Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day 238: Bringing Up Baby (1938) - Rank 4/5


They just don't write 'em like this any more. The quintessential screwball comedy, from the lowbrow lampoonery of the Marx brothers to the "erudite, socialite" humor of "Dinner at Eight," is a series of set-ups and rejoinders. The plot is often as harebrained and incidental as a storyline in a porno. But that snappy repartee has a kinetic rhythm to it that gives the films a breakneck pacing that can only be described as zany.

Based on that, one might argue that the point of discussing the film's premise is rather moot, but I shall endeavor to do so all the same. Renowned paleontologist Dr. Huxley (Cary Grant) is close to finishing his dinosaur skeleton, but lacks the intercostal clavicle and hopes the funding of one Ms. Random will help him complete the project. By chance, he comes to meet Ms. Random's niece, Susan (Katherine Hepburn), who believes he's a zoologist and cons him into going to Connecticut so she can con him into taking care of her leopard, Baby, and woo him out of his pending marriage. A big game hunter shows up, Dr. Huxley is assumed gay and the entire cast is arrested.

Again, the plot of comedies in this genre is usually off the wall, to put it mildly. Grant proves here, just as he does in "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House," "North by Northwest" or "Arsenic and Old Lace," that he can play the fool with an air of sophistication. And Hepburn is a strange mix of squirrely and vivacious. I like to think that this was really how the upper class really lived in the 1930's. Folks were either starving in bread lines in the post-Depression U.S. or getting smashed on gin and chasing circus animals across golf courses by night. God bless America. I'm surprised that such humor is absent in today's ADD-riddled society, though I suppose that the works of Adam Sandler are the evolved state of that particular beast. Wait a minute...rather than Grant, we now have Sandler? I retract my praise and say "Fuck you, America!" Where's the gin?

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