Reel Classics

Bringing Up Baby: The Criterion Collection (1938)

Bringing Up Baby: The Criterion Collection

"I've got my head. I've lost my leopard!"

As far as screwball comedies go, the pairing of Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn was probably seen as an odd choice in 1938. She didn’t have a hit film and Grant, hitting his comedic stride, was just coming off of The Awful Truth to rave reviews. Sure, he would define his persona with this genre and it was usually the women co-starring alongside him which would help him do it due to the chemistry, but Hepburn was indeed a risk.

"is often choppy and chaotic, but there is poetry in that kind of dusting which eventually leads to SOLID GOLD"


In fact, it was with the box office failure of Bringing Up Baby which led to her being labeled as box office poison.  That’s right, this beloved comedy was, in fact, an absolute dud upon its original release.  Maybe it was Grant ad libbing, while wearing a woman’s négligée, that he’s suddenly gone gay which turned audiences off.  Of course, the meaning of the term was different in the ‘30s, but still . . . the fault can’t all be laid at Hepburn’s feet.  Right?  Was it the editing? 

Hepburn’s role in Bringing Up Baby as Susan Vance, a hot-to-trot heiress with a leopard named Baby in tow, might have been written with her in mind, but her comedic timing still needed some work during the filming. Good thing she had Grant and co-star Walter Catlett to lean on as their vaudeville backgrounds must have aided her comedic timing in the back-and-forth banter between her and Grant.  

Certainly, the cast - whose outbreaks and fits of laughter caused many delays in the completion of filming - was having a blast, but would the audience? It certainly seemed like it and with co-stars Charles Ruggles, May Robson, and Virgina Walker as David's fiancée all in, Bringing Up Baby - pets and all - seemed like it was a sure thing.

It wasn’t.  Audiences answered the press reviews with a resounding NO.  They didn’t like it.  At least, not yet. Bringing Up Baby: The Criterion Collection

But, thanks to a re-release and the advent of television, Bringing Up Baby did indeed find an appreciative audience and the sidesplitting comedy - in which David Huxley (Grant), a (usually) reserved paleontologist, finds himself in a series of frustrating and funny situations involving the scatterbrained Vance, her pet leopard, and a buried dinosaur bone (thanks to a dog) that he needs for his brontosaurus display.  He’s going to lose it for sure, but can he keep it together long enough to secure a million dollar donation for his museum?

Bringing Up Baby, while not the quickest of screwball families, has the answer.  The laughter and the chemistry is nonstop as Huxley finds himself at the beck and call of Vance, who tries to keep him from his own wedding.  Her plan might even work, too.  With no straight man in sight, Bringing Up Baby is often choppy and chaotic, but there is poetry in that kind of dusting which eventually leads to SOLID GOLD.

Bringing Up Baby is a REEL CLASSIC and, thankfully, it is now on blu-ray with a newly restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack! The screwball sparks will fly!

5/5 stars

Bringing Up Baby: The Criterion Collection

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Criterion
Available on Blu-ray
- July 6, 2021
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
LPCM Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Screwball sparks fly when Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn let loose in one of the fastest and funniest films ever made—a high-wire act of invention that took American screen comedy to new heights of absurdity. Hoping to procure a million-dollar endowment from a wealthy society matron for his museum, a hapless paleontologist (Grant) finds himself entangled with a dizzy heiress (Hepburn) as the manic misadventures pile up—a missing dinosaur bone, a leopard on the loose, and plenty of gender-bending mayhem among them. Bringing Up Baby’s sophisticated dialogue, spontaneous performances, and giddy innuendo come together in a whirlwind of comic chaos captured with lightning-in-a-bottle brio by director Howard Hawks.

Video:

The grace!  The elegance!  Hepburn and Grant together again in 4K!  Criterion Collection, with a 1.37:1 aspect ratio, presents Bringing Up Baby with a glorious 4K transfer that sweeps away sour memories of watching the old DVD copies of the film.  Thank goodness!  This crisp transfer absolutely crackles with depth, definition, and details as we get looks at nightclubs, apartment buildings, and even a courtroom and it all looks amazingly handled.  Even the night scenes are pocketed with details.  The black-and-white photography here sizzles and the blacks and grays are handled expertly by the transfer. 

Audio:

You’ll be heard laughing over the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track which accompanies this film.

Supplements:

Commentary:

Special Features:

Complete with an essay by critic Sheila O’Malley and, for the Blu-ray, the 1937 short story by Hagar Wilde on which the film is based, the special features on this release are definitely interesting. We get interviews, audio excerpts, video essays, plus the 4K restoration. Fans are going to love this release!

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 5/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

5/5 stars


Film Details

Bringing Up Baby: The Criterion Collection

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
102 mins
Director
: Howard Hawkes
Writer:
Dudley Nichols; Hagar Wilde
Cast:
Katharine Hepburn; Cary Grant; Charles Ruggles
Genre
: Comedy | Romance
Tagline:
And so begins the hilarious adventure of Professor David Huxley and Miss Susan Vance, a flutter-brained vixen with love in her heart!
Memorable Movie Quote: "Well, I've heard that if you throw pebbles up against a window, the people think it's hail and then they come and close the windows."
Theatrical Distributor:
RKO Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
February 18, 1938
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
July 6, 2021.
Synopsis: While trying to secure a $1 million donation for his museum, a befuddled paleontologist is pursued by a flighty and often irritating heiress and her pet leopard, Baby.

Art

Bringing Up Baby: The Criterion Collection

 

Joomla SEF URLs by Artio
Follow us on Twitter
Like us on Facebook
Letterboxd
Find us on Rotten Tomatoes