From the bright country club and the spacious museum, we descend to the noir forest of “Connecticut,” where the imitated cry of the loon may be answered by the roar of a real leopard. This is an animal picture, but redder in wit and claw than Born Free. David (Cary Grant) is far from free: He has a prehistoric skeleton to assemble, a grant to protect, and a fiancée—until he meets Susan (Katharine Hepburn), who does nothing except play golf, destroy David’s orderly life, and get the back of her dress torn off so he must use his top hat to guard her undies. Why? He loves the madwoman. Later, he will be lost in the jungle searching for his bone.
This is 1938, when director Howard Hawks blithely countered the gloom of Munich (etc.) with the riot of farce and the clear demonstration that David’s scholarly dignity was at the mercy of Susan’s pathological knack for “fun.” The film was a flop in its day, perhaps because 1938 was determined to take everything too seriously. Today it looks as heady as (but more fun than) Citizen Kake (you know the one I mean). Dudley Nichols and Hagar Wilde wrote the script—but leopards and other animals often say whatever they want to say.
Editor’s note: This is the first of three special guest posts dedicated to films that are now streaming, in their entirety, on YouTube. Bringing Up Baby costs $2.99 to rent; many others are totally free. Tune in tomorrow and Friday to see what Richard Brody and Jenny Diski have to say about two especially good ones.
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