's supposed to have been sent and needs for a jigsaw-puzzle of a dinosaur skeleton he's putting together... and it looks as if eccentric wealthy socialite Susan (Katherine Hepburn at her best) may just know what's happened to it...

Chaos ensues as David and Susan go on a hunt for the bone ("It's rare. It's precious...") .. throw in David's fiancee - who rather naturally doesn't understand what the fuss is about and just wants to get him to the altar; a dog that lives to dig up bones; some fun supporting characters and you have one of the most tightly paced screwball comedies around...

Classic scenes include David and Susan starting an evening impeccably dressed for cocktails and ending the night - via some lovely slapstick - barely half dressed... the pair singing I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby.. appallingly (well Hepburn is dreadful and on the evidence here you would hardly believe Grant made his screen debut singing his first lines..) to an escapee leopard ... and my personal favourite: David answers the door in Susan's silky bathrobe and faces a deluge of questions about his attire to which he finally replies that he "just went gay all of a sudden!" (proving just how long it's been since the word's meaning wasn't ambiguous)...

The pairing of Grant and Hepburn works marvellously, the comic timing is faultless and sparks fly - something director George Cukor realised when he paired them up in 1936 for Sylvia Scarlett then reunited them in Holiday the same year as Bringing Up Baby and then The Philadelphia Story two years later. The supporting cast has a lot of fun but the leads appear to be enjoying the whole thing the most and the writing is strong enough to withstand much repeat viewing - and there's plenty of time to speculate about that lost bone..(eg. is it symbolic of David's lost masculinity?!)...

Directed by Howard Hawks (who could be intermittently brilliant and dreadful) it's one of his best and a film that makes you go all misty eyed swearing that "They just don't make 'em like they used to, do they?"...
- Nicola Osborne, Edinburgh University Film Society.

Weblink: A review by Lumiere Reader of our screening

Back to screening list

Home Page | Membership