Bringing Up Baby


1h 42m 1938
Bringing Up Baby

Brief Synopsis

A madcap heiress upsets the staid existence of a straitlaced scientist.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Romance
Romantic Comedy
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Feb 18, 1938
Premiere Information
San Francisco premiere: 16 Feb 1938
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "Bringing Up Baby" by Hagar Wilde in Collier's (10 Apr 1937).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 42m
Sound
Mono (RCA Victor System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
11 reels

Synopsis

On the eve of his wedding, Dr. David Huxley, a dedicated paleontologist at the Stuyvesant Museum of Natural History, is sent by his fiancée and assistant, Alice Swallow, to play golf with Alexander Peabody, the lawyer for Mrs. Carleton Random, a potential million-dollar donor to the museum. At the golf course, flighty heiress Susan Vance plays David's ball instead of her own and then, mistaking his car for hers, drives off with him clinging to his runningboard. That night while hunting for Peabody at an exclusive restaurant, David again encounters Susan, who causes him to slip on his top hat, embarrass himself in front of psychologist Dr. Fritz Lehman, tear his jacket and split the back of her gown. The next morning, Susan telephones David, who is preparing to meet Alice with his new possession, a rare brontasaurus fossil, and begs him to help her with her new possession, "Baby," a tamed leopard that her brother has shipped to her from Brazil. David, however, refuses to get involved with Baby until he hears Susan's phony cries of distress over the telephone.

After rushing to her apartment, David finds Susan unmaimed, and Baby yearning to hear his favorite record, "I Can't Give You Anything But Love." Disgusted by Susan's antics, David marches out of the apartment, but is followed down the street by both Susan and an unleashed Baby. Thus cornered, David finally agrees to help Susan take Baby to her aunt Elizabeth's home in Connecticut, but admonishes her that he has to return to the city to marry Alice by nightfall. While driving on the road to Aunt Elizabeth's, a distracted Susan rams into a truck carrying a load of fowl, and its cargo spills out and is devoured by Baby. Later, while David is buying raw meat for Baby in a small town store, Susan is forced to steal a stranger's car whose back seat the leopard has suddenly occupied. Finally arriving in Connecticut, David, who has donned Susan's dressing gown because Susan has sent his feather-encrusted clothes to the cleaners, runs into the befuddled, suspicious Aunt Elizabeth, whose married name is Mrs. Carleton Random. Because David has asked her not to reveal his full name to Elizabeth, Susan tells her aunt that David's last name is "Bone" and that he is a big game hunter who has suffered a nervous breakdown.

At the same time, Elizabeth's dog George steals David's bone and buries it on the vast estate. While David frantically follows George around the wooded estate in an attempt to discover the whereabouts of his fossil, Susan confesses to Elizabeth that she is in love with David and plans to marry him. Unwilling to leave Elizabeth's without his fossil, David joins Susan, Elizabeth and Major Horace Applegate, a true big game hunter, for dinner. While David carefully watches George from the table, Mr. Gogarty, a heavy-drinking family servant, accidentally releases Baby from his makeshift cage in the garage. Alerted by Gogarty's screams, Susan orders David to telephone the local zoo, but then tells him to cancel his request for help after she learns that her brother intended Baby as a gift for Elizabeth. On the estate grounds, Susan and David search for Baby, harmonizing "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" as a lure, but mistake a caged, vicious circus leopard, which is being trucked to Bridgeport, for their tame animal. After Susan surreptitiously releases the other leopard from the stalled truck, it escapes into the woods and ends up on the roof of Dr. Lehman's house, where she and David attempt to coax it down. Lehman comes to his front door and, seeing only Susan, drags her into his house, convinced that she is deranged.

Constable Slocum then arrives on the scene, spots David slinking around the house and arrests him for voyeurism. At the jail, Slocum refuses to believe Susan's and David's stories and arrests both Elizabeth and Applegate when they come to bail out Susan because he is sure they are only impersonating his wealthy constituents. Unable to persuade the dim-witted Slocum of her true dilemma, Susan changes her tactics and pretends to be "Swinging Door Susie," a gangster's moll. Eventually, Peabody shows up to verify everyone's identity, and after Baby and George stroll into the station, Susan, who has snuck out of a window, unwittingly captures the circus leopard. A few weeks later, Susan finds David, who has been jilted by Alice, working on his brontasaurus reconstruction at the museum. After presenting him with his bone, which George finally had returned, Susan informs David that she is donating a million dollars that Elizabeth has given to her to the museum. Then while perched on a tall ladder that scales the dinosaur, she extracts a confession of love from David. Although the excited Susan causes the one-of-a-kind reconstruction to collapse in a heap, David laughs at his misfortune and embraces his bride-to-be.

Photo Collections

Bringing Up Baby - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are several behind-the-scenes photos taken during the shooting of Bringing Up Baby (1938). Look for director Howard Hawks and stars Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.

Videos

Movie Clip

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Romance
Romantic Comedy
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Feb 18, 1938
Premiere Information
San Francisco premiere: 16 Feb 1938
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "Bringing Up Baby" by Hagar Wilde in Collier's (10 Apr 1937).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 42m
Sound
Mono (RCA Victor System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
11 reels

Articles

The Essentials - Bringing Up Baby


SYNOPSIS

Dr. David Huxley (Cary Grant) is a stodgy paleontologist who is trying to get funding for his museum, marry his secretary and complete work on a fossil, all on the same day. A self-assured but eccentric heiress, Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) throws a wrench in his plan when she steals his golf ball during a game with a potential benefactor. Their ensuing relationship leads to a series of outrageous situations involving two escaped leopards (one a pet, the other a dangerous zoo specimen), a police lockup, a big game hunter, a society dowager, a mischievous dog and a missing dinosaur bone before romance wins the day.

Director: Howard Hawks
Producer: Howard Hawks
Screenplay: Dudley Nichols, Hagar Wilde
Based on the Story by Wilde Cinematography: Russell Metty
Editing: George Hively
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase, Perry Ferguson
Music: Roy Webb
Cast: Katharine Hepburn (Susan Vance), Cary Grant (David Huxley), Charles Ruggles (Maj. Horace Applegate), May Robson (Aunt Elizabeth), Barry Fitzgerald (Mr. Gogarty), Walter Catlett (Constable Slocum), Fritz Feld (Dr. Fritz Lehman), Leona Roberts (Hannah Gogarty), George Irving (Alexander Peabody), Virginia Walker (Alice Swallow), Jack Carson (Roustabout), Ward Bond (Motorcycle Cop), Skippy (George, the Dog), Nissa (Baby, the Leopard)
BW-102m.

Why BRINGING UP BABY is Essential

In the eyes of many critics, Bringing Up Baby is the quintessential screwball comedy, incorporating all the standard elements of the genre such as the madcap heiress, a hapless leading man virtually victimized by her attentions and a group of stuffed shirts whose pomposity is deflated by the farcical goings on. It also stands as a prime example of the liberating influence of eccentricity (and the female) in the screwball comedy.

Critics would also link Bringing Up Baby to such recurrent Hawks trademarks as the aggressive female who destroys a man's composure, fast-paced action and dialogue and the sparse use of close-ups. Throughout his career, Hawks preferred to shoot his romantic leads in two-shots that emphasized a sense of partnership, even among such unlikely pairs as Susan Vance and David Huxley in this film. In tribute to Hawks, the French critics would refer to the medium two-shot as le plan Americain.

At the time Bringing Up Baby was made, Katharine Hepburn was experiencing some trouble with RKO. The studio suits knew Hepburn had a considerable personal fortune and no tolerance for people who undermined her position so they offered her an ultimatum once Bringing Up Baby began to go over budget. She had the option to take a part in an undesirable film--Mother Carey¿ Chickens (1938)¿r buy out her contract. To no one¿ surprise, she chose the latter.

Despite the fact that Bringing Up Baby was not very well received in its day, the cast of the film was dedicated to having fun and bringing about its success. Hawks wanted to capture a side of Hepburn he'd seen once during the filming of Mary of Scotland (1936) when she was working with Hawks's friend, John Ford. Hawks modeled Huxley, Grant's character, on aspects of Harold Lloyd's and John Ford's personalities. He even gave the Grant character Harold Lloyd's trademark small, round glasses. Hawks also captured the good-natured teasing and banter between Hepburn and Ford he witnessed on the set of Mary of Scotland in the Grant-Hepburn relationship in Bringing Up Baby. The film still continues to delight audiences 60 years later, and yes, George, the troublesome terrier in the film, was also featured in the Thin Man series and The Awful Truth (1937)

Like Casablanca (1942), Bringing Up Baby is a film that became a classic thanks to television airings starting in the '50s and revival screenings during the height of repertory cinema in the '60s. It is now regarded as one of the greatest comedies of Hollywood's golden age and has influenced the work of such contemporary directors as Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme and the Coen Brothers.

by Rob Nixon, Kerryn Sherrod & Jeff Stafford
The Essentials - Bringing Up Baby

The Essentials - Bringing Up Baby

SYNOPSIS Dr. David Huxley (Cary Grant) is a stodgy paleontologist who is trying to get funding for his museum, marry his secretary and complete work on a fossil, all on the same day. A self-assured but eccentric heiress, Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) throws a wrench in his plan when she steals his golf ball during a game with a potential benefactor. Their ensuing relationship leads to a series of outrageous situations involving two escaped leopards (one a pet, the other a dangerous zoo specimen), a police lockup, a big game hunter, a society dowager, a mischievous dog and a missing dinosaur bone before romance wins the day. Director: Howard Hawks Producer: Howard Hawks Screenplay: Dudley Nichols, Hagar Wilde Based on the Story by Wilde Cinematography: Russell Metty Editing: George Hively Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase, Perry Ferguson Music: Roy Webb Cast: Katharine Hepburn (Susan Vance), Cary Grant (David Huxley), Charles Ruggles (Maj. Horace Applegate), May Robson (Aunt Elizabeth), Barry Fitzgerald (Mr. Gogarty), Walter Catlett (Constable Slocum), Fritz Feld (Dr. Fritz Lehman), Leona Roberts (Hannah Gogarty), George Irving (Alexander Peabody), Virginia Walker (Alice Swallow), Jack Carson (Roustabout), Ward Bond (Motorcycle Cop), Skippy (George, the Dog), Nissa (Baby, the Leopard) BW-102m. Why BRINGING UP BABY is Essential In the eyes of many critics, Bringing Up Baby is the quintessential screwball comedy, incorporating all the standard elements of the genre such as the madcap heiress, a hapless leading man virtually victimized by her attentions and a group of stuffed shirts whose pomposity is deflated by the farcical goings on. It also stands as a prime example of the liberating influence of eccentricity (and the female) in the screwball comedy. Critics would also link Bringing Up Baby to such recurrent Hawks trademarks as the aggressive female who destroys a man's composure, fast-paced action and dialogue and the sparse use of close-ups. Throughout his career, Hawks preferred to shoot his romantic leads in two-shots that emphasized a sense of partnership, even among such unlikely pairs as Susan Vance and David Huxley in this film. In tribute to Hawks, the French critics would refer to the medium two-shot as le plan Americain. At the time Bringing Up Baby was made, Katharine Hepburn was experiencing some trouble with RKO. The studio suits knew Hepburn had a considerable personal fortune and no tolerance for people who undermined her position so they offered her an ultimatum once Bringing Up Baby began to go over budget. She had the option to take a part in an undesirable film--Mother Carey¿ Chickens (1938)¿r buy out her contract. To no one¿ surprise, she chose the latter. Despite the fact that Bringing Up Baby was not very well received in its day, the cast of the film was dedicated to having fun and bringing about its success. Hawks wanted to capture a side of Hepburn he'd seen once during the filming of Mary of Scotland (1936) when she was working with Hawks's friend, John Ford. Hawks modeled Huxley, Grant's character, on aspects of Harold Lloyd's and John Ford's personalities. He even gave the Grant character Harold Lloyd's trademark small, round glasses. Hawks also captured the good-natured teasing and banter between Hepburn and Ford he witnessed on the set of Mary of Scotland in the Grant-Hepburn relationship in Bringing Up Baby. The film still continues to delight audiences 60 years later, and yes, George, the troublesome terrier in the film, was also featured in the Thin Man series and The Awful Truth (1937) Like Casablanca (1942), Bringing Up Baby is a film that became a classic thanks to television airings starting in the '50s and revival screenings during the height of repertory cinema in the '60s. It is now regarded as one of the greatest comedies of Hollywood's golden age and has influenced the work of such contemporary directors as Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme and the Coen Brothers. by Rob Nixon, Kerryn Sherrod & Jeff Stafford

Pop Culture 101 - Bringing Up Baby


Director Howard Hawks was instrumental in the development of screwball comedy, thanks to Twentieth Century (1935), his fast-paced battle of the sexes pitting stage and screen star Carole Lombard against her one-time mentor, producer John Barrymore.

Hawks would continue to exploit Grant's talents for screwball comedy in His Girl Friday (1940), with Rosalind Russell; I Was a Male War Bride (1949), with Ann Sheridan; and Monkey Business (1952), with Ginger Rogers and Marilyn Monroe. In the latter two, he would once again put the actor in women's clothing.

Grant and Hepburn, who had previously co-starred in Sylvia Scarlett, would re-team for two George Cukor films, Holiday (1938) and The Philadelphia Story (1940). The latter film was a major hit that ended Hepburn's days as box-office poison.

Hawks would refer to his 1964 comedy, Man's Favorite Sport? starring Rock Hudson and Paula Prentiss, as a re-make of Bringing Up Baby, at least in spirit. He originally offered the film's male lead to Cary Grant, but Grant did not want to play opposite younger women any more, and Hawks refused to cast older actresses in the female roles.

Director Peter Bogdanovich openly credited Bringing Up Baby as the inspiration for his What's Up, Doc? (1972), a comedy about a strait-laced scientist (Ryan O'Neal) whose life is turned upside down by a madcap young woman (Barbra Streisand). Hawks had actually advised Bogdanovich to show his actors Bringing Up Baby before filming so they wouldn't overplay or exaggerate the comic tone. After the film came out, he told Bogdanovich, "You made a mistake in telling 'em where you stole it from. I didn't tell 'em where I stole it from."

Bringing Up Baby has inspired several contemporary films about free-spirited women liberating pompous young men. Jonathan Demme's 1986 Something Wild features Melanie Griffith as a con artist who breaks through Jeff Daniels' reserve. Madonna's 1987 vehicle, Who's That Girl?, was clearly modeled on the film. The box-office disaster even had the stars involved with a runaway cougar. The 1991 television movie Mimi and Me, starring Terry Farrell of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fame and Broadway singing star Howard McGillin, was a role reversal imitation of the Hawks comedy featuring a female orthodontist with an interest in dinosaur teeth. The sitcom Dharma and Greg (1997-2002), starring Jenna Elfman and Thomas Gibson, also explored the concept on a weekly basis.

by Frank Miller

Pop Culture 101 - Bringing Up Baby

Director Howard Hawks was instrumental in the development of screwball comedy, thanks to Twentieth Century (1935), his fast-paced battle of the sexes pitting stage and screen star Carole Lombard against her one-time mentor, producer John Barrymore. Hawks would continue to exploit Grant's talents for screwball comedy in His Girl Friday (1940), with Rosalind Russell; I Was a Male War Bride (1949), with Ann Sheridan; and Monkey Business (1952), with Ginger Rogers and Marilyn Monroe. In the latter two, he would once again put the actor in women's clothing. Grant and Hepburn, who had previously co-starred in Sylvia Scarlett, would re-team for two George Cukor films, Holiday (1938) and The Philadelphia Story (1940). The latter film was a major hit that ended Hepburn's days as box-office poison. Hawks would refer to his 1964 comedy, Man's Favorite Sport? starring Rock Hudson and Paula Prentiss, as a re-make of Bringing Up Baby, at least in spirit. He originally offered the film's male lead to Cary Grant, but Grant did not want to play opposite younger women any more, and Hawks refused to cast older actresses in the female roles. Director Peter Bogdanovich openly credited Bringing Up Baby as the inspiration for his What's Up, Doc? (1972), a comedy about a strait-laced scientist (Ryan O'Neal) whose life is turned upside down by a madcap young woman (Barbra Streisand). Hawks had actually advised Bogdanovich to show his actors Bringing Up Baby before filming so they wouldn't overplay or exaggerate the comic tone. After the film came out, he told Bogdanovich, "You made a mistake in telling 'em where you stole it from. I didn't tell 'em where I stole it from." Bringing Up Baby has inspired several contemporary films about free-spirited women liberating pompous young men. Jonathan Demme's 1986 Something Wild features Melanie Griffith as a con artist who breaks through Jeff Daniels' reserve. Madonna's 1987 vehicle, Who's That Girl?, was clearly modeled on the film. The box-office disaster even had the stars involved with a runaway cougar. The 1991 television movie Mimi and Me, starring Terry Farrell of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fame and Broadway singing star Howard McGillin, was a role reversal imitation of the Hawks comedy featuring a female orthodontist with an interest in dinosaur teeth. The sitcom Dharma and Greg (1997-2002), starring Jenna Elfman and Thomas Gibson, also explored the concept on a weekly basis. by Frank Miller

Trivia - Bringing Up Baby - Trivia & Fun Facts About BRINGING UP BABY


George the dog is played by Skippy, a wire-haired terrier better known to film fans as Asta from MGM's The Thin Man series. He also had played Mr. Smith, the dog whose custody Cary Grant and Irene Dunne fight over in The Awful Truth.

Grant's explanation for wearing women's clothes in the film, "I just went gay all of a sudden," was improvised on set, which may explain how it slipped by the Production Code Administration (PCA), Hollywood's self-censorship group. Between 1934, when the PCA began strict Code enforcement, and 1961, when the Code was amended, any mention of homosexuality was strictly forbidden on screen. This marks the only use of "gay" to mean "homosexual" in a Hollywood film of that era. Some historians have suggested that it's the screen's first use of "gay" in a sexual context.

Another improvisation occurred when Hepburn accidentally broke a heel while she and Grant were hunting for Baby. As she limped around the set, she said, "I was born on the side of a hill," and Hawks left it in. She would later say that Grant had whispered the line in her ear.

Hawks inserted a reference to Grant's previous screwball hit, The Awful Truth, in Bringing Up Baby when Hepburn pretends to be a gangster's moll. She says that Grant is a crook called "Jerry the Nipper," the same nickname Irene Dunne had given Grant in the earlier film when she pretended to be his low-class sister.

Grant's circus background came in handy for the final scene, in which the dinosaur skeleton he's working on collapses, and he pulls Hepburn up onto his scaffold after her ladder falls over. He drilled her on exactly when to let go of the ladder and how to grab his wrist to make sure neither would be hurt.

FUN QUOTES FROM BRINGING UP BABY (1938)

"Now once and for all David, nothing must interfere with your work. Our marriage must entail no domestic entanglements of any kind." - Virginia Walker as Alice Swallow.

"Your ball, your car. Is there anything in the world that doesn't belong to you?" - Katharine Hepburn as Susan Vance.

"The love impulse in man very frequently reveals itself in terms of conflict." - Fritz Feld as Dr. Fritz Lehman, later quoted by Katharine Hepburn as Susan Vance.

"Let's play a game...Watch, I'll put my hand over my eyes, and then you go away...See, and I'll count to ten, and when I take my hand down you will be gone!" - Cary Grant as David Huxley.

"If you had an aunt who would give you a million dollars if she liked you, and you knew she wouldn't like you if she found a leopard in her apartment, what would you do?" - Katharine Hepburn as Susan Vance.

"I just went gay all of a sudden." - Cary Grant as David Huxley.

"There is a leopard on your roof, and it's my leopard, and I have to get it, and to get it I have to sing." - Katharine Hepburn as Susan Vance. "Out of seven million people, why did I have to run into you yesterday?" - Cary Grant as David Huxley.

"You mean you don't want me to help you any more -- after all the fun we've had?" - Katharine Hepburn as Susan Vance.

"In moments of quiet, I'm strangely drawn to you, but -- well -- there haven't been any quiet moments." - Cary Grant as David Huxley.

"Hey, flatfoot! I'm gonna unbutton my puss and shoot the woiks. An' I wouldn't be squealin' if he hadn't a give me the runaround for another twist." - Katharine Hepburn, as Susan Vance, posing as Swinging-door Susie.

"Well, there's nothing else I can say except that I'm glad before our marriage you showed yourself up in your true colors. You're just a butterfly!" - Virginia Walker as Alice Swallow.

Compiled by Frank Miller

Trivia - Bringing Up Baby - Trivia & Fun Facts About BRINGING UP BABY

George the dog is played by Skippy, a wire-haired terrier better known to film fans as Asta from MGM's The Thin Man series. He also had played Mr. Smith, the dog whose custody Cary Grant and Irene Dunne fight over in The Awful Truth. Grant's explanation for wearing women's clothes in the film, "I just went gay all of a sudden," was improvised on set, which may explain how it slipped by the Production Code Administration (PCA), Hollywood's self-censorship group. Between 1934, when the PCA began strict Code enforcement, and 1961, when the Code was amended, any mention of homosexuality was strictly forbidden on screen. This marks the only use of "gay" to mean "homosexual" in a Hollywood film of that era. Some historians have suggested that it's the screen's first use of "gay" in a sexual context. Another improvisation occurred when Hepburn accidentally broke a heel while she and Grant were hunting for Baby. As she limped around the set, she said, "I was born on the side of a hill," and Hawks left it in. She would later say that Grant had whispered the line in her ear. Hawks inserted a reference to Grant's previous screwball hit, The Awful Truth, in Bringing Up Baby when Hepburn pretends to be a gangster's moll. She says that Grant is a crook called "Jerry the Nipper," the same nickname Irene Dunne had given Grant in the earlier film when she pretended to be his low-class sister. Grant's circus background came in handy for the final scene, in which the dinosaur skeleton he's working on collapses, and he pulls Hepburn up onto his scaffold after her ladder falls over. He drilled her on exactly when to let go of the ladder and how to grab his wrist to make sure neither would be hurt. FUN QUOTES FROM BRINGING UP BABY (1938) "Now once and for all David, nothing must interfere with your work. Our marriage must entail no domestic entanglements of any kind." - Virginia Walker as Alice Swallow. "Your ball, your car. Is there anything in the world that doesn't belong to you?" - Katharine Hepburn as Susan Vance. "The love impulse in man very frequently reveals itself in terms of conflict." - Fritz Feld as Dr. Fritz Lehman, later quoted by Katharine Hepburn as Susan Vance. "Let's play a game...Watch, I'll put my hand over my eyes, and then you go away...See, and I'll count to ten, and when I take my hand down you will be gone!" - Cary Grant as David Huxley. "If you had an aunt who would give you a million dollars if she liked you, and you knew she wouldn't like you if she found a leopard in her apartment, what would you do?" - Katharine Hepburn as Susan Vance. "I just went gay all of a sudden." - Cary Grant as David Huxley. "There is a leopard on your roof, and it's my leopard, and I have to get it, and to get it I have to sing." - Katharine Hepburn as Susan Vance. "Out of seven million people, why did I have to run into you yesterday?" - Cary Grant as David Huxley. "You mean you don't want me to help you any more -- after all the fun we've had?" - Katharine Hepburn as Susan Vance. "In moments of quiet, I'm strangely drawn to you, but -- well -- there haven't been any quiet moments." - Cary Grant as David Huxley. "Hey, flatfoot! I'm gonna unbutton my puss and shoot the woiks. An' I wouldn't be squealin' if he hadn't a give me the runaround for another twist." - Katharine Hepburn, as Susan Vance, posing as Swinging-door Susie. "Well, there's nothing else I can say except that I'm glad before our marriage you showed yourself up in your true colors. You're just a butterfly!" - Virginia Walker as Alice Swallow. Compiled by Frank Miller

The Big Idea - Bringing Up Baby


Producer-director Howard Hawks was immersed in script and casting problems with Gunga Din (1939) when he decided he needed a change of pace in 1937, so he started looking around for something different. He found it when someone in RKO's story department recommended a Collier's magazine story by Hagar Wilde called "Bringing Up Baby." The story dealt with a couple who lose a tame panther in the wilds of Connecticut. He picked up the rights for just $1,004.

After working with Wilde for a few weeks to flesh out the story, Hawks realized he would need a more experienced screenwriter, so he called in Dudley Nichols, better known for such dramatic films as The Informer (1935), and asked him to work with her. It would be Nichols' only real comedy.

The property was always planned as a vehicle for Katharine Hepburn. In fact, it would be her first pure comedy. Up to that point, Hepburn had been featured mostly in period romances, but audiences had tired of her work in those films, so the studio was trying to resuscitate her career with more contemporary roles. At the time RKO picked up the story, she was filming Stage Door (1937), a contemporary backstage story, and reports from the set indicated that the film might turn her box-office decline around. It didn't, scoring only a small profit, but Bringing Up Baby was an attempt to move her career further in what seemed to be the right direction.

Nichols modeled the character of Susan Vance on the Hepburn he had seen on the set of John Ford's Mary of Scotland, which he had written. The director and star had forged a close friendship while working on the film, with Hepburn's playfulness constantly tweaking Ford's more serious nature. Some historians even think Ford was the model for Bringing Up Baby's leading man, David Huxley.

The male lead was turned down by Leslie Howard, Fredric March, Robert Montgomery, Ronald Colman and Ray Milland before Hawks turned to Cary Grant, who had previously worked with Hepburn in Sylvia Scarlett (1935). Grant didn't want to do the film either, claiming that he didn't understand the character. Hawks said, "You've seen Harold Lloyd, haven't you?" and counseled the actor to play the role in the manner of the noted silent screen clown as a total innocent caught up in insane events. He even had Grant wear horn-rimmed glasses like Lloyd's.

To flesh out the cast, RKO borrowed Charles Ruggles from Paramount to play the big game hunter and Barry Fitzgerald from Mary Pickford's production company to play the drunken groundskeeper. Virginia Walker, who played Grant's fiancee was the first actress to be placed under personal contract by Hawks, who loaned her to RKO. She would end up marrying his brother Bill.

The origin of one gag in particular was based on an actual occurrence. According to Jack Haley, Jr., who heard the story first hand from Cary Grant, "It was the scene in which Cary steps on the tail of Katharine Hepburn's dress and tears out the rear panel. He based it on a real-life happening. He went to the Roxy Theatre in New York. Sitting next to him were the head of the Metropolitan Museum and his wife. At some point he gets up to go to the men's room and returns. A little while later the woman gets up and crosses in front of him. They're right at the edge of the balcony, he starts to stand, and he sees that his fly is open. So he zips his fly shut and catches her frock in it. They had to lock step to the manager¿ office to get pliers to unzip his fly from her dress. He told Howard Hawks the story, and Hawks used it. He couldn't use the fly joke, but he used the lockstep."

by Frank Miller

The Big Idea - Bringing Up Baby

Producer-director Howard Hawks was immersed in script and casting problems with Gunga Din (1939) when he decided he needed a change of pace in 1937, so he started looking around for something different. He found it when someone in RKO's story department recommended a Collier's magazine story by Hagar Wilde called "Bringing Up Baby." The story dealt with a couple who lose a tame panther in the wilds of Connecticut. He picked up the rights for just $1,004. After working with Wilde for a few weeks to flesh out the story, Hawks realized he would need a more experienced screenwriter, so he called in Dudley Nichols, better known for such dramatic films as The Informer (1935), and asked him to work with her. It would be Nichols' only real comedy. The property was always planned as a vehicle for Katharine Hepburn. In fact, it would be her first pure comedy. Up to that point, Hepburn had been featured mostly in period romances, but audiences had tired of her work in those films, so the studio was trying to resuscitate her career with more contemporary roles. At the time RKO picked up the story, she was filming Stage Door (1937), a contemporary backstage story, and reports from the set indicated that the film might turn her box-office decline around. It didn't, scoring only a small profit, but Bringing Up Baby was an attempt to move her career further in what seemed to be the right direction. Nichols modeled the character of Susan Vance on the Hepburn he had seen on the set of John Ford's Mary of Scotland, which he had written. The director and star had forged a close friendship while working on the film, with Hepburn's playfulness constantly tweaking Ford's more serious nature. Some historians even think Ford was the model for Bringing Up Baby's leading man, David Huxley. The male lead was turned down by Leslie Howard, Fredric March, Robert Montgomery, Ronald Colman and Ray Milland before Hawks turned to Cary Grant, who had previously worked with Hepburn in Sylvia Scarlett (1935). Grant didn't want to do the film either, claiming that he didn't understand the character. Hawks said, "You've seen Harold Lloyd, haven't you?" and counseled the actor to play the role in the manner of the noted silent screen clown as a total innocent caught up in insane events. He even had Grant wear horn-rimmed glasses like Lloyd's. To flesh out the cast, RKO borrowed Charles Ruggles from Paramount to play the big game hunter and Barry Fitzgerald from Mary Pickford's production company to play the drunken groundskeeper. Virginia Walker, who played Grant's fiancee was the first actress to be placed under personal contract by Hawks, who loaned her to RKO. She would end up marrying his brother Bill. The origin of one gag in particular was based on an actual occurrence. According to Jack Haley, Jr., who heard the story first hand from Cary Grant, "It was the scene in which Cary steps on the tail of Katharine Hepburn's dress and tears out the rear panel. He based it on a real-life happening. He went to the Roxy Theatre in New York. Sitting next to him were the head of the Metropolitan Museum and his wife. At some point he gets up to go to the men's room and returns. A little while later the woman gets up and crosses in front of him. They're right at the edge of the balcony, he starts to stand, and he sees that his fly is open. So he zips his fly shut and catches her frock in it. They had to lock step to the manager¿ office to get pliers to unzip his fly from her dress. He told Howard Hawks the story, and Hawks used it. He couldn't use the fly joke, but he used the lockstep." by Frank Miller

Behind the Camera - Bringing Up Baby


According to Howard Hawks in the book, Hawks on Hawks by Joseph McBride, the director had some difficulty getting Hepburn to stop overacting during the early stages of production. "The great trouble is people trying to be funny," Hawks observed. "If they don't try to be funny, then they are funny. I couldn't do any good with her, so I went over to an actor who was a comic for the Ziegfeld Follies and everything, Walter Catlett, and said, "Walter, have you been watching Miss Hepburn?" He said, 'Yeah.' "Do you know what she's doing?" 'Yeah.' And I said, "Will you tell her?" He said, 'No.' "Well," I said, "supposing she asks you to tell her?" 'Well then, I'l have to tell her.' So I went over to Kate, and I said, 'We're not getting along too well on this thing. I'm not getting through to you, but there's a man here who I think could. Do you want to talk to him?' She came back from talking with him and said, 'Howard, hire that guy and keep him around here for several weeks, because I need him.' And from that time on, she knew how to play comedy better, which is just to read lines." Hepburn also asked Hawks to give Catlett a role in the film so she could call on him for further help. Hawks cast him as the town constable.

Hepburn also loved to talk, which caused problems for Hawks when he needed to shoot scenes. When she ignored the assistant director's repeated cries of "Quiet," Hawks just motioned the rest of the crew to stop what they were doing until she realized she was the only one talking. She asked, "What's the matter?" and Hawks said, "You're acting a good part of a parrot, and if you're going to keep on doing it, we'll just sit here and watch you." At that, she took Hawks aside and told him not to talk to her like that because she had a lot of friends working on the film. Hawks called to an electrician on a scaffold overhead and said, "If you had a choice of dropping a lamp on Miss Hepburn or me, who would you drop it on?" The man told Hawks to get out of the way, and Hepburn just said, "I guess I'm wrong" and never misbehaved again.

From that point, the atmosphere on the set was harmonious. Hepburn served high tea every day at four. On some days, Hawks cancelled shooting and took the cast to the races. When he was particularly pleased with one scene, he brought the cast two cases of champagne.

Hepburn and Grant frequently socialized off the set, double-dating with their respective steadies at the time, Howard Hughes and Phyllis Brooks. They loved working on the film so much that they frequently arrived early. Since Hawks was usually late, they spent their time working out new bits of comic business.

Among their inventions was the bit in which Grant accidentally rips off the back of Hepburn's dress, and the two have to walk in lockstep while he covers her exposed derriere with his hat. Something similar had actually happened to Grant when he was seated in a theatre near the manager of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and his wife. When he stood to let the woman pass, he realized his fly was open and accidentally zipped her dress into his fly. They had to walk in the same way to the manager's office in search of a pair of pliers with which to open the stuck sipper.

Hepburn worked beautifully with the leopard, Nissa, and impressed the cat's trainer, Mme. Olga Celeste, as a natural for animal training. Under Mme. Celeste's guidance, she spent time with Nissa before each day's shoot. She wore lots of perfume because it made the cat more playful and put resin on the soles of her shoes to prevent any sudden slips that might scare her. She had only one close call, when she turned too quickly and the beast clawed at her flaring skirt. Only a sharp crack on the head from Mme. Celeste kept Nissa from doing further damage.

Despite Hepburn's knack for working with Nissa, the studio wasn't taking any chances. Some scenes involving the leopard, like the drive to Connecticut, were done as process shots, with Nissa matted into the shot after the actors had done their work. For the scene in which Hepburn drags Baby into the jail house, you can even see the break between the rope Hepburn is holding and the rope attached to the cat.

After a bad start, Hawks grew to respect Hepburn tremendously for her comic timing, ad-libbing skills and physical control. He would tell the press, "She has an amazing body -- like a boxer. It's hard for her to make a wrong turn. She's always in perfect balance. She has that beautiful coordination that allows you to stop and make a turn and never fall off balance. This gives her an amazing sense of timing. I've never seen a girl that had that odd rhythm and control."

Throughout filming, RKO executives complained that the film was destined for commercial failure. They asked Hawks to insert more romance and less slapstick and told him to take away Grant's glasses, but he ignored them.

The film's original budget was $767,000, but Hawks spent so much time indulging his penchant for improvisation that it finally came in at $1,073,000 and 40 days behind schedule. RKO management was so angry they pulled him off his next project, Gunga Din. Ironically, his replacement on that film, George Stevens, was just as painstaking as Hawks. The only difference was that Stevens' film made money at the box office.

Near the end of filming, Hepburn's name appeared in a trade ad placed by the Independent Theatre Owners Association at the top of a list of performers they considered "box-office poison." Also on the list were Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. The publicity about Hepburn's lack of popularity did little to help Bringing Up Baby at the box office.

Despite strong previews and trade reviews, the film performed erratically. It did well in most West Coast and East Coast cities, faltered in the Midwest and, amazingly, flopped big time in New York City, where it was pulled from the Radio City Music Hall after just one week. Hawks would later say the problem was that he had failed to put any normal characters into the film so there was nobody for the audience to identify with.

RKO was still committed to pay Hepburn for two more films at $75,000 apiece. To get rid of her they assigned her to make a B-movie, Mother Carey's Chickens. Rather than make that film, Hepburn bought out her contract for $220,000.

by Frank Miller

Behind the Camera - Bringing Up Baby

According to Howard Hawks in the book, Hawks on Hawks by Joseph McBride, the director had some difficulty getting Hepburn to stop overacting during the early stages of production. "The great trouble is people trying to be funny," Hawks observed. "If they don't try to be funny, then they are funny. I couldn't do any good with her, so I went over to an actor who was a comic for the Ziegfeld Follies and everything, Walter Catlett, and said, "Walter, have you been watching Miss Hepburn?" He said, 'Yeah.' "Do you know what she's doing?" 'Yeah.' And I said, "Will you tell her?" He said, 'No.' "Well," I said, "supposing she asks you to tell her?" 'Well then, I'l have to tell her.' So I went over to Kate, and I said, 'We're not getting along too well on this thing. I'm not getting through to you, but there's a man here who I think could. Do you want to talk to him?' She came back from talking with him and said, 'Howard, hire that guy and keep him around here for several weeks, because I need him.' And from that time on, she knew how to play comedy better, which is just to read lines." Hepburn also asked Hawks to give Catlett a role in the film so she could call on him for further help. Hawks cast him as the town constable. Hepburn also loved to talk, which caused problems for Hawks when he needed to shoot scenes. When she ignored the assistant director's repeated cries of "Quiet," Hawks just motioned the rest of the crew to stop what they were doing until she realized she was the only one talking. She asked, "What's the matter?" and Hawks said, "You're acting a good part of a parrot, and if you're going to keep on doing it, we'll just sit here and watch you." At that, she took Hawks aside and told him not to talk to her like that because she had a lot of friends working on the film. Hawks called to an electrician on a scaffold overhead and said, "If you had a choice of dropping a lamp on Miss Hepburn or me, who would you drop it on?" The man told Hawks to get out of the way, and Hepburn just said, "I guess I'm wrong" and never misbehaved again. From that point, the atmosphere on the set was harmonious. Hepburn served high tea every day at four. On some days, Hawks cancelled shooting and took the cast to the races. When he was particularly pleased with one scene, he brought the cast two cases of champagne. Hepburn and Grant frequently socialized off the set, double-dating with their respective steadies at the time, Howard Hughes and Phyllis Brooks. They loved working on the film so much that they frequently arrived early. Since Hawks was usually late, they spent their time working out new bits of comic business. Among their inventions was the bit in which Grant accidentally rips off the back of Hepburn's dress, and the two have to walk in lockstep while he covers her exposed derriere with his hat. Something similar had actually happened to Grant when he was seated in a theatre near the manager of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and his wife. When he stood to let the woman pass, he realized his fly was open and accidentally zipped her dress into his fly. They had to walk in the same way to the manager's office in search of a pair of pliers with which to open the stuck sipper. Hepburn worked beautifully with the leopard, Nissa, and impressed the cat's trainer, Mme. Olga Celeste, as a natural for animal training. Under Mme. Celeste's guidance, she spent time with Nissa before each day's shoot. She wore lots of perfume because it made the cat more playful and put resin on the soles of her shoes to prevent any sudden slips that might scare her. She had only one close call, when she turned too quickly and the beast clawed at her flaring skirt. Only a sharp crack on the head from Mme. Celeste kept Nissa from doing further damage. Despite Hepburn's knack for working with Nissa, the studio wasn't taking any chances. Some scenes involving the leopard, like the drive to Connecticut, were done as process shots, with Nissa matted into the shot after the actors had done their work. For the scene in which Hepburn drags Baby into the jail house, you can even see the break between the rope Hepburn is holding and the rope attached to the cat. After a bad start, Hawks grew to respect Hepburn tremendously for her comic timing, ad-libbing skills and physical control. He would tell the press, "She has an amazing body -- like a boxer. It's hard for her to make a wrong turn. She's always in perfect balance. She has that beautiful coordination that allows you to stop and make a turn and never fall off balance. This gives her an amazing sense of timing. I've never seen a girl that had that odd rhythm and control." Throughout filming, RKO executives complained that the film was destined for commercial failure. They asked Hawks to insert more romance and less slapstick and told him to take away Grant's glasses, but he ignored them. The film's original budget was $767,000, but Hawks spent so much time indulging his penchant for improvisation that it finally came in at $1,073,000 and 40 days behind schedule. RKO management was so angry they pulled him off his next project, Gunga Din. Ironically, his replacement on that film, George Stevens, was just as painstaking as Hawks. The only difference was that Stevens' film made money at the box office. Near the end of filming, Hepburn's name appeared in a trade ad placed by the Independent Theatre Owners Association at the top of a list of performers they considered "box-office poison." Also on the list were Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. The publicity about Hepburn's lack of popularity did little to help Bringing Up Baby at the box office. Despite strong previews and trade reviews, the film performed erratically. It did well in most West Coast and East Coast cities, faltered in the Midwest and, amazingly, flopped big time in New York City, where it was pulled from the Radio City Music Hall after just one week. Hawks would later say the problem was that he had failed to put any normal characters into the film so there was nobody for the audience to identify with. RKO was still committed to pay Hepburn for two more films at $75,000 apiece. To get rid of her they assigned her to make a B-movie, Mother Carey's Chickens. Rather than make that film, Hepburn bought out her contract for $220,000. by Frank Miller

Bringing Up Baby


Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn team up for the second time in Howard Hawks' 1938 screwball comedy, Bringing Up Baby (Their first film together was Sylvia Scarlett, 1935). Cary Grant plays the stodgy Dr. David Huxley, a paleontologist who is trying to get funding for his museum, marry his secretary and complete work on a fossil, all on the same day. A self-assured but eccentric heiress, Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) throws a wrench in his plan when she steals his golf ball during a game with a potential benefactor. In the ensuing 102 minutes, David and Susan are put through a series of outrageous situations involving leopards, a police lockup, and a missing dinosaur bone before the anticipated romantic fade-out.

Though Bringing Up Baby (1938) featured a wonderful cast and expert comic direction by Howard Hawks, it was not a box office hit. With the approaching war in Europe and the Depression not yet behind them, American filmgoers were looking to the movies for total escapism. Despite a delightfully absurb plot, the characters in Bringing Up Baby were intellectuals and the dialogue was considered too fanciful for mainstream audiences at the time.

Still, there were plenty of hilarious sight gags and situations to keep audiences laughing. The origin of one gag in particular was based on an actual occurence. According to Jack Haley, Jr., who heard the story first hand from Cary Grant, "It was the scene in which Cary steps on the tail of Katherine Hepburn's dress and tears out the rear panel. He based it on a real-life happening. He went to the Roxy Theatre in New York. Sitting next to him were the head of the Metropolitan Museum and his wife. At some point he gets up to go to the men's room and returns. A little while later the woman gets up and crosses in front of him. They're right at the edge of the balcony, he starts to stand, and he sees that his fly is open. So he zips his fly shut and catches her frock in it. They had to lock step to the manager's office to get pliers to unzip his fly from her dress. He told Howard Hawks the story, and Hawks used it. He couldn't use the fly joke, but he used the lockstep."

According to Howard Hawks in the book, Hawks on Hawks by Joseph McBride, the director had some difficulty getting Hepburn to stop overacting during the early stages of production. "The great trouble is people trying to be funny," Hawks observed. "If they don't try to be funny, then they are funny. I couldn't do any good with her, so I went over to an actor who was a comic for the Ziegfeld Follies and everything, Walter Catlett, and said, "Walter, have you been watching Miss Hepburn?" He said, "Yeah." "Do you know what she's doing?" "Yeah." And I said, "Will you tell her?" He said, "No." "Well," I said, supposing she asks you to tell her?" "Well then, I'd have to tell her." So I went over to Kate, and I said, "We're not getting along too well on this thing. I'm not getting through to you, but there's a man here who I think could. Do you want to talk to him?" She came back from talking with him and said, "Howard, hire that guy and keep him around here for several weeks, because I need him." And from that time on, she knew how to play comedy better, which is just to read lines."

At the time this film was made, Katharine Hepburn was experiencing some trouble with RKO. The studio suits knew Hepburn had a considerable personal fortune and no tolerance for people who undermined her position so they offered her an ultimatum once Bringing Up Baby began to go over budget. She had the option to take a part in an undesirable film--Mother Carey's Chickens (1938)- or buy out her contract. To no one's surprise, she chose the latter.

Despite the fact that it was not very well received in its day, the cast of Bringing Up Baby (1938) was dedicated to having fun and bringing about its success. Hawks wanted to capture a side of Hepburn he'd seen once during the filming of Mary of Scotland (1936) when she was working with Hawks' friend, John Ford. Hawks modeled Huxley, Grant's character, on aspects of Harold Lloyd's and John Ford's personalities. He even gave the Grant character John Ford's trademark small, round glasses. Hawks also captured the good-natured teasing and banter between Hepburn and Ford he witnessed on the set of Mary of Scotland in the Grant-Hepburn relationship in Bringing Up Baby. The film still continues to delight audiences 60 years later, and yes, George, the troublesome terrier in the film, was also featured in Thin Man series and The Awful Truth (1937)

Director: Howard Hawks
Producer: Howard Hawks
Screenplay: Dudley Nichols, Hagar Wilde (based on the short story by Hagar Wilde)
Cinematography: Russell Metty
Editor: George Hively
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase, Perry Ferguson
Music: Roy Webb
Cast: Katharine Hepburn (Susan Vance), Cary Grant (Dr. David Huxley), Charlie Ruggles (Maj. Horace Applegate), May Robson (Aunt Elizabeth), Barry Fitzgerald (Mr. Gogarty), Walter Catlett (Constable Slocum)
BW-103m. Close captioning, Descriptive Video.

by Kerryn Sherrod

Bringing Up Baby

Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn team up for the second time in Howard Hawks' 1938 screwball comedy, Bringing Up Baby (Their first film together was Sylvia Scarlett, 1935). Cary Grant plays the stodgy Dr. David Huxley, a paleontologist who is trying to get funding for his museum, marry his secretary and complete work on a fossil, all on the same day. A self-assured but eccentric heiress, Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) throws a wrench in his plan when she steals his golf ball during a game with a potential benefactor. In the ensuing 102 minutes, David and Susan are put through a series of outrageous situations involving leopards, a police lockup, and a missing dinosaur bone before the anticipated romantic fade-out. Though Bringing Up Baby (1938) featured a wonderful cast and expert comic direction by Howard Hawks, it was not a box office hit. With the approaching war in Europe and the Depression not yet behind them, American filmgoers were looking to the movies for total escapism. Despite a delightfully absurb plot, the characters in Bringing Up Baby were intellectuals and the dialogue was considered too fanciful for mainstream audiences at the time. Still, there were plenty of hilarious sight gags and situations to keep audiences laughing. The origin of one gag in particular was based on an actual occurence. According to Jack Haley, Jr., who heard the story first hand from Cary Grant, "It was the scene in which Cary steps on the tail of Katherine Hepburn's dress and tears out the rear panel. He based it on a real-life happening. He went to the Roxy Theatre in New York. Sitting next to him were the head of the Metropolitan Museum and his wife. At some point he gets up to go to the men's room and returns. A little while later the woman gets up and crosses in front of him. They're right at the edge of the balcony, he starts to stand, and he sees that his fly is open. So he zips his fly shut and catches her frock in it. They had to lock step to the manager's office to get pliers to unzip his fly from her dress. He told Howard Hawks the story, and Hawks used it. He couldn't use the fly joke, but he used the lockstep." According to Howard Hawks in the book, Hawks on Hawks by Joseph McBride, the director had some difficulty getting Hepburn to stop overacting during the early stages of production. "The great trouble is people trying to be funny," Hawks observed. "If they don't try to be funny, then they are funny. I couldn't do any good with her, so I went over to an actor who was a comic for the Ziegfeld Follies and everything, Walter Catlett, and said, "Walter, have you been watching Miss Hepburn?" He said, "Yeah." "Do you know what she's doing?" "Yeah." And I said, "Will you tell her?" He said, "No." "Well," I said, supposing she asks you to tell her?" "Well then, I'd have to tell her." So I went over to Kate, and I said, "We're not getting along too well on this thing. I'm not getting through to you, but there's a man here who I think could. Do you want to talk to him?" She came back from talking with him and said, "Howard, hire that guy and keep him around here for several weeks, because I need him." And from that time on, she knew how to play comedy better, which is just to read lines." At the time this film was made, Katharine Hepburn was experiencing some trouble with RKO. The studio suits knew Hepburn had a considerable personal fortune and no tolerance for people who undermined her position so they offered her an ultimatum once Bringing Up Baby began to go over budget. She had the option to take a part in an undesirable film--Mother Carey's Chickens (1938)- or buy out her contract. To no one's surprise, she chose the latter. Despite the fact that it was not very well received in its day, the cast of Bringing Up Baby (1938) was dedicated to having fun and bringing about its success. Hawks wanted to capture a side of Hepburn he'd seen once during the filming of Mary of Scotland (1936) when she was working with Hawks' friend, John Ford. Hawks modeled Huxley, Grant's character, on aspects of Harold Lloyd's and John Ford's personalities. He even gave the Grant character John Ford's trademark small, round glasses. Hawks also captured the good-natured teasing and banter between Hepburn and Ford he witnessed on the set of Mary of Scotland in the Grant-Hepburn relationship in Bringing Up Baby. The film still continues to delight audiences 60 years later, and yes, George, the troublesome terrier in the film, was also featured in Thin Man series and The Awful Truth (1937) Director: Howard Hawks Producer: Howard Hawks Screenplay: Dudley Nichols, Hagar Wilde (based on the short story by Hagar Wilde) Cinematography: Russell Metty Editor: George Hively Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase, Perry Ferguson Music: Roy Webb Cast: Katharine Hepburn (Susan Vance), Cary Grant (Dr. David Huxley), Charlie Ruggles (Maj. Horace Applegate), May Robson (Aunt Elizabeth), Barry Fitzgerald (Mr. Gogarty), Walter Catlett (Constable Slocum) BW-103m. Close captioning, Descriptive Video. by Kerryn Sherrod

Bringing Up Baby - Two Disc Edition


Before 2003 there were few RKO titles available on disc, but since then Warner DVD has been carefully moving into that catalog with commendable results. Bringing Up Baby is an all-time favorite and a sure laugh-getter; it's considered to be the top screwball comedy. Most modern critiques applaud its insane anarchy while wondering how 1938 audiences could have rejected it. Howard Hawks offered his best guess: Everybody in the film is crazy, leaving no normal people for the audience to identify with.

Synopsis: While drumming up research funding, paleontologist David Huxley (Cary Grant) is more or less shanghaied by the crazy Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn), a footloose heiress who tricks him into coming to her Connecticut estate. From that point on David becomes her helpless patsy, as she deprives him of his clothes, his dignity, and his intercostal clavicle, a priceless dinosaur bone. Oh, and there's also a serious mix-up involving two leopards. Baby is an escaped household pet, but a look-alike man-killer from a local circus is also on the loose.

Howard Hawks had already shown a terrific ease with madcap comedy in 1934's Twentieth Century, and powered by the energetic Katharine Hepburn, Bringing Up Baby is a hundred minutes of concentrated mirth. In between sly verbal jokes ("I tried it in the rear!"), gender humiliation (Grant ends up in a woman's frilly housecoat) and outright slapstick are episode after episode of confusion and exasperation for Grant's perplexed hero.

Modeled after Harold Lloyd, Grant affects an unassuming shyness that makes him the perfect patsy/straight man for Hepburn's dotty troublemaker. Susan Vance functions as a female cross between Bugs Bunny and Groucho Marx, making use of fractured conversation to ambush the opposite sex. But she's also a caricatured "scatterbrained female" stereotype, paying not the slightest heed to other people's attempts at communication and relying on her smile and fluttering eyelids to further her agenda. The surprise is that Susan Vance is funny and charming. Real people who behave as she does (and they're out there) usually end up being the cause of migraines.

But this is screwball comedy and the momentum of its outrageous events is thrown even more off-balance by the eccentric supporting cast. The dotty big game hunter played by Charlie Ruggles demonstrates grotesque leopard calls by snorting them through his nose. The psychiatrist convinced David is an asylum case is himself afflicted with strange nervous tics. Drunken Barry Fitzgerald dodders about doing double takes at prowling jungle cats. The last act finally gives us Walter Catlett's local sheriff, who regards every incredible happening with the same New England pragmatism. He's the first normal person we've met, but by now everyone seems touched in the head.

The crazy weekend provides a natural excuse for Susan Vance to 'wake up' David Huxley from his scientific calm into a wild new world of romantic possibilities. Critic Robin Wood classified Bringing Up Baby as one of Hawks' pictures about the abandonment of responsibility and a return to childlike anarchy. It made for a dandy auteurist case, for Hawks' career was nothing if not consistent. Paul Muni's Scarface is civilized man devolved into monkey-like savagery, and in Monkey Business Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers literally revert to mischievous adolescents. Hepburn's Susan Vance is simply trying to show stuffy David Huxley how much fun it can be to toss rationality to one side and cut loose. What could be more fun than a midnight romp in search of a lost jungle cat, charming the savage beast by crooning I Can't Give You Anything but Love, Baby? As Robin Wood probably also said, David's been spending too much time with the fossilized bones of extinct species (with apologies to his stuffy scientist-fiancée) and Susan is really showing him how much fun it can be to chase the live ones - Baby the leopard, and her.

By this time Cary Grant was coming into his own as an actor, having firmly established himself as a deft comedic leading man in The Awful Truth. He's amazing here. David Huxley is a bespectacled nerd just waiting for the dashing Grant to burst through ... and he works his way from indecision and insecurity, to confusion and exasperation. Katharine Hepburn is likewise showing off in a manner that takes no heed whatsoever of her then-status as "Boxoffice Poison," a completely un-earned slur that damaged her career as well as that of Joan Crawford and Marlene Dietrich. Hepburn has always had her detractors, stemming I believe from viewers who prefer their female stars more demure and less assertive. Susan Vance is the hyperactive, take-charge type that drives other people to nervous distraction while never missing a night's sleep of her own. She makes the script play like her own improvisation, especially her wicked impersonation of a nervy gangster's moll.

For a movie that flopped on release Bringing Up Baby has been the focus of numerous imitations. Howard Hawks returned to the same kind of material in Man's Favorite Sport? with mixed results, despite the best efforts of the talented Rock Hudson and Paula Prentiss. Peter Bogdanovich's fawning remake adapted the same setup for Ryan O'Neal and Barbra Streisand. Critics tend to slam What's Up, Doc? now but it was a big comedy hit. In the Coen Brothers' hilarious The Hudsucker Proxy, just about the only discordant note was struck by Jennifer Jason Leigh's abrasive attempt to revive Hepburn's fast-talking, wise-cracking gun moll character. Or was she channeling Rosalind Russell? Or Glenda Farrell? The mind blurs.

Howard Hawks' direction is at its best here, barely keeping up with the action while establishing necessary visual clues and paying off his gags in appropriate wide shots. He's even able to do the leopard-prowling scenes in his wide, locked-off style by means of clever shifting mattes courtesy of the RKO optical department. Effects man Linwood Dunn used to bring his reel to UCLA, and prominent on it was a demonstration of the 'popping' mattes necessary to put the moving panther into shots with the main characters.

Warners' two disc DVD set of Bringing Up Baby contains one nicely polished transfer of the feature, with a carefully cleaned-up soundtrack. As Warners' George Feltenstein has explained, RKO changed hands so frequently that perfect elements are often hard to come by. It's a tad grainier than perfection, but far better than video copies available previously.

Peter Bogdanovich's commentary shows that his interest in the film goes much farther than his own remake; Bogdaonovich spent quite a bit of time with Hawks and even imitates his voice while remembering conversations. Disc two boasts a pair of highly desirable documentaries. Robert Trachtenberg's career docu on Cary Grant is carefully crafted, and Richard Shickel's much older docu on Howard Hawks covers the director's career highlights with a central interview with Hawks shot in the desert as he watches his grandson race motorbikes. Hawks doesn't get into the question of who directed The Thing from Another World but he does offer a succinct and non-political reasoning for why his Rio Bravo was a direct rebuttal to Fred Zinnemann's High Noon.

Rounding out the package are a hefty stack of Howard Hawks trailers, a Technicolor live-action short from 1938, and the terrific cartoon A Star is Hatched, featuring a scrawny chicken doing an imitation of Katharine Hepburn.

The two disc edition of Bringing Up Baby is currently unavailable. To order the single disc edition, click here. Explore more Cary Grant titles here.

by Glenn Erickson

Bringing Up Baby - Two Disc Edition

Before 2003 there were few RKO titles available on disc, but since then Warner DVD has been carefully moving into that catalog with commendable results. Bringing Up Baby is an all-time favorite and a sure laugh-getter; it's considered to be the top screwball comedy. Most modern critiques applaud its insane anarchy while wondering how 1938 audiences could have rejected it. Howard Hawks offered his best guess: Everybody in the film is crazy, leaving no normal people for the audience to identify with. Synopsis: While drumming up research funding, paleontologist David Huxley (Cary Grant) is more or less shanghaied by the crazy Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn), a footloose heiress who tricks him into coming to her Connecticut estate. From that point on David becomes her helpless patsy, as she deprives him of his clothes, his dignity, and his intercostal clavicle, a priceless dinosaur bone. Oh, and there's also a serious mix-up involving two leopards. Baby is an escaped household pet, but a look-alike man-killer from a local circus is also on the loose. Howard Hawks had already shown a terrific ease with madcap comedy in 1934's Twentieth Century, and powered by the energetic Katharine Hepburn, Bringing Up Baby is a hundred minutes of concentrated mirth. In between sly verbal jokes ("I tried it in the rear!"), gender humiliation (Grant ends up in a woman's frilly housecoat) and outright slapstick are episode after episode of confusion and exasperation for Grant's perplexed hero. Modeled after Harold Lloyd, Grant affects an unassuming shyness that makes him the perfect patsy/straight man for Hepburn's dotty troublemaker. Susan Vance functions as a female cross between Bugs Bunny and Groucho Marx, making use of fractured conversation to ambush the opposite sex. But she's also a caricatured "scatterbrained female" stereotype, paying not the slightest heed to other people's attempts at communication and relying on her smile and fluttering eyelids to further her agenda. The surprise is that Susan Vance is funny and charming. Real people who behave as she does (and they're out there) usually end up being the cause of migraines. But this is screwball comedy and the momentum of its outrageous events is thrown even more off-balance by the eccentric supporting cast. The dotty big game hunter played by Charlie Ruggles demonstrates grotesque leopard calls by snorting them through his nose. The psychiatrist convinced David is an asylum case is himself afflicted with strange nervous tics. Drunken Barry Fitzgerald dodders about doing double takes at prowling jungle cats. The last act finally gives us Walter Catlett's local sheriff, who regards every incredible happening with the same New England pragmatism. He's the first normal person we've met, but by now everyone seems touched in the head. The crazy weekend provides a natural excuse for Susan Vance to 'wake up' David Huxley from his scientific calm into a wild new world of romantic possibilities. Critic Robin Wood classified Bringing Up Baby as one of Hawks' pictures about the abandonment of responsibility and a return to childlike anarchy. It made for a dandy auteurist case, for Hawks' career was nothing if not consistent. Paul Muni's Scarface is civilized man devolved into monkey-like savagery, and in Monkey Business Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers literally revert to mischievous adolescents. Hepburn's Susan Vance is simply trying to show stuffy David Huxley how much fun it can be to toss rationality to one side and cut loose. What could be more fun than a midnight romp in search of a lost jungle cat, charming the savage beast by crooning I Can't Give You Anything but Love, Baby? As Robin Wood probably also said, David's been spending too much time with the fossilized bones of extinct species (with apologies to his stuffy scientist-fiancée) and Susan is really showing him how much fun it can be to chase the live ones - Baby the leopard, and her. By this time Cary Grant was coming into his own as an actor, having firmly established himself as a deft comedic leading man in The Awful Truth. He's amazing here. David Huxley is a bespectacled nerd just waiting for the dashing Grant to burst through ... and he works his way from indecision and insecurity, to confusion and exasperation. Katharine Hepburn is likewise showing off in a manner that takes no heed whatsoever of her then-status as "Boxoffice Poison," a completely un-earned slur that damaged her career as well as that of Joan Crawford and Marlene Dietrich. Hepburn has always had her detractors, stemming I believe from viewers who prefer their female stars more demure and less assertive. Susan Vance is the hyperactive, take-charge type that drives other people to nervous distraction while never missing a night's sleep of her own. She makes the script play like her own improvisation, especially her wicked impersonation of a nervy gangster's moll. For a movie that flopped on release Bringing Up Baby has been the focus of numerous imitations. Howard Hawks returned to the same kind of material in Man's Favorite Sport? with mixed results, despite the best efforts of the talented Rock Hudson and Paula Prentiss. Peter Bogdanovich's fawning remake adapted the same setup for Ryan O'Neal and Barbra Streisand. Critics tend to slam What's Up, Doc? now but it was a big comedy hit. In the Coen Brothers' hilarious The Hudsucker Proxy, just about the only discordant note was struck by Jennifer Jason Leigh's abrasive attempt to revive Hepburn's fast-talking, wise-cracking gun moll character. Or was she channeling Rosalind Russell? Or Glenda Farrell? The mind blurs. Howard Hawks' direction is at its best here, barely keeping up with the action while establishing necessary visual clues and paying off his gags in appropriate wide shots. He's even able to do the leopard-prowling scenes in his wide, locked-off style by means of clever shifting mattes courtesy of the RKO optical department. Effects man Linwood Dunn used to bring his reel to UCLA, and prominent on it was a demonstration of the 'popping' mattes necessary to put the moving panther into shots with the main characters. Warners' two disc DVD set of Bringing Up Baby contains one nicely polished transfer of the feature, with a carefully cleaned-up soundtrack. As Warners' George Feltenstein has explained, RKO changed hands so frequently that perfect elements are often hard to come by. It's a tad grainier than perfection, but far better than video copies available previously. Peter Bogdanovich's commentary shows that his interest in the film goes much farther than his own remake; Bogdaonovich spent quite a bit of time with Hawks and even imitates his voice while remembering conversations. Disc two boasts a pair of highly desirable documentaries. Robert Trachtenberg's career docu on Cary Grant is carefully crafted, and Richard Shickel's much older docu on Howard Hawks covers the director's career highlights with a central interview with Hawks shot in the desert as he watches his grandson race motorbikes. Hawks doesn't get into the question of who directed The Thing from Another World but he does offer a succinct and non-political reasoning for why his Rio Bravo was a direct rebuttal to Fred Zinnemann's High Noon. Rounding out the package are a hefty stack of Howard Hawks trailers, a Technicolor live-action short from 1938, and the terrific cartoon A Star is Hatched, featuring a scrawny chicken doing an imitation of Katharine Hepburn. The two disc edition of Bringing Up Baby is currently unavailable. To order the single disc edition, click here. Explore more Cary Grant titles here. by Glenn Erickson

Critics' Corner - Bringing Up Baby


Amazingly, in light of its current classic status, Bringing Up Baby was a box office failure, mainly because it went over budget and grossed only $715,000 in the U.S. and another $394,000 in the rapidly declining overseas market. It also received decidedly mixed reviews from the critics.

"In Bringing Up Baby, Miss Hepburn has a role which calls for her to be breathless, senseless and terribly, terribly fatiguing. She succeeds, and we can be callous enough to hint it is not entirely a matter of performance." - Frank S. Nugent, The New York Times

"The players deserve the chief credit for the smattering of amusement in the offering. The part of a spoiled playgirl is perfectly suited to Miss Hepburn's talents, and she offers as breezy a performance as the script permits. Mr. Grant has more chance to create a burlesque, but he sometimes finds himself stranded while the plot makes good and sure that no one will miss a gag or a comical situation." - Howard Barnes New York Herald Tribune.

"Bringing Up Baby's slapstick is irrational, rough-&-tumble, undignified, obviously devised with the idea that the cinemaudience will enjoy (as it does) seeing stage Actress Hepburn get a proper mussing up." - Time.

"I am happy to report that it is funny from the word go, that it has no other meaning to recommend it...and that I wouldn't swap it for any three things of the current season." - Otis Ferguson, The New Republic.

"The director, Howard Hawks, keeps all this trifling nonsense in such artful balance that it never impinges on the real world; it may be the American movies' closest equivalent to Restoration comedy." - Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies.

Film Scholar Morris Dickstein in his essay on Bringing Up Baby in the book, The A List: The National Film Society of Film Critics' 100 Essential Films, wrote, "The zany effervescence of screwball comedy, with its buoyant, anarchic energy and rapid-fire dialogue, became a suggestive way not only of countering depression but of making movies about sex without any sex in them. Perhaps the greatest, certainly the wildest of these movies was Howard Hawks's Bringing Up Baby."

In writing about Bringing Up Baby for his book, Guide for the Film Fanatic, Danny Peary wrote, "...this is the rare screwball comedy in which the woman pursues the man. That she causes him trouble is not unexpected, since she is so desperate to get his attention that she "does anything that comes into [my] head." You've got to admire her brazenness, and her willingness to make a fool of herself in order to win Grant. She isn't worried when he gets annoyed with her, she expresses a major theme in comedy: "The love impulse in man frequently reveals itself in terms of conflict."

Compiled by Rob Nixon & Jeff Stafford AWARDS & HONORS

In 1990, Bringing Up Baby was voted a place on the National Film Registry.

by Frank Miller

Critics' Corner - Bringing Up Baby

Amazingly, in light of its current classic status, Bringing Up Baby was a box office failure, mainly because it went over budget and grossed only $715,000 in the U.S. and another $394,000 in the rapidly declining overseas market. It also received decidedly mixed reviews from the critics. "In Bringing Up Baby, Miss Hepburn has a role which calls for her to be breathless, senseless and terribly, terribly fatiguing. She succeeds, and we can be callous enough to hint it is not entirely a matter of performance." - Frank S. Nugent, The New York Times "The players deserve the chief credit for the smattering of amusement in the offering. The part of a spoiled playgirl is perfectly suited to Miss Hepburn's talents, and she offers as breezy a performance as the script permits. Mr. Grant has more chance to create a burlesque, but he sometimes finds himself stranded while the plot makes good and sure that no one will miss a gag or a comical situation." - Howard Barnes New York Herald Tribune. "Bringing Up Baby's slapstick is irrational, rough-&-tumble, undignified, obviously devised with the idea that the cinemaudience will enjoy (as it does) seeing stage Actress Hepburn get a proper mussing up." - Time. "I am happy to report that it is funny from the word go, that it has no other meaning to recommend it...and that I wouldn't swap it for any three things of the current season." - Otis Ferguson, The New Republic. "The director, Howard Hawks, keeps all this trifling nonsense in such artful balance that it never impinges on the real world; it may be the American movies' closest equivalent to Restoration comedy." - Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies. Film Scholar Morris Dickstein in his essay on Bringing Up Baby in the book, The A List: The National Film Society of Film Critics' 100 Essential Films, wrote, "The zany effervescence of screwball comedy, with its buoyant, anarchic energy and rapid-fire dialogue, became a suggestive way not only of countering depression but of making movies about sex without any sex in them. Perhaps the greatest, certainly the wildest of these movies was Howard Hawks's Bringing Up Baby." In writing about Bringing Up Baby for his book, Guide for the Film Fanatic, Danny Peary wrote, "...this is the rare screwball comedy in which the woman pursues the man. That she causes him trouble is not unexpected, since she is so desperate to get his attention that she "does anything that comes into [my] head." You've got to admire her brazenness, and her willingness to make a fool of herself in order to win Grant. She isn't worried when he gets annoyed with her, she expresses a major theme in comedy: "The love impulse in man frequently reveals itself in terms of conflict." Compiled by Rob Nixon & Jeff Stafford AWARDS & HONORS In 1990, Bringing Up Baby was voted a place on the National Film Registry. by Frank Miller

Quotes

There *is* a leopard on your roof and it's my leopard and I have to get it and to get it I have to sing.
- Susan Vance
Now it isn't that I don't like you, Susan, because, after all, in moments of quiet, I'm strangely drawn toward you, but - well, there haven't been any quiet moments.
- David Huxley
You mean you want *me* to go home?
- Susan Vance
Yes.
- David Huxley
You mean you don't want me to help you any more?
- Susan Vance
No.
- David Huxley
After all the fun we've had?
- Susan Vance
Well, don't you worry, David, because if there's anything that I can do to help you, just let me know and I'll do it.
- Susan Vance
Well, er - don't do it until I let you know.
- David Huxley
Anyway, David, when they find out who we are they'll let us out.
- Susan Vance
When they find out who *you* are they'll pad the cell.
- David Huxley

Trivia

Susan pretends that she and David (Cary Grant) are gangsters. The underworld nickname she gives police for David is "Jerry the Nipper", a nickname that Jerry (Grant) had in Awful Truth, The (1937). David protests to the police, "Officer, she's making it up from motion pictures she's seen!"

This movie did so badly at the box office that Howard Hawks was fired from his next production at RKO and Katharine Hepburn was forced to buy out her contract.

Co-screenwriter Dudley Nichols based the madcap romance on Katharine Hepburn's affair with director 'Ford, John' at the time.

Director Howard Hawks modeled Grant's character, David, on silent film comedian Harold Lloyd.

Skippy the terrier (George) also played Asta in The Thin Man and Mr. Smith in The Awful Truth.

Notes

Hollywood Reporter news items provide the following information about the production: Robert McGowan was hired by RKO to write gags for this film. His contribution to the final film has not been confirmed, however. Director Howard Hawks began "preliminary" shooting, which included tests and process photography, on August 16, 1937. Although the principal photography was scheduled to begin two weeks later, the actual start date was September 23, 1937. Robert Montgomery and Leslie Howard were considered for the role of "David." M-G-M refused to loan Montgomery to RKO, while Howard turned down the part in favor of the title role in Alexander Korda's production, Lawrence of Arabia. (Modern sources state that Ronald Colman, Fredric March and Ray Milland were also approached about the part.)
       RKO borrowed Charlie Ruggles from Paramount for the film. Hollywood Reporter production charts add Wesley Barry and Marek Windheim to the cast, but their participation in the final film has not been confirmed. According to RKO production files, exteriors were shot at the Bel Air Country Club in Los Angeles and at the Arthur Ranch in Malibu, CA. The exterior of the "Peabodys'" house, which previously had been seen in Frank Capra's Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, was shot at the Columbia Ranch. Connecticut country road scenes were filmed at Oakgrove Park in Flintridge, CA, while New England street scenes were filmed at the Twentieth Century-Fox Studios. According to modern sources, the museum scenes were shot at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History.
       Modern sources provide the following additional information about the production: In a modern interview, Hawks said of the film script: "I bought a short story written by a girl. I got the girl to come over, and she didn't know anything about pictures. But I wanted to keep exactly the same thought, that method of treating it. She had the characters for both Hepburn and Grant so well. So Dudley Nichols worked with her on the script." In the same interview, Hawks described his experiences with Hepburn: "We had trouble with Kate at first. The great trouble is people trying to be funny... I couldn't do any good with her, so I went over to an actor who was a comic for the Ziegfeld Follies and everything, Walter Catlett, and I said...'Will you tell her?'... She came back from talking with him with him and said, 'Howard, hire that guy and keep him around here for several weeks, because I need him.'"
       Because of his critically praised work with Hepburn on Sylvia Scarlet, RKO executive Pandro S. Berman convinced Grant to join the cast of Bringing Up Baby. Hawks helped Grant with his part by telling him to recall images of one of his favorite comics, Harold Lloyd, and to contemplate a man imitating a whinnying horse when extreme nervousness was needed in a scene. Madame Olga Celeste, Nissa's trainer, advised Hepburn, who unlike the other actors was not afraid of Nissa, to wear a certain perfume that the eight-year-old leopard liked and to apply resin to the bottoms of her shoes to avoid slipping in front of the excitable animal. According to a documentary about RKO, photographers Russell Metty and Vernon Walker filmed many of Nissa's scenes by shooting two separate takes of the same action, one with the animal alone, and the other with the actor(s) alone. The takes were then combined in the laboratory to create the impression that the leopard and the actors were in the scene at the same time. Just before performing in Bringing Up Baby, Asta, who plays "George" in the film, had performed in The Awful Truth with Grant.
       Bringing Up Baby cost RKO $1,200,000 to produce (Cary Grant received $120,000 for his performance). While the film was still in production, the Independent Theatre Owners Association published a list of actors who had been deemed "box office poison," and Hepburn, along with Joan Crawford and Marlene Dietrich, was on it. Concerned about Hepburn's bad press, RKO decided to shelve the project before spending any additional money on editing, scoring and advertising. Multi-millionaire Howard Hughes, who later bought RKO, purchased the film from RKO and had it booked in the Loew Circuit. In spite of Hughes's help and good reviews, the film lost more than $350,000 at the box office. RKO subsequently forced Hepburn, who refused to play the lead in the low-budget programmer Mother Carey's Chickens, to buy out her contract for $220,000. Hepburn then teamed up with George Cukor and Grant and made Holiday for Columbia.
       Modern sources credit Mel Berns with make-up. Although not truly a remake, the 1972 film What's Up Doc?, starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal, was inspired by Bringing Up Baby, according to interviews with its director, Peter Bogdanovich.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1938

Released in United States February 18, 1938

Released in United States on Video September 27, 1989

Released in United States March 1987

Broadcast over TNT (colorized version) April 10, 1989.

Selected in 1990 for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1938

Released in United States February 18, 1938

Released in United States March 1987 (Shown at AFI/Los Angeles International Film Festival (UCLA Movie Marathon: A Tribute to Cary Grant) March 11-26, 1987.)

Released in United States on Video September 27, 1989 (colorized version)