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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

It has happened many times that a movie was a box-office disaster when it was released, panned by critics, and having a negative effect on the careers of people involved; and then, over a period of time, the movie was re-evaluated and got more fame over a period of time. One of the movies that is a prominent member of this category is called 'Bringing up Baby', released in 1938. The movie, set as a screwball comedy (at a time when not too many people knew this term) involving a scientist needing a final item to complete his dinosaur skeleton (and needing a donation of 1 million dollars from a wealthy lady) gets involved into a series of mis-steps involving a jaguar called 'Baby' being shepherded by the lovely heiress Katherine Hepburn (also the niece of the rich lady).

Bringing Up Baby (1938) starring Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn

The movie was based on a story by Hagar Wilde (and adopted into a screenplay by Dudley Nichols and Hagar Wilde), directed by Howard Hawks. At that time, the effect of the disaster was such that Hawks was fired from the next movie that he was supposed to direct; similarly Katherine Hepburn was also affected by this disaster. Now, of course, the movie is considered a classic, generating money, and earmarked among several of the top 100 movie lists.
The movie is about this paleontologist called David Huxley (Cary Grant). He is other mind-mannered with one passion, he has been trying to assemble the skeleton of a Brontosaurus, and is now just one bone short. He is also supposed to get married to another boring colleague; and most of all, he is expecting a donation of 1 million dollars for his museum from a rich lady called Mrs. Random. And then he meets Susan (played by Katherine Hepburn) one day before his wedding. Katherine is free, vivacious, spirited, who also happens to be the niece of the rich Mrs. Random (although David does not know this).
Katherine has been sent a pet jaguar called Baby by her brother for passing onto her aunt. Susan has the belief that David is actually a zoologist and can help her in the matter of Baby. When David is there with her, she starts loving him, and trying to get ways to keep him there in order to avoid him leaving to marry his colleague. In addition to this situation, there are more complications in the shape of a dog who steals the last bone and buries it, Mrs. Random arrives, Baby runs off (and they mistakenly release another jaguar from the nearby circus, who is certainly not tame). These 2 must now resolve all these issues, while ensuring that the million dollar donation is still on track, Baby is retrieved; a major complication is that the local bumbling policeman has put them in the local jail.
This is a must watch movie for the fast dialog delivery, the utter comedy, the situations that seem totally improbable, and the excellent timing.

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