A note about The Cuddlywumps Chronicles

This blog is written and maintained by Miss Cuddlywumps, a fluffy-tailed calico cat who is both classically educated and familiar with mysteries. Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to author Roby Sweet. Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Cat Classics on Film: Bringing Up Baby (1938)


What do you get when you combine Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and a leopard? The short answer is hilarity. The longer answer is the 1938 Howard Hawks film Bringing Up Baby.

The plot

Bringing Up Baby DVD cover
Dr. David Huxley (Cary Grant) is a paleontologist who is on the verge of completing the brontosaurus skeleton he has been working on for four years. All he needs is one more bone (the “intercostal clavicle”), which is being shipped to him. He is engaged to his assistant, Alice, who is thoroughly focused on David’s career. No honeymoon for them! But before the wedding, David is due to play a round of golf with the representative of a wealthy woman with a million dollars to give away—money David needs for his museum. It’s on the golf course that he first meets Susan (Katharine Hepburn), who proceeds to turn his life completely upside down. Because she is nuts, basically—but in the funniest way possible. She has a way of saying crazy things and making them sound almost reasonable.

Susan is not just going to let David go after their first encounter, so she calls him pretending to be frantic because there’s a leopard in her apartment. Gentleman that he is, he rushes over to help her, only to find the leopard, Baby, is completely tame. Not that that makes David feel any better, because he doesn’t even like regular-sized cats. Well, Susan just needs his help to take Baby to her aunt in Connecticut—no matter that David is due to get married that very afternoon. The little trip won't take any time at all.

As it turns out, Susan’s aunt happens to be the wealthy woman with the million dollars, so Susan can help David get that money, right? Ha! Actually, a dog named George (played by Skippy, who also played Asta in the Thin Man films), takes the famous intercostal clavicle and buries it…somewhere. Baby escapes and must be found. Unbeknownst to Susan, a vicious circus leopard also escapes (we won’t even mention the inhumane treatment that most likely caused that leopard to be vicious, and how big cats just should not be used for humans to gawk at in circuses—oops, we mentioned it!).

Meanwhile, just being in Susan’s general proximity is making David look like he’s as crazy as she is. But he’s secretly having a great time, isn’t he? He says, "In moments of quiet, I'm strangely drawn to you, but—well—there haven't been any quiet moments."

The leopard(s)

Both Baby and the circus leopard were played by Nissa the Leopard, who was trained by Madame Olga Celeste. According to trivia posted on IMDb, Hepburn and Baby got along well, but Cary Grant was "less fond" of the big cat. A double was used when Grant’s character had to be close to the leopard. Hepburn had one close call, when her swinging skirt caught Nissa’s attention and the leopard lunged for her. Fortunately, the trainer was there to intervene. For safety, Hawks used several optical tricks when filming so that the actors and Nissa would not actually be in close proximity very much. A puppet leopard was also used for some shots. But in the opening moments of this scene, in which Hepburn pets Nissa like a housecat, it’s obvious how comfortable the human actress was around her feline costar:


Nissa had just one other movie role, as a queen’s leopard in Siren of Atlantis (1949).

Our verdict

We do love a screwball comedy, and Bringing Up Baby is one of the best. When we rewatched it for this review, we were delighted all over again to see one zany scene after another. Grant and Hepburn’s torn dress scene (below) has long been one of our favorites. Hard to imagine that this film did badly at the box office, but it is one of those that has become a beloved classic despite its rocky start.



For classic film lovers, Bringing Up Baby is a must-see!


Two Paws Up--A Great Movie!


A note on the "Paws Up" system: Miss C gives either one or two paws up. One paw is for a good movie; two paws is for a great movie. She never gives three or four paws because that would require her to lie on her back...and Miss C does not do that!


The link below is an Amazon Associates link. If you purchase the movie through this link, old SoLT and I could get some coin for our kibble account. Thank you!

6 comments:

  1. Absolutely a must-see, I've done so twice this year so far!

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  2. Cary Grant was in an acrobat troupe as a boy, and he was well-versed in physical comedy, something that gets lost in his more serious Alfred Hitchcock movies that most people remember him for. Nice review!

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  3. That sounds like a fun movie! I've heard of it but never knew of the feline twist!

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  4. I haven't seen this movie before ... but I can't wait to! When I was young, I wanted a pet snow leopard (among many different kinds of wild cats) - I can't even imagine the people who get wild cats and try to care for them in environments too small for the cats. As beautiful as the creatures are, I'll stick with the equally exquisite house cat :)

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