Bringing Up Baby

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Howard Hawks hated it, not least of all because the movie was a box-office bomb that led to his dismissal from Gunga Din. Ever mindful of his audience, Hawks ruefully thought he had erred on the side of too much nuttiness: "I don't intend ever again to make everybody crazy," he told Peter Bogdanovich in 1962. The man has a point. Between Cary Grant's dithering paleontologist and Katharine Hepburn's manic, cracked heiress (a nightmarish fiend on the golf course), it's no small surprise that the escaped leopard comes off most sensibly.

Bringing Up Baby is also a perfect example of why directors (and even us brilliant professional critics) can often be completely in the dark about what works. If you value plot above all else, the film will leave you cold; it's basically a lot of running around. If you think comedies should be shot brightly, brace yourself---Russell Metty's shadowy cinematography approaches the realm of a Godfather sequel. And if you believe that true love comes with utter understanding, prepare yourself for a serious letdown. There's a strong sense that this couple scares each other long after we leave their frenetic company. Maybe that's why it's so goddamned romantic. The movie takes risks that Hollywood isn't even aware of anymore.

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Duration: 102 mins

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