Bringing Up Baby (1938)

One of the most imitated of Hollywood movies. Stuffy paleontologist Cary Grant is on the point of committing to an arid marriage to a bespectacled dullard when dotty socialite Katharine Hepburn turns up and destroys his life, as symbolised by the dinosaur skeleton he is assembling, making way for their ultimate union. Animals keep causing trouble, as when a dog steals and buries a vital prehistoric bone, and in the confusion that ensues when Hepburn's tame leopard Baby is mistaken for a savage escaped lookalike, prompting a classic scene in which Grant and Hepburn have to serenade the wrong leopard. Reversing the formula of the classic screen romance, this is about an aggressive woman who pursues an indifferent man - the sissified Grant explains that he is kitted up in a very feminine borrowed dressing gown because 'I suddenly went gay!' - and finally wins him round to the joys of anarchy as opposed to stability. The script is credited to Dudley Nichols and Hagar Wilde, but director Howard Hawks was renowned for rewriting and improvising on the set, mainly to keep his actors off balance.
KIM NEWMAN

First Published In: Empire (issue unknown).


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