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Despite wonderful comedic acting, a versatile and talented director, and an inane plot involving multiple leopards, the 1938 Howard Hawks film Bringing Up Baby was far from commercially successful, though it enjoys a modern reputation as one of the best screwball comedies of its day. The highly amusing tale of an unsuspecting paleontologist’s descent into confusion and chaos begins the moment David Huxley (Cary Grant) lays eyes on young eccentric socialite Susan Vance (Katherine Hepburn), and he very quickly finds himself scrambling for his dignity as he falls prey to her nonsensical antics. Depending on your perspective, Hepburn’s character is either a probable psychopath or just a tenacious woman intent on having her way, relentless in her sudden infatuation with David. Either way, we get some laughs as hapless Dr. Huxley is repeatedly hoodwinked into accompanying her on a variety of preposterous errands that slowly dismantle his life. Foremost amongst these, David must assist Susan with the delivery of a “tame” leopard named Baby, to surprise her wealthy Aunt Elizabeth in Connecticut. During this scene at the aunt’s house, Susan manages to steal David’s clothes while he showers, forcing him to don a woman’s bathrobe, trimmed in fur. As he storms about the house frantically looking for more appropriate attire, Aunt Elizabeth comes home, and demands to know who he is and why he’s dressed in such a ridiculous manner. Mentally fatigued and justifiably hysterical, David leaps into the air, gesturing wildly, and roars, “Because I just went GAY all of a sudden!” And though the context would indicate that by “gay” he means giddy or merry, it was a particularly meaningful utterance for Grant, who was himself allegedly bisexual. As the scene continues, a put-upon David continues to suffer blow after hilarious blow from Susan, Aunt Elizabeth (as well as her badly behaved and bone-craving dog, George), and of course Baby the leopard, his mental breakdown continuing for the sake of our amusement.

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June 16, 2011   No Comments

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