Bringing Up Baby (1938)

100 or 102 mins | Screwball comedy | 18 February 1938

Director:

Howard Hawks

Cinematographer:

Russell Metty

Editor:

George Hively

Production Designer:

Van Nest Polglase

Production Company:

RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

HR news items provide the following information about the production: Robert McGowan was hired by RKO to write gags for this film. His contribution to the final film has not been confirmed, however. Director Howard Hawks began "preliminary" shooting, which included tests and process photography, on 16 Aug 1937. Although the principal photography was scheduled to begin two weeks later, the actual start date was 23 Sep 1937. Robert Montgomery and Leslie Howard were considered for the role of "David." M-G-M refused to loan Montgomery to RKO, while Howard turned down the part in favor of the title role in Alexander Korda's production, Lawrence of Arabia . (Modern sources state that Ronald Colman, Fredric March and Ray Milland were also approached about the part.)
       RKO borrowed Charlie Ruggles from Paramount for the film. HR production charts add Wesley Barry and Marek Windheim to the cast, but their participation in the final film has not been confirmed. According to RKO production files, exteriors were shot at the Bel Air Country Club in Los Angeles and at the Arthur Ranch in Malibu, CA. The exterior of the "Peabodys'" house, which previously had been seen in Frank Capra's Mr. Deeds Goes to Town , was shot at the Columbia Ranch. Connecticut country road scenes were filmed at Oakgrove Park in Flintridge, CA, while New England street scenes were filmed at the Twentieth Century-Fox Studios. According to modern sources, the museum scenes were shot at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History.
       Modern sources provide the following additional information about the production: In a modern interview, Hawks said of the film script: ... More Less

HR news items provide the following information about the production: Robert McGowan was hired by RKO to write gags for this film. His contribution to the final film has not been confirmed, however. Director Howard Hawks began "preliminary" shooting, which included tests and process photography, on 16 Aug 1937. Although the principal photography was scheduled to begin two weeks later, the actual start date was 23 Sep 1937. Robert Montgomery and Leslie Howard were considered for the role of "David." M-G-M refused to loan Montgomery to RKO, while Howard turned down the part in favor of the title role in Alexander Korda's production, Lawrence of Arabia . (Modern sources state that Ronald Colman, Fredric March and Ray Milland were also approached about the part.)
       RKO borrowed Charlie Ruggles from Paramount for the film. HR production charts add Wesley Barry and Marek Windheim to the cast, but their participation in the final film has not been confirmed. According to RKO production files, exteriors were shot at the Bel Air Country Club in Los Angeles and at the Arthur Ranch in Malibu, CA. The exterior of the "Peabodys'" house, which previously had been seen in Frank Capra's Mr. Deeds Goes to Town , was shot at the Columbia Ranch. Connecticut country road scenes were filmed at Oakgrove Park in Flintridge, CA, while New England street scenes were filmed at the Twentieth Century-Fox Studios. According to modern sources, the museum scenes were shot at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History.
       Modern sources provide the following additional information about the production: In a modern interview, Hawks said of the film script: "I bought a short story written by a girl. I got the girl to come over, and she didn't know anything about pictures. But I wanted to keep exactly the same thought, that method of treating it. She had the characters for both Hepburn and Grant so well. So Dudley Nichols worked with her on the script." In the same interview, Hawks described his experiences with Hepburn: "We had trouble with Kate at first. The great trouble is people trying to be funny... I couldn't do any good with her, so I went over to an actor who was a comic for the Ziegfeld Follies and everything, Walter Catlett, and I said...'Will you tell her?'... She came back from talking with him with him and said, 'Howard, hire that guy and keep him around here for several weeks, because I need him.'"
       Because of his critically praised work with Hepburn on Sylvia Scarlet , RKO executive Pandro S. Berman convinced Grant to join the cast of Bringing Up Baby . Hawks helped Grant with his part by telling him to recall images of one of his favorite comics, Harold Lloyd, and to contemplate a man imitating a whinnying horse when extreme nervousness was needed in a scene. Madame Olga Celeste, Nissa's trainer, advised Hepburn, who unlike the other actors was not afraid of Nissa, to wear a certain perfume that the eight-year-old leopard liked and to apply resin to the bottoms of her shoes to avoid slipping in front of the excitable animal. According to a documentary about RKO, photographers Russell Metty and Vernon Walker filmed many of Nissa's scenes by shooting two separate takes of the same action, one with the animal alone, and the other with the actor(s) alone. The takes were then combined in the laboratory to create the impression that the leopard and the actors were in the scene at the same time. Just before performing in Bringing Up Baby , Asta, who plays "George" in the film, had performed in The Awful Truth with Grant.
       Bringing Up Baby cost RKO $1,200,000 to produce (Cary Grant received $120,000 for his performance). While the film was still in production, the Independent Theatre Owners Association published a list of actors who had been deemed "box office poison," and Hepburn, along with Joan Crawford and Marlene Dietrich, was on it. Concerned about Hepburn's bad press, RKO decided to shelve the project before spending any additional money on editing, scoring and advertising. Multi-millionaire Howard Hughes, who later bought RKO, purchased the film from RKO and had it booked in the Loew Circuit. In spite of Hughes's help and good reviews, the film lost more than $350,000 at the box office. RKO subsequently forced Hepburn, who refused to play the lead in the low-budget programmer Mother Carey's Chickens , to buy out her contract for $220,000. Hepburn then teamed up with George Cukor and Grant and made Holiday for Columbia.
       Modern sources credit Mel Berns with make-up. Although not truly a remake, the 1972 film What's Up Doc? , starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal, was inspired by Bringing Up Baby , according to interviews with its director, Peter Bogdanovich. In 2007 Bringing Up Baby was ranked 88th on AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies--10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films, moving up from the 97th position it held on AFI's 1997 list. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
10 Feb 38
p. 3.
Film Daily
11 Feb 38
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jun 37
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jul 37
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Aug 37
p. 1
Hollywood Reporter
18 Aug 37
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Aug 37
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Aug 37
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Sep 37
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Sep 37
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Nov 37
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Feb 38
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Feb 38
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
10 Feb 38
p. 7.
Motion Picture Herald
16 Oct 37
p. 57.
Motion Picture Herald
19 Feb 38
p. 39, 46
New York Times
4 Mar 38
p. 17.
Variety
16 Feb 38
p. 15.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Howard Hawks' Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir assoc
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Set dresser
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Unit mgr
Nissa's trainer
STAND INS
Double for Cary Grant
Double for Katharine Hepburn
Stand-in for Katharine Hepburn
Stand-in for Katharine Hepburn
Stand-in for Cary Grant
Stand-in for Barry Fitzgerald
Stand-in for May Robson
Stand-in for Fritz Feld
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "Bringing Up Baby" by Hagar Wilde in Collier's (10 Apr 1937).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"I Can't Give You Anything But Love," words by Dorothy Fields, music by Jimmy McHugh.
DETAILS
Release Date:
18 February 1938
Premiere Information:
San Francisco premiere: 16 February 1938
Production Date:
23 September 1937--6 January 1938
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
18 February 1938
Copyright Number:
LP7859
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Victor System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
100 or 102
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
3752
SYNOPSIS

On the eve of his wedding, Dr. David Huxley, a dedicated paleontologist at the Stuyvesant Museum of Natural History, is sent by his fiancée and assistant, Alice Swallow, to play golf with Alexander Peabody, the lawyer for Mrs. Carleton Random, a potential million-dollar donor to the museum. At the golf course, flighty heiress Susan Vance plays David's ball instead of her own and then, mistaking his car for hers, drives off with him clinging to his runningboard. That night while hunting for Peabody at an exclusive restaurant, David again encounters Susan, who causes him to slip on his top hat, embarrass himself in front of psychologist Dr. Fritz Lehman, tear his jacket and split the back of her gown. The next morning, Susan telephones David, who is preparing to meet Alice with his new possession, a rare brontasaurus fossil, and begs him to help her with her new possession, "Baby," a tamed leopard that her brother has shipped to her from Brazil. David, however, refuses to get involved with Baby until he hears Susan's phony cries of distress over the telephone. After rushing to her apartment, David finds Susan unmaimed, and Baby yearning to hear his favorite record, "I Can't Give You Anything But Love." Disgusted by Susan's antics, David marches out of the apartment, but is followed down the street by both Susan and an unleashed Baby. Thus cornered, David finally agrees to help Susan take Baby to her aunt Elizabeth's home in Connecticut, but admonishes her that he has to return to the city to marry Alice by nightfall. While driving on the road to Aunt Elizabeth's, a distracted Susan rams ... +


On the eve of his wedding, Dr. David Huxley, a dedicated paleontologist at the Stuyvesant Museum of Natural History, is sent by his fiancée and assistant, Alice Swallow, to play golf with Alexander Peabody, the lawyer for Mrs. Carleton Random, a potential million-dollar donor to the museum. At the golf course, flighty heiress Susan Vance plays David's ball instead of her own and then, mistaking his car for hers, drives off with him clinging to his runningboard. That night while hunting for Peabody at an exclusive restaurant, David again encounters Susan, who causes him to slip on his top hat, embarrass himself in front of psychologist Dr. Fritz Lehman, tear his jacket and split the back of her gown. The next morning, Susan telephones David, who is preparing to meet Alice with his new possession, a rare brontasaurus fossil, and begs him to help her with her new possession, "Baby," a tamed leopard that her brother has shipped to her from Brazil. David, however, refuses to get involved with Baby until he hears Susan's phony cries of distress over the telephone. After rushing to her apartment, David finds Susan unmaimed, and Baby yearning to hear his favorite record, "I Can't Give You Anything But Love." Disgusted by Susan's antics, David marches out of the apartment, but is followed down the street by both Susan and an unleashed Baby. Thus cornered, David finally agrees to help Susan take Baby to her aunt Elizabeth's home in Connecticut, but admonishes her that he has to return to the city to marry Alice by nightfall. While driving on the road to Aunt Elizabeth's, a distracted Susan rams into a truck carrying a load of fowl, and its cargo spills out and is devoured by Baby. Later, while David is buying raw meat for Baby in a small town store, Susan is forced to steal a stranger's car whose back seat the leopard has suddenly occupied. Finally arriving in Connecticut, David, who has donned Susan's dressing gown because Susan has sent his feather-encrusted clothes to the cleaners, runs into the befuddled, suspicious Aunt Elizabeth, whose married name is Mrs. Carleton Random. Because David has asked her not to reveal his full name to Elizabeth, Susan tells her aunt that David's last name is "Bone" and that he is a big game hunter who has suffered a nervous breakdown. At the same time, Elizabeth's dog George steals David's bone and buries it on the vast estate. While David frantically follows George around the wooded estate in an attempt to discover the whereabouts of his fossil, Susan confesses to Elizabeth that she is in love with David and plans to marry him. Unwilling to leave Elizabeth's without his fossil, David joins Susan, Elizabeth and Major Horace Applegate, a true big game hunter, for dinner. While David carefully watches George from the table, Mr. Gogarty, a heavy-drinking family servant, accidentally releases Baby from his makeshift cage in the garage. Alerted by Gogarty's screams, Susan orders David to telephone the local zoo, but then tells him to cancel his request for help after she learns that her brother intended Baby as a gift for Elizabeth. On the estate grounds, Susan and David search for Baby, harmonizing "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" as a lure, but mistake a caged, vicious circus leopard, which is being trucked to Bridgeport, for their tame animal. After Susan surreptitiously releases the other leopard from the stalled truck, it escapes into the woods and ends up on the roof of Dr. Lehman's house, where she and David attempt to coax it down. Lehman comes to his front door and, seeing only Susan, drags her into his house, convinced that she is deranged. Constable Slocum then arrives on the scene, spots David slinking around the house and arrests him for voyeurism. At the jail, Slocum refuses to believe Susan's and David's stories and arrests both Elizabeth and Applegate when they come to bail out Susan because he is sure they are only impersonating his wealthy constituents. Unable to persuade the dim-witted Slocum of her true dilemma, Susan changes her tactics and pretends to be "Swinging Door Susie," a gangster's moll. Eventually, Peabody shows up to verify everyone's identity, and after Baby and George stroll into the station, Susan, who has snuck out of a window, unwittingly captures the circus leopard. A few weeks later, Susan finds David, who has been jilted by Alice, working on his brontasaurus reconstruction at the museum. After presenting him with his bone, which George finally had returned, Susan informs David that she is donating a million dollars that Elizabeth has given to her to the museum. Then while perched on a tall ladder that scales the dinosaur, she extracts a confession of love from David. Although the excited Susan causes the one-of-a-kind reconstruction to collapse in a heap, David laughs at his misfortune and embraces his bride-to-be. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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