24
May 04

FT Top 100 Films 97: BRINGING UP BABY

Do You SeePost a comment • 904 views

I adore screwball comedies. Light airy flights of fantasy where the internal logic of the film slowly creeps outside of the expectations of reality. A good screwball comedy should be a perfect one line pitch. “A scientist, and heiress and a leopard: hilarity ensues”. Okay, appending hilarity ensues does not guarantee anything, certainly not as much as inserting the deal winner here: Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant.

Everyone thinks of Grant as the ultimate suave sophisticat, which is why his bumbling, nervous, woman shy (and on this evidence rightly so) Dr Huxley surprises so much. Huxley may be representing the sensible, rational society here – but it is Hepburn’s Susan Vance who has all of the power. And of course, that leopard.

It has been suggested that the role of Ross in Friends was based entirely on Grant’s paleontologist here; just the presence of a stuffy, nervous bone doctor is funny. Ross is played by diametrically opposite actor, but the archetype lives through. Is Phoebe a million miles away from a poor version of Hepburn’s Vance? Perhaps Friends vs Bringing Up Baby is a cultural comparison too far, but imagine the best Friends episode, stretched over ninety minutes with a definite resolution (and a collapsing Stegosaurus to boot) and there is some indication of quality. The roles and character types are so strong that the farce almost builds itself without any prompting. Of course a couple of leopards on the loose make awfully good prompts.

Talking about comedy is always difficult, the urge is just to yell go and see it or quote the film. To which I would counter, go and see it and, well this Cary Grant line say all you need to know about the film. “Now it isn’t that I don’t like you, Susan, because, after all, in moments of quiet, I’m strangely drawn toward you, but – well, there haven’t been any quiet moments.”

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