Sunday, March 11, 2018

Bringing Up Baby Is A Highly Entertaining Comedy, Screwball Or Otherwise

The screwball comedy was as prominent a fixture of movie screens in the 1930's as knock-off's of Porky's were in the 1980's or knock-off's of The Hangover were right after that Todd Phillips movie hit it big at the box office. "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" as they say and whenever a big comedy strikes gold at the box office, there's bound to be successive movies all too happy to flatter that successful project by way of mimicry. Is it any surprise then that we had a lot of screwball comedies competing for eyeballs during the 1930's given how many of them were turning out to be true blue moneymakers?

One of the numerous screwball comedies to emerge from the 1920's was Bringing Up Baby, a Howard Hawks directed comedy that proved to not be a major moneymaker in its initial release but has managed to stand up over the years as a well-regarded comedy. After watching it for the first time it's not hard at all to see why this movie is held in such stellar esteem all these years later, it's an incredibly fun movie that keeps the laughs coming at a steady pace. Headlining this feature are Cary Grant as a timid paleontologist by the name of Dr. David Huxley and the one and only Katharine Hepburn boisterous woman he can't seem to escape named Susan Vance.

Huxley, who is set to be wed in a day's time, is seeking a large donation from a wealthy potential donor at a golf course when he first runs into Susan Vance, who seems to only bring unintentional trouble with her every move. The two can't seem to escape each other nor can they escape the embarrassing predicaments they each get into. Once they meet, the duo gets into all sorts of antics that involve everything from a leopard to mistaken identities to keeping track of a dog (the canine is played by Skippy). It's all wacky entertainment that the screenplay, credited to Dudley Nichols and Hagar Wilde, manages to execute in a way that makes sure the film is reliant on a rotating door of new challenges rather than plot in a way that feels entertaining rather than episodic.

That's not to say there's no plot here, no no. On the contrary, Bringing Up Baby has a number of virtues from a storytelling perspective, namely in how it is quite adept at making sure that the shenanigans our two leads get into flow organically from one another, there's no abrupt transition between misadventures to interrupt or mitigate the comedy.  Smart storytelling and a love for zany comedy are two elements that frequently merge, including how the various subplots of the movie keep colliding into one another in the third act. There's plenty of intricate details in Bringing Up Baby that show how much hard work has gone into crafting this comedic motion picture, but some of it's best aspects are also the most simple.

Namely, this is a movie that knows how to deliver the goods when it comes time for the comedy to emerge. There are loads of memorably funny sequences in here that wring yuks out of both broad comedy (like Huxley and Vance managing to both rip their attire at a fancy eatery) and smaller details (any piece of body language from Katharine Hepburn). The ever-escalating tomfoolery of Bringing Up Baby is richly entertaining to watch, especially since the two leads have such great chemistry together as well as delivering great individual performances. Cary Grant's timid well-mannered paleontologist is a riot to watch react to all of the insanity unfolding around him, Grant is flat-out terrific here.

But the real star has got to be Katharine Hepburn, she's just flat-out sensational from the first time she talks to Grant's character about golf balls. Hepburn has a rapid-fire manner of delivering dialogue that, when combined with a steadfast personality and Hepburn's ability to excel at physical comedy, creates a highly entertaining character, one who delivers enormously funny moments constantly throughout Bringing Up Baby. Cary Grant and especially Katharine Hepburn are working in top-form in Bringing Up Baby, a feature that may not have caught on in its initial release but has revealed itself to be a delightful comedy over time.

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