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Bringing Up Baby

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Bringing Up Baby (1938) starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Charles Ruggles, directed by Howard Hawks
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Bringing Up Baby (1938) starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Charles Ruggles, directed by Howard Hawks

Synopsis of Bringing Up Baby

In Bringing Up Baby, the hilarity doesn’t let up for a moment. It’s a classic screwball comedy starring Cary Grant and the irrepressible Katherine Hepburn. Grant plays David Huxely. He’s an up-tight, stuffy paleontologist. While on a golf course, he has a run-in with the irrepressible, unfathomable Susan Vance (Hepburn). She’s an imp if ever there was. Deciding on the spot that David is the man for her, she proceeds to bedevil him at every turn with classic comedy results.

Review of Bringing Up Baby

Bringing Up Baby is a classic screwball comedy, very funny, and highly recommended.  It’s the story of a stuffy doctor of paleontology (Cary Grant). He’s a man about to be married.  That changes when his path accidentally crosses with a flighty heiress (Katharine Hepburn).  She tends to do what she wants, and say whatever comes into her head. And she makes a mess of his life.

And that’s before she gets a pet leopard – the “baby” of the title.  It’s a screwball comedy in the best sense, fast-paced and funny. With very interesting characters.  It’s also a compelling romance that develops naturally. As the couple spends more time together, romance blossoms.  Despite the engaged doctor’s protests …. He starts falling in love with her.

It’s a very funny slapstick comedy, with everyone turning in great comedic performances. The zaniness is fast-paced. Complications range from David wearing a borrowed nightgown to a second (very wild) leopard on the loose. And the finale is absolutely classic. I won’t spoil it, enjoy watching it.

Cast of characters in Bringing Up Baby

  • David Huxely (Cary Grant, High Society). The stuffy, serious, doctor of paleontology. Who has his life turned upside down by:
  • Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn, Holiday). The free spirit who likes David. She doesn’t want him to marry – someone else. She’s flighty, irresponsible, intelligent … And exactly what David needs.
  • Major Applegate (Charles Ruggles, The Invisible Woman). At a dinner party, the Major thinks that David’s mentally unbalanced. And treats him accordingly. He purports to be a big game hunter …. As well as an expert on the cry of the leopard. A very funny character.
  • Aunt Elizabeth (May Robson, Lady for a Day (1933)). Susan’s wealthy aunt. She’ is about to award $1 million dollars. Which David desperately needs for his museum. And Susan’s shenanigans make it increasingly unlikely that he’ll get it.

Editorial review of Bringing Up Baby courtesy of

“The love impulse in man,” says a psychiatrist in Bringing Up Baby, “frequently reveals itself in terms of conflict.” That’s for sure. For a primer on the rules and regulations of the classic screwball comedy, which throws love and conflict into close proximity, look no further. A straight-laced paleontologist (Cary Grant) loses a dinosaur bone to a dog belonging to free-spirited heiress Katharine Hepburn. In trying to retrieve said bone, Grant is drawn into the vortex surrounding the delicious Hepburn, which becomes a flirtatious pas de deux that will transform both of them.

Director Howard Hawks plays the complications as a breathless escalation of their “love impulse,” yet the movie is nonetheless romantic for all its speed. (Hawks’s His Girl Friday, also with Grant, goes even faster.) Grant and Hepburn are a match made in movie heaven, in sync with each other throughout. Not a great box-office success when first released, Bringing Up Baby has since taken its place as a high-water mark of the screwball form, and it was used as a model for Peter Bogdanovich’s What’s Up, Doc? –Robert Horton

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