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Great Scenes – BRINGING UP BABY

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

Pastiche Parody – DEAD MEN DON’T WEAR PLAID

DEAD MEN DON’T WEAR PLAID is a romp through hard-boiled history.

Carl Reiner‘s Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) is half-parody of, half-homage to the noir detective dramas of the 1940’s. The story follows Rigby Reardon (played by a young, dark-haired Steve Martin), an archetypal private eye on a quest to solve the suspected murder of a beautiful woman’s father. An obvious parody of the P.I. archetype, Reardon is an emotionally isolated character, but he’s no prude – the very first scene features him unabashedly groping an unconscious client (and yet somehow this film is rated PG). Rigby receives help on the case from a few seasoned vets of the noir genre, courtesy of some inventive editing and access to the Universal film library. Shot in black and white, this ludicrous 80’s detective spoof is sprinkled with clips from 18 classic detective thrillers from the 40’s, mixed in with new footage of Martin and the other actors in a way that gives the almost seamless impression that they’re interacting with the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Alan Ladd, Ray Milland, Cary Grant, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, and so on. And besides being a zany vehicle for Reiner and Martin to recreate their The Jerk antics, one of the most remarkable and overlooked components of this film is the costuming – Plaid was the last film for which Edith Head designed the costumes before her death in 1981. In addition to the new suits she designed for Martin, several of the film clips include her designs from movies such as Double Indemnity and Sorry, Wrong Number, so this film serves as a wonderful tribute to her long career. For those uninitiated to the genre, it’s a great primer, while those more well versed in this style  can simply sit back and enjoy the details – like watching Steve Martin talk shit to Bogie. It’s priceless.

[admin. note: With great pleasure the gang welcomes our newest contributor, Willa, with her first review! Long may you roam these sandy shores!]

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June 2, 2011   No Comments

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