The zaniest, most delightful, most romantic screwball comedy of them all, Bringing Up Baby features Katherine Hepburn at her effervescent best and Cary Grant in a marvelous performance combining stuffiness and injured dignity with his usual debonair charm.
Grant plays a bookish paleontologist unfelicitously engaged to his even stuffier assistant (Virginia Walker); Hepburn’s a flighty, madcap socialite who bursts into his life on the 18th fairway and is very soon literally driving him to distraction. Grant’s meticulously assembled dinosaur skeleton perfectly embodies the ossified, dead-end direction his personal life is currently taking, and contrasts strikingly with the much livelier and more formidable (not to mention quirkier) beast he meets in Hepburn’s company — a Brazilian leopard with old-fashioned taste in music.
In a performance reportedly inspired by silent comedian Harold Lloyd, the bespectacled Grant does the slow burn beautifully; and Hepburn’s battering-ram personality and non-sequitur repartee are irresistible rather than irritating. From the rollicking dialogue to the daft situations to the deft physical comedy, Bringing Up Baby has it all.
Why is The Philadelphia Story so well known, while the equally unforgettable Holiday, from the same director, writers, and leads, suffers comparative neglect?
Like the heroines of The Awful Truth and His Girl Friday, Katherine Hepburn plays a divorcée caught between flawed ex-husband Cary Grant and a respectable but somehow unsuitable fiancé (John Howard). But The Philadelphia Story goes beyond the formula by throwing in surprise contender Jimmy Stewart as a disgruntled novelist-reporter — an unexpected source of conflict and uncertainty that eliminates the need for Grant to resort to the underhanded tricks he needed to show up his rivals in Awful Truth and Girl Friday.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.