Plot: Shy paleontologist David Huxley (Cary Grant) is hoping for three things: a rare dinosaur bone fossil, a million dollar research grant, and his marriage to colleague Miss Swallow. Madcap heiress Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn), instantly smitten with David when he objects to her playing his golf ball and driving off in his car, manages to disrupt his life completely when she asks him to help her transport a leopard named “Baby” to her aunt’s estate in Connecticut. Complications include Susan’s dog George taking the irreplaceable bone fossil to bury somewhere, serenading the leopard to get him down from a neighbor’s roof, being thrown in jail, confusing Baby with a vicious circus leopard, and the destruction of an entire dinosaur skeleton. David does not ultimately get the million dollars (it turns out that Susan’s aunt was the prospective donor), but Susan does, so everyone lives happily ever after, including Baby.
Discussion: “Bringing Up Baby” is generally considered to be the ultimate example of the screwball comedy, which reached its apex in the 1930s. These movies featured outlandish plots (most often featuring wealthy people subjected to utter chaos) carried out at breakneck speed with a lot of witty repartee and romantic tension.
Questions for Kids:
· What is it that Susan likes so much about David?
· Why, ultimately, does he like her?
· Would you like to meet someone like Susan?
Connections: Grant and Hepburn made three other films together. Two are also classic: “The Philadelphia Story” and “Holiday.” The third, “Sylvia Scarlett,” is an odd little movie (though with an enthusiastic cult following) about a group of performers that has Hepburn dressed as a boy through most of it. Other classic screwball comedies include, “My Man Godfrey,” “Nothing Sacred,” “It Happened One Night,” “The Palm Beach Story, ” and Peter Bogdanovich’s attempted update, “What’s Up Doc?” For very thoughtful and serious essays on “Bringing Up Baby” and some of the other screwball classics, see The Pursuit of Happiness, by Stanley Cavell.
Activities: Kids who enjoy this kind of comedy might enjoy some of the stories by P.G. Wodehouse, like “Uncle Fred Flits By,” which portray the same kind of deliriously joyful anarchy. And this movie may inspire them to take a look at dinosaur skeletons in a museum, though there is no such thing as an “intercostal clavicle.”