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Polar Opposites: “Bringing Up Baby”

Happy Friday, Persephoneers! It’s Linotte again, here to help you wrap up your week and start your weekend with another classic movie pick. Because this seems like it has been an extremely busy week for all of us – as it has been for me – I’ve decided on something light to help you laugh away the worries of the work week.

Lobby card from "Bringing Up Baby."

“Bringing Up Baby” (1938), one of the movies featuring the great Katharine Hepburn and the debonair Cary Grant, is a delightfully absurd romp. This screwball comedy explores where two polar opposites who get into a crazy situation and have to work together to get out of it can take you.

Susan and Baby, who is "as tame as a kitten."Paleontologist David Huxley has discovered the final bone to complete the brontosaurus skeleton he has been working on. But in order to continue his work on the skeleton, he must persuade a wealthy widow, Mrs. Carlton Random, to donate a million dollars of her fortune to his museum. While on the golf course with Mrs. Random’s attorney, he meets happy-go-lucky heiress Susan Vance. His accidental meetings with Susan result in several roadblocks to his plan, until something lucky happens. Susan, who has misunderstood David’s occupation and believes him to be a zoologist, contacts him for assistance with a present her brother has sent back from abroad. The present? A tame leopard from Brazil who adores the song “I Can’t Bring You Anything But Love, Baby.” And who is the present for? Why, no one else but Susan’s aunt, Mrs. Carlton Random. David agrees to help Susan take Baby to her aunt’s house so that he might have a chance to speak with Mrs. Random on his own.

What appears to be a stroke of luck begins to become quite unlucky. Mrs. Random’s dog takes the last

David (Grant) and Susan (Hepburn) in another crazy situation.

dinosaur bone, which David has been carrying with him, and buries it in the garden. Now David has nothing to show Mrs. Random why leaving her one million dollars to the museum would be a worthwhile endeavor. On top of this, Susan is starting to fall in love with David, and she is determined to do everything she can to keep him at her aunt’s house. But when Baby escapes from his temporary lodging in the stable, that’s when the real fun begins.

As he did with another of his films, “His Girl Friday,” Hawks is careful to delineate the differences between a woman dedicated to her career and a woman who isn’t troubled by such a trifle as work. Miss Swallow, David’s fiancée and a fellow paleontologist, is an extremely serious woman who is determined that their marriage be another extension of their work partnership. While David isn’t exactly thrilled with these plans, he still goes along with them. Susan, on the other hand, is a woman of some means who doesn’t really have to worry about money and who spends her time in pursuit of a life of leisure. The situations that David encounters with her show him that it’s all right to think outside of the box and that he doesn’t have to be committed to work all the time. However, despite her flightiness, Susan knows exactly what she wants and will do what she can to get it. She hides the deliberateness of her actions under a mask of flightiness. While she may be impulsive and happy-go-lucky, Susan is not as scatterbrained as she would like others to think. While her plans may seem a little crazy, they are made logically, even if her sense of logic is very skewed.

David meets Susan's aunt...and George.

Hawks also juxtaposes two different lifestyles: the idle rich and the dedicated academic. While the idle rich have money to throw around, the dedicated academic is the one seeking it out to fund some great contribution to humanity. In a way, the two serve each other: the idle rich want to donate some of their money to a worthy cause, and the dedicated academics can provide the cause. However, the relationship between Susan and David also provides examples of how these two lifestyles are similar. Susan’s life of fortune and privilege had left her with a rather rosy view of the world and a limited view on how her actions affect others. David’s choice of an academic life means that he has a much narrower view of the world than Susan does, yet at the same time, he knows how much discipline it can take to achieve something, and he better understands how his actions affect others. In the end, they both have something to teach each other, and the situations that they encounter, however silly they may be, help the characters to change and grow.

So if you are in need of a good laugh after the long, toiling work week, or if you are just a fan of the great Kate, or if you’re both, after you see this film, you won’t be able to give anything but love to Baby

6 replies on “Polar Opposites: “Bringing Up Baby””

LOVE this movie. Oh, my gosh – so long since I’ve seen it. Somebody posted a .gif of it on one of the other articles – oh, I know, the .gif party page. Anyway, now I’m dying to see it again. Thanks for posting this fun reminder.

Anything with Cary and Katherine is the best party ever.

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