Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bringing Up Baby

More than a few times in recent years I have heard Cate Blanchett referred to as the best actress in Hollywood, or heir apparent to Meryl Streep for being most versatile and talented. I've even heard her compared with Katharine "Kate" Hepburn, no doubt due to her gutsy stab at the Kate Hepburn role in The Aviator.

So, as I was poring over the DVD shelf at the library yesterday, I stumbled upon Bringing Up Baby, starring Ms. Hepburn in tandem with one of my brother's favorite actors, Cary Grant. And to be honest, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

I'll preface my remarks with an aside about young people who won't watch black and white movies. That's right, there are people for whom black and white is old fashioned, or may just represent a style of film they consider dated. Yes, the pacing and sound tracks for some can at times be a bit off-putting. But the same could be said for much of today's film fare. All this to say, Bringing Up Baby is not just another film. If you don't know this movie, you'll find it a delightful surprise from the getgo.

I'll compare watching this film to a kid on a skateboard who grabs the back of a semi for a couple blocks but isn't paying attention as the truck pulls onto a highway and begins cranking it up to sixty, seventy and maybe even eighty. That kid on the skateboard is going to have the ride of his life.

So it is with director Howard Hawks' Bringing Up Baby. I cannot recall ever watching a film with so many consecutive snappy lines and madcap antics in such duration without relief. The banter between Hepburn and Grant is at times an out-of-control firehose, gushing wildly without pause. Even the Marx Brothers films give you places to catch your breath. The pace in this film is relentless.

For the record, "Baby" is a pet leopard, so don't expect the Grant/Hepburn duo to be dealing with a three-men-and-a-baby riff.

Can a film like this be produced today? I dunno. There are efforts made, but unfortunately the vulgarity gets the upper hand with too many of today's comics. And don't get me wrong, Bringing Up Baby has some adult situations and innuendo, but the treatment is altogether different.

Interestingly enough, the film bombed when it was released. It cost a million bucks, which was nothing to sneeze at after eight years of economic depression.

For what it's worth, it's a great heritage piece if nothing else. And a wonderful way to remain distracted while you do your taxes, or balance your checkbook as I was last night.

Check it out, sometime. And tell me what you think.


Adee said...

a couple of day's back, i was watching some really old Wizard of Oz and was laughing and tut-tuting at the same time!
primarily, it was the production qualities or the technical abilities that were the negative part, otherwise if the same film is made with same script and dialogues, it would still be as effective as it must have been in those days.

ENNYMAN said...

Wizard of Oz was interesting because it started in B&W like most of those other oldies, then switched to color when the house landed in Oz. Pretty dramatic on the big screen. Probably moreso when i saw it in 1973 because as a kid we only had a B&W TV anyways....
thanks for the comment.