Bringing Up Baby (1938)

bringing up baby

Bringing Up Baby is one of my very favorite all-time films.  It is hard to narrow it down to a definitive list, I will keep remembering more and more films that I adore and before long, it seems more like a list of films that I have seen and less like my favorites.  But Bringing Up Baby is on the short list, I can confidently say.  Maybe I should just qualify it as one of my favorite classic films?The Wiki:

Bringing Up Baby is a 1938 American screwball comedy film directed by Howard Hawks, starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant and released by RKO Radio Pictures. It tells the story of a paleontologist in a number of predicaments involving a woman with a unique sense of logic and a leopard named Baby. The supporting cast includes May Robson, Charles Ruggles, Walter Catlett, Barry Fitzgerald and Fritz Feld. The screenplay was adapted by Dudley Nichols and Hagar Wilde from a short story by Wilde which originally appeared in Collier’s Weekly magazine on April 10, 1937.  Nichols and Wilde began a relationship during their collaboration, and went on to write other screenplays together. Nichols based the relationship between Susan and David partially on the off-screen love affair between Hepburn and director John Ford which Nichols had observed on the set of Mary of Scotland several years earlier.

The script was written specifically for Hepburn, and tailored to her personality. Grant was reluctant to take the role, and was chosen after several other leading men turned the part down. Filming began in September 1937 and wrapped in January 1938, over schedule and over budget. Hepburn struggled with her comedic performance and was coached by her co-star, vaudeville veteran Walter Catlett. A tame leopard was used during the shooting; its trainer was off-screen (with a whip) for all its scenes.

Although it has a reputation as a flop upon its release, Bringing up Baby was moderately successful in many cities and eventually made a small profit after its re-release during the early 1940s. Shortly after the film’s premiere, Hepburn was labeled box-office poison by the Independent Theatre Owners of America and would not regain her success until The Philadelphia Story two years later. Grant’s popularity was beginning to increase during the film’s production, and its failure did not hurt his career. Hawks was scheduled to direct an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Gunga Din”, but was fired by RKO after Bringing Up Baby’s disappointing reception (George Stevens directed Gunga Din instead). Grant and Hepburn had previously worked together in 1935’s Sylvia Scarlett, and would film Holiday after Bringing Up Baby (and The Philadelphia Story two years later). Grant and Hawks went on to make four more films together.

The film’s reputation began to grow during the 1950s, when it was shown on television. In 1972 director Peter Bogdanovich filmed a loose remake of the film, entitled What’s Up, Doc?. In 1990 Bringing Up Baby was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”, and it has appeared on a number of greatest-films lists.

Bringing up Baby is known for its early use of the word “gay” by Grant in the context of homosexuality. Although some historians believe the word did not have a homosexual connotation in 1937, film theorists such as Vito Russo contend that the line contained an early example of the slang term.

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