AFI's Top 100 Movies Movies

"Bringing Up Baby" Review

Bringing Up Baby (1938) was released in 1938 and stars Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. I was VERY excited to watch it because I’ve always heard about how great these two are together. I am completely ambivalent about this film, as it wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t good either. I found it to be nothing more than a bit of fluff, which is actually more disappointing than if I had passionately disliked it. It inspired nothing more from me after viewing than a shrug and a “Meh.”

Talking with friends this weekend, I was struggling with the inclusion of this movie on the list and wondered if it wasn’t another that was there because it represented something rather than by standing on its own merits. I’m even more perplexed as to why this movie is on the list when, in the opinion of my friend Andrea, Philadelphia Story is much better and also stars both Grant and Hepburn. That movie is also on the Top 100, and I’ll get to see it as well.

Susan (Hepburn) may be a “flutter brained vixen with love in her heart,” but she pretty early on reminded me of Sandra Bullock’s character in “All About Steve.” The big difference being that I actually felt empathy for both the lead characters in that movie and I never cared at all about any of the characters in “Bringing Up Baby.”

I found them all unlikable, including the indifferent fiancee, the obnoxious and self-involved socialite (Hepburn), and the oblivious, and in many cases incredibly stupid, paleontologist (Grant). Correction: I cared about the leopard and the dog. I was worried that the dog was going to get eaten by the leopard, and sure enough they had a fight between the two that was pretty shockingly violent, depending on how much was actually done with the two animals. While I don’t belong to PETA, I would be extremely upset if that were a real fight between little dog and leopard. I’m not terribly surprised, because it was 1938 and I have no idea what kind of protections were in place for animals on the set in those days. Guessing there wasn’t much judging by the amount of furs you find in the old movies.

I had marveled at how much interaction there was between the actors and the leopard, but later in the movie, when Hepburn’s Susan is forcibly dragging a wild leopard, Chooch noticed some camera trickery that we felt was actually pretty fantastic for 1938. If you look closely at the leash she’s using, you can see an overlay of another leash at a slightly different angle. Clearly she wasn’t in any danger in that scene. They also used glass in some scenes to keep the leopard contained and unable to attack the actors. Still, better than I expected.

It says a lot for how I felt about the Susan character in that I thought that she was the “Baby” in the film title. Her character was so oblivious and obnoxious in her annoyance directed towards Cary Grant’s David, that it was completely unbelievable to me when she was suddenly in love with him. “Screwball comedy” or not, I feel pretty strongly that this movie is another that doesn’t belong on the list. I hope it gets corrected and more worthy films get added. I may change my mind after I hear what Christiana and Mike have to say, as they typically explain the reason for such things. But for now I just don’t get it, especially with Philadelphia Story coming up at Number 44.

I did find it interesting that David’s fiancee told him not to use slang after he says he’ll “knock him for a loop.” It goes to show how much has changed since then as I find it rare to hold a conversation of any real length without slang being used. It’s definitely a huge part of American vocabulary, although it remains true that some slang is too raw for use when  in the workplace or formal environments. “Knock him for a loop” seems so innocuous and descriptive it’s surprising that it ever raised an eyebrow, even with a tight-ass like the fiancee.

I was curious about what the current value of $1,000,000 was since they mentioned it a bajillion times. If the site I used (I didn’t save the name) is correct, then it’s now worth $14,461,800 (1,446.18% x 1,000,000). It’s easy to see why there was such a fuss.

Easily my favorite part of the movie was when Susan was acting like she was a gangster. Chooch may correct me, but I think that may have been the only part I laughed at.

12 Angry Men has just arrived, and I can’t wait to watch it. By all accounts, it will be fantastic.

**Edit: I thought I had posted this a week ago, but found it lazing about in drafts. Better late than never, eh?**