BRINGING UP BABY
Director: Howard Hawks
Production: RKO Radio Pictures Inc.; black and white, 35mm; running time: 102 minutes (some sources state 100 minutes). Released 1938. Filmed in RKO studios and backlots.
Producer: Cliff Reid; screenplay: Dudley Nichols and Hagar Wilde, from a story by Hagar Wilde; photography: Russell Metty; editor: George Hively; music score: Roy Webb.
Cary Grant (
); Katharine Hepburn (
); May Robson (
Mrs. Carlton Random
); Charles Ruggles (
); George Irving (
); Virginia Walker (
); Barry Fitzgerald; Walter Catlett.
Bogdanovich, Peter, The Cinema of Howard Hawks , New York, 1962.
Missiaen, Jean-Claude, Howard Hawks , Paris, 1966.
Wood, Robin, Howard Hawks , London, 1968; revised edition, 1981.
Dickens, Homer, The Films of Katharine Hepburn , New York, 1971.
Eyles, Allen, compiler, Cary Grant Album , Shepperton, Surrey, 1971.
Gigli, Jean A., Howard Hawks , Paris, 1971.
Bazin, André, La Politique des auteurs: Entretiens avec Jean Renoir, etc. , Paris, 1972; revised edition, 1984.
Marill, Alvin H., Katharine Hepburn , New York, 1973.
Vermilye, Jerry, Cary Grant , New York, 1973.
Parish, James Robert, The RKO Gals , New Rochelle, New York, 1974.
Deschner, Donald, The Films of Cary Grant , Secaucus, New Jersey, 1978.
Murphy, Kathleen Q., Howard Hawks: An American Auteur in the Hemingway Tradition , Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1978.
Ciment, Michel, Les Conquérants d'un nouveau monde: Essais sur le cinéma américain , Paris, 1981.
Giannetti, Louis, Masters of the American Cinema , Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1981.
McBride, Joseph, Hawks on Hawks , Berkeley, 1982.
Mast, Gerald, Howard Hawks, Storyteller , Oxford, 1982.
Poague, Leland, Howard Hawks , Boston, 1982.
Belton, John, Cinema Stylists , Metuchen, New Jersey, 1983.
Britton, Andrew, Cary Grant: Comedy and Male Desire , Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1983.
Carey, Gary, Katharine Hepburn: A Biography , London, 1983.
McIntosh, William Currie, and William Weaver, The Private Cary Grant , London, 1983; revised edition, 1987.
Schickel, Richard, Cary Grant: A Celebration , London, 1983.
Wansell, Geoffrey, Cary Grant: Haunted Idol , London, 1983.
Britton, Andrew, Katharine Hepburn: The Thirties and After , New-castle-upon-Tyne, 1984.
Dupuis, Jean-Jacques, Cary Grant , Paris, 1984.
Freedland, Michael, Katharine Hepburn , London, 1984.
Morley, Sheridan, Katharine Hepburn: A Celebration , London, 1984.
Simsolo, Noel, Howard Hawks , Paris, 1984.
Ashman, Chuck, and Pamela Trescott, Cary Grant , London, 1986.
Edwards, Anne, Katharine Hepburn: A Biography , London, 1986.
Branson, Clark, Howard Hawks: A Jungian Study , Los Angeles, 1987.
Mast, Gerald, editor, Bringing Up Baby , New Brunswick, 1988.
Higham, Charles, and Ray Moseley, Cary Grant: The Lonely Heart , New York, 1989.
New York Times , 4 March 1938.
Tozzi, Romana T., "Katharine Hepburn," in Films in Review (New York), December 1957.
Agel, Henri, "Howard Hawks," in New York Film Bulletin , no. 4, 1962.
Sarris, Andrew, "The World of Howard Hawks," in Films and Filming (London), July 1962.
Perkins, V. F., in Movie (London), December 1962.
"Hawks Issue" of Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), January 1963.
"Man's Favourite Director, Howard Hawks" (interview), in Cinema (Beverly Hills), November-December 1963.
Wise, Naomi, "The Hawksian Woman," in Take One (Montreal), January-February 1971.
Brackett, Leigh, "A Comment on the Hawksian Woman," in Take One (Montreal), July-August 1971.
Murphy, K., "Of Bones, and Butterflies," in Movietone News (Seattle), June 1977.
Johnson, Julia, in Magill's Survey of Cinema 1 , Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1980.
Trueba, F., in Casablanca (Madrid), July-August 1981.
Jewell, R. B., "How Howard Hawks Brought Baby Up: An Apologia for the Studio System," in Journal of Popular Film and Television (Washington, D.C.), Winter 1984.
Keane, Marian, in Journal of Popular Film and Television (Washington, D.C.), Autumn 1985.
Lake, J. M., "What Are Girls Made Of?" Michigan Academician (Ann Arbor), vol. 26, no. 2, 1994.
"Bringing Up Baby," Sequences (Montreal), no. 178, May-June 1995.
* * *
Bringing Up Baby employs the successful formula of such classic films as It Happened One Night and My Man Godfrey in which madcap heiresses pit their senses of fun, irreverence, and total irresponsibility against the seriousness, logic, and dignity of working class heroes. In such screwball comedies of the 1930s the leading couple's courtships of verbal battles provide a series of humorous sexual conflicts that are overcome but unresolved in the reconciliation during the "happy endings." Bringing Up Baby takes the antagonisms and extremes embodied in the screwball comedy a little further than any of the other films of the genre.
Starring Katharine Hepburn as the completely dotty heiress and Cary Grant as an overly stuffy, self-important paleontologist Bringing Up Baby exaggerates the lover-antagonist formula of the screwball comedy for a humorous battle between the sexes in which the stereotypes of sex roles are reversed. Hepburn's character is the aggressor, and her relentless pursuit of Grant engages him in a series of comic misadventures which become increasingly foolish as the movie progresses. Grant's character, who by nature is docile, submissive, and dutiful, has his dignity stripped away layer by layer in the course of Hepburn's bizarre schemes. But director Howard Hawks uses the division of his characters into masculine and feminine stereotypes in order to allow each to have a liberating effect on the other. When the two are united as a couple at the film's end, the effect is an uneasy integration of sex-role principles.
The Hawksian formula of sex-role reversals contained in comic opposites provided the underpinnings for Hawk's screwball comedies from the 1930s through the 1950s. In such movies as Twentieth Century , Bringing Up Baby , His Girl Friday , Ball of Fire , I Was a Male War Bride , and Monkey Business , Hawks relied on assertive heroines to peel away the dignity and mock seriousness of bumbling feminized heroes. As each hero's sense of identity and self-image crumbles, the ensuing confusion provides the comedy and the key to his liberation from a narrow restrictive code of behaviour. In such films as Bringing Up Baby and I Was a Male War Bride , Hawks pushes his male characters' sexual confusion to such extremes that they are forced to parade around in women's clothing.
Bringing Up Baby enjoys frequently revived popularity today due to its breakneck pace, superb comic timing, humorous swipes at sex roles, and partnering of Hepburn and Grant. But when the film was initially released in 1938, it met harsh criticism and indifferent audiences. Hepburn, who headed the Independent Theatre Owners Association list of "box-office poison" movie stars, grated on the critics' nerves. In addition to Hepburn's seeming unpopularity, a critical disdain for what the New York Times reviewer called a "zany-ridden product of the goofy farce school" may have contributed to the film's lack of success. However, in 1962, Sight and Sound critic Peter Dyer attested to the reversal in status and popularity of Bringing Up Baby: "The durability of Hawks's films lies in the way that they have a mysterious life of their own going on under the familiar, facile surfaces. It is the constant cross-graining of cliché and inventive detail which produces the shock of pleasure his best work provides."