Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Movie Review: Bringing Up Baby

The title (Bringing Up Baby) refers to a trip taken by the main characters (played by Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant) to deliver a tame leopard, named Baby, to Connecticut. I read on Wikipedia that this movie was the inspiration for What's Up, Doc? (which is one of Leann's family's favorite movies). So I ordered this from Netflix so we could compare. Several scenes (particularly the scenes involving torn coats) were obviously duplicated in What's Up Doc? One difference is that Katherine Hepburn's character in Bringing Up Baby comes across as a complete nitwit, while Barbara Streisand's character in What's Up, Doc? comes across as intelligent, though unable to control the events she intentionally sets in motion.

Given that the American Film Institute (AFI) chose Katherine Hepburn as the greatest American female movie star of all time [1], it's surprising that Bringing Up Baby (which has since been chosen by the AFI as the 88th greatest American movie of all time [2] and the 14th greatest American comedy of all time [3]) was a box office flop and led some movie theater owners to declare Katherine Hepburn as "box office poison".[4] Her character certainly was annoying and volatile to the point of capriciousness. In a few scenes you can tell that the rope Katherine Hepburn is pulling on is not the same rope that is wrapped around the leopard's neck (i.e. the two halves of the shot were filmed separately and then spliced together). Even so, it's pretty impressive how close they were able to match the two ropes in the frame. There is some debate about whether Cary Grant's ad-lib use of the word "gay" was the first mainstream use of the word to refer to a male homosexual.[5] The final scene was predictable, but I would've been quite dissatisfied if they hadn't done exactly what they'd done—it was the obvious conclusion.[6]


[1] For the rest of the winners (as well as the list of male stars), see http://www.afi.com/100Years/stars.aspx.

[2] For the rest of the winners (including the winners for a previous version of the list), see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies. In the 1998 version of the list it came in at #97.

[3] For the rest of the winners, see http://www.afi.com/100Years/laughs.aspx.

[4] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bringing Up Baby#Reception and legacy.

[5] This is both because Cary Grant is dressed in drag in that scene and because Cary Grant is alleged to have been himself bisexual and so had access to the male homosexual subculture where the term was in common use. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bringing Up Baby#Use of word "gay".

[6] Note however that this couldn't possible be a Brontosaurus since that genus is defunct. If it were a real dinosaur skeleton, it would probably be an Apatosaurus.

Image attributions:

Leopard is by Craig Cullum, available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/10547738@N00/516014543.

Einstein Apatosaurus Skeleton (in Monterrey, México) is by Guerry, available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/guerry-monero/4792640716/.

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