There was a time in Hollywood where romantic comedies went beyond "meet cute" situations into full-blown lunacy.  One of the best examples of this craziness is Bringing Up Baby, a 1938 comedy that combines two terrific leads and some absolute lunacy.

Paleontologist David Huxley (Cary Grant) is a dull, practical man concerned with two things: getting the last bone for a brontosaurus skeleton ("the intercostal clavicle"), and getting a million dollars in funding for his NYC museum.  He's also getting married the next day to Miss Alice Swallow (Virginia Walker), who considers their upcoming wedding an emotionless continuation of his work.

While David is golfing to secure the funding, he runs into Susan Vance (Katherine Hepburn), a free spirit who first steals David's golf ball, then his car (wrecking it in the process of getting it out of a parking spot).  Soon Susan is appearing everywhere David is -- and causing a disaster at every moment.  He thinks she's nothing but a disaster; she -- after a brief talk with a psychiatrist -- thinks his hostility stems from "the love impulse" and she immediately falls for him.
 Then there's Baby, a three-year-old leopard that is shipped to Susan.  She ropes David into bringing it to her Aunt's home in Connecticut, in exchange for promising to help him get the funding for his museum from her Aunt Elizabeth (May Robson).  Along the way there are numerous stolen cars, Baby taking advantage of Susan's bad driving to dine on some chickens and ducks, and a wide range of misadventures. Susan's thrilled, while David just gets more and more stressed.
Things don't get any better at Aunt Elizabeth's house.  Aunt Elizabeth thinks David is a lunatic, and David makes Susan promise not to tell her his real name, resulting in her dubbing him "David Bone").  Susan also says David is a big game hunter, which has Major Applegate (Charles Ruggles) bringing up the topic with David.  Susan's dog George has taken the intercostal clavicle and buried it somewhere on the property.  And of course Baby gets loose... and a second leopard is roaming around Connecticut...

Bringing Up Baby is an absolutely delightful film.  Director Howard Hawks brings out the best in his two leads, balancing Cary Grant's fuddy-duddy stick in the mud with Katherine Hepburn's sometimes knowing, often accidental lunacy,  The humor is all over the place, whether inspired dialogue ("'He's three years old, gentle as a kitten, and likes dogs." I wonder whether Mark means that he eats dogs or is fond of them?"), Hepburn pretending to be a mob gal, Grant and Hepburn singing to Baby to calm her down, or pratfalls, torn clothing, or other physical comedy -- and it all works terrifically.  The movie has a relentless madcap energy and so, so many laughs.  Bringing Up Baby is absolutely wonderful.  (DVD extras are a brief feature, plus commentary by director Peter Bogdanovich.)

Overall grade: A+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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