Review: ‘Bringing Up Baby’

Katharine Hepburn

This harum-scarum farce comedy is Katharine Hepburn's first of this type. Opposite her is Cary Grant, who is perfectly at home as a farceur after his work in "The Awful Truth." Picture is moulded along same lines and is definite box office.

This harum-scarum farce comedy is Katharine Hepburn’s first of this type. Opposite her is Cary Grant, who is perfectly at home as a farceur after his work in “The Awful Truth.” Picture is moulded along same lines and is definite box office.

“Bringing Up Baby” is constructed for maximum of laughs, with Ruggles and Catlett adding to the starring team’s zany antics. There is little rhyme or reason to most of the action, but it’s all highly palatable.

Wacky developments include pursuit of an heiress after a zoology professor who expects to wed his femme assistant in the museum on the same day he plans to complete a giant brontosaurus; a pet leopard, ‘Nissa’, who makes a playmate of ‘Asta’, a redoubtable Scotch terrier; a wealthy woman who may endow the prof’s museum with $1 million; an escaped wild leopard from the circus; a stupid town constable; a forgettable ex-big game hunter; a scientifically-minded brain specialist; and a tippling gardener. Under Howard Hawks’ skillful pacing it is an hilarious farce.

Katharine Hepburn, as the heiress who goes after her man once she spots him, contributes one of her most invigorating screen characterizations as a madcap deb. Cary Grant, the zoology professor who thinks more of recovering the priceless missing bone for his uncompleted brontosaurus than his impending wedding and the companionship of the playful heiress, performs his role to the hilt.

Ruggles, as the former African game hunter, does wonders with a minor characterization brought in late in the picture. May Robson, obviously out of her element here, provides a few sober moments to the mad proceedings, being as effectual as ever. Catlett gives an expertly comic portrayal of the constable. Fritz Feld is the brain specialist and excellent support is furnished by Barry Fitzgerald, Tala Birell, John Kelly and the animal actors.

Hagar Wilde’s story has been neatly scripted by himself and Dudley Nichols. Developments are placed by sizzling dialog. Chief shortcoming is that too much time is consumed with the jail sequence. It diverts interest from the attempt to locate the missing pet leopard and dog. Prime reason for it, of course, is that it gives Miss Hepburn a chance to imitate a gunmoll.

Both Vernon Walker, with his special effects, and Russell Metty’s photography are well up to the elaborate production given the film.


Bringing Up Baby


RKO. Director Howard Hawks; Producer Howard Hawks; Screenplay Dudley Nichols, Hagar Wilde; Camera Russell Metty; Editor George Hively; Music Roy Webb (dir.). Reviewed in Projection Room. N.Y. Feb. 9, '38.


(B&W) Available on VHS, DVD. Original review text from 1938. Running time: 102 MIN.


Susan - Katharine Hepburn David - Cary Grant Major Applegate - Charlie Ruggles Mr. Gogarty - Barry Fitzgerald Aunt Elizabeth - May Robson Slocum - Walter Catlett Dr. Digby - Fritz Feld Mrs. Gogarty - Leona Roberts Mr. Peabody - George Irving Mrs. Digby - Tala Birell Alice Swallow - Virginia Walker Elmer - John Kelly George, the dog - 'Asta' Baby, the leopard - 'Nissa'

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