BRINGING UP BABY [1938] [The Criterion Collection] [Blu-ray] [USA Release]
One of the Finest Screwball comedies ever . . . Fast, furious and very funny!

Screwball sparks fly when Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn let loose in one of the fastest and funniest films ever made —a high-wire act of invention that took American screen comedy to new heights of absurdity. Hoping to procure a million-dollar endowment from a wealthy society matron for his museum, a hapless palaeontologist Dr. David Huxley [Cary  Grant] finds himself entangled with a dizzy heiress Susan Vance [Kathryn Hepburn] as the manic misadventures pile up — a missing dinosaur bone, a leopard on the loose, and plenty of gender-bending mayhem among them. ‘BRINGING UP BABY’ has sophisticated dialogue, spontaneous performances, and giddy innuendo come together in a whirlwind of comic chaos captured with lightning-in-a-bottle brio by director Howard Hawks.

The Criterion Collection is dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world and publishing them in editions of the highest technical quality. With supplemental features that enhance the appreciation of the art of film.

FILM FACT No.1: Awards and Nominations: 1990 National Film Preservation Board, USA: Win: National Film Registry for the film ‘BRINGING UP BABY.’ 2009 Online Film & Television Association: Win: OFTA Film Hall of Fame for the Motion Picture ‘BRINGING UP BABY.’  

FILM FACT No.2: Shooting began on the 23rd September, 1937, and was scheduled to end on the 20th November, 1937, on a budget of $767,676. Filming began in-studio with the scenes in Susan's apartment, moving to the Bel Air Country Club in early October for the golf-course scenes. The production had a difficult start due to Katharine Hepburn's struggles with her character and her comedic abilities. She frequently overacted, trying too hard to be funny, and Howard Hawks asked vaudeville veteran Walter Catlett to help coach her. Walter Catlett acted out scenes with Cary Grant for Katharine Hepburn, showing her that he was funnier when he was serious. Katharine Hepburn understood, acted naturally and played herself for the rest of the shoot; she was so impressed by Walter Catlett's talent and coaching ability that she insisted he play Constable Slocum in the film. The National Society of Film Critics also included ‘BRINGING UP BABY’ in their “100 Essential Films” and considering it to be arguably the director's best film.

Cast: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Charles Ruggles, Walter Catlett, Barry Fitzgerald, May Robson, Fritz Feld, Leona Roberts, George Irving, Tala Birell, Virginia Walker, John Kelly, Ruth Adler (uncredited), Adeline Ashbury (uncredited), Asta [George the Dog] (uncredited), William 'Billy' Benedict (uncredited), Billy Bevan (uncredited), Stanley Blystone (uncredited), Ward Bond (uncredited), Ralph Brooks (uncredited), Harry Campbell (uncredited), Jack Carson (uncredited), D'Arcy Corrigan (uncredited), William Corson (uncredited), Evelyne Eager (uncredited), Judith Ford (uncredited), Billy Franey (uncredited), Jack Gardner (uncredited), Edward Gargan (uncredited), Frances Gifford (uncredited), Tex C.C. Gilmore (uncredited), Herschel Graham (uncredited), Duke Green (uncredited), Paul Guilfoyle (uncredited), Geraldine Hall (uncredited), George Humbert (uncredited), Karl 'Karchy' Kosiczky (uncredited), Lorraine Krueger (uncredited), Richard Lane (uncredited), Nissa the Leopard [Baby] (uncredited), Dorothy Lloyd (uncredited), Buck Mack (uncredited), Teddy Mangean (uncredited), Frank Marlowe (uncredited), Jeanne Martel (uncredited), Pat O'Malley (uncredited), Eleanor Peterson (uncredited), Buster Slaven (uncredited), Larry Steers (uncredited), Jean Stevens (uncredited), Bobby Stone (uncredited), Jack Stoney (uncredited), Edward Thomas (uncredited), Ida Vollmar (uncredited), Crawford Weaver (uncredited), Robert Weldon (uncredited), Pat West (uncredited) and Cynthia Westlake (uncredited)

Director: Howard Hawks

Producers: Cliff Reid and Howard Hawks (uncredited)

Screenplay: Dudley Nichols (screenplay) and ‎ Hagar Wild (screenplay/from the story)

Composer: Roy Webb (uncredited)

Gowns: Howard Greer

Cinematography: Russell Metty, A.S.C. (Director of Photography)

Image Resolution: 1080p (Black and White)

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Audio: English: 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio
English: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono Audio

Subtitles: English

Running Time: 102 minutes

Region: Region A/1

Number of discs: 1

Studio: RKO Radio Pictures / The Criterion Collection

Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: ‘BRINGING UP BABY’ [1938] is the quintessential screwball comedy, where director Howard Hawks’ offers a unique rapid-fire farce so uproariously singular that its star Katharine Hepburn never tried such a performance again and which its other star Cary Grant used as further training for the farces to come in his career including ‘His Girl Friday’ and ‘Arsenic and Old Lace.’ The nuttiness wasn’t quite the flavour of the month when the film premiered in 1938, and it ultimately lost money, but it certainly plays like gangbusters now and remains one of the great comic achievements of the 20th century.

Palaeontologist Dr. David Huxley [Cary Grant] is eager to receive a grant of $1,000,000 dollars for the museum where he works, but in order to gain it, he must get on the good side of attorney Alexander Peabody [George Irving] who represents Mrs. Elizabeth Carlton Random [May Robson] who is donating the money either to the museum or to her scatter-brained niece Susan Vance [Katharine Hepburn]. Susan Vance and Dr. David Huxley have a series of accidental meetings that end disastrously for Dr. David Huxley, and for Susan Vance guilty over fouling things up with David Huxley’s grant money, finds it imperative to do all she can to help David Huxley gain the trust fund, convenient since she’s fallen head over heels for him and despite her best efforts to help him, manages to mess things up between them while also entwining him in the search for his missing dinosaur bone and her pet leopard.

The screenplay by Dudley Nichols and Hagar Wilde is nothing if not zany with a cast of characters, apart from Alexander Peabody, so eccentric that the shenanigans that ensue by mixing them together in various groupings and situations can’t help but lead to hilarity. We have a befuddled brontosaurus expert, a flea-brained heiress, a rich but stern dowager, a stuttering ex-big game hunter, a rash constable, a pompous psychiatrist, an alcoholic gardener, a cagey wire-haired terrier, and two leopards: one tame and one not so, and you can be sure you’ll have a good time, especially when they all find themselves together, after many adventures over two days, crammed into a tiny cell block at a village police station as the various revelations begin to occur.

Director Howard Hawks keeps things in constant motion, including lots of pratfalls and slapstick mishaps from Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn’s hysterical meet-cute on the golf course where she plays his ball and refuses to listen to his various protestations straight through to Katharine Hepburn’s brilliant imitation of a dime store floozy/gun moll “Swingin’ Door Susie” in her efforts to escape from jail to continue her search for her leopard. From one strong set piece to the next (an elegant evening at dinner with ripped clothes and misplaced purses, Susan Vance and David Huxley following the dog around a vast estate digging up the turf hoping to find his priceless dinosaur bone which the dog has buried, the couple attempting to traverse a “shallow” stream, endless choruses of “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love” which soothes the leopard Baby – hence the title. It’s all inspired lunacy.

Katharine Hepburn never attempted anything quite so hectic and comedic again in her career, but her performance ranks her right up there among the screwball comedy greats: Carole Lombard, Irene Dunne, Rosalind Russell, and Claudette Colbert. Cary Grant plays against type at first with Harold Lloyd spectacles and a flummoxed demeanour when facing any type of minor conflict, but that Cary Grant charm always smiles through the character as he holds his temper for as long as he can before he finally explodes when reduced to wearing a frilly negligée and forced to hide his identity in an attempt to get that million dollars.

‘BRINGING UP BABY’ is one of those beautiful black-and-white films that really don’t have a plot. Try to tell someone verbally the plot of this, it cannot be done. From the moment airheaded Kate gets into uptight Cary Cary's car in that parking lot with him chasing her, it's just one madcap situation after another. Howard Hawks directs this film with the appropriate light touch the material requires.

May Robson and Charlie Ruggles help to lend a good support and Charlie Ruggles who was normally cast against Mary Boland teams up well with May Robson. And my favourite in the supporting cast is Walter Catlett as the small town constable who doesn't know quite what he has on his hands, but is determined to bluff the situation through.

‘BRINGING UP BABY’ is basically a big excuse for 1930's screwball humour. Almost every scene is Katharine Hepburn playing some prank on Cary Grant, getting him tensed up. The pairing of Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn paid off handsomely. Both actors were at their best in the film. Howard Hawks got excellent performances of his two stars. Cary Grant's palaeontologist, with his glasses, and nervous energy, matches perfectly the socialite that has designs on him. There is a high level of energy in the film that was a requirement for a film of this genre. The best way to enjoy the film is to let the magic Howard Hawks created put its spell on you. It's one of the best films of this genre.


I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYHTING BUT LOVE (1928) (uncredited) (Words by Dorothy Fields) (Music by Jimmy McHugh) [Played as background music very often throughout the film] [Sung a cappella by Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant]

CAMPTOWN RACES (uncredited) (Music by Stephen Foster) [Heard in the background during the parade/butcher shop scene]

DIXIE (uncredited) Music by Daniel Decatur Emmett) [Heard in the background during the parade/butcher shop scene]

YANKEE DOODLE (uncredited) (Traditional) [Heard in the background during the parade/butcher shop scene]

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Blu-ray Image Quality – The Criterion Collection has once again given us a very professional looking ‘BRINGING UP BABY’ Blu-ray disc, with a superb and stunning Black-and-White 1080p image and shown in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio. Its existing film elements are few and problematic. Working with the Warner Bros. archive, preservationist Craig Johnson identified the two best places of film, and a 35mm nitrate duplicate negative from the British Film Institute and a 35mm safety fine-grain positive. The archival 35mm was scanned with both elements at the Motion Picture Imaging in Burbank, California, and The Criterion Collection restorers pieced them together to create the highest quality version possible. Although the 35mm nitrate duplicate negative retained a good underlying image, it was riddled with mould that the digital restorers were unable to remove, while the fine-grain positive was fourth-generation and didn’t look nearly as good. The 35mm nitrate duplicate negative was sent to Image Protection Services in Burbank, California for a test on a wet gate film scanner, which proved to virtually eliminate the mould from the image. The element was subsequently rescanned in its entirety in 16-bit 4K resolution on a wet-gate Oxberry film scanner. The film was finally digitally restored at Criterion Post using MTI Film’s DRS for warps and splices and Digital Vision’s Phoenix for jitter and flicker. As expected, Criterion's high-definition transfer is solid. Fine object detail is very good, clarity pleasing and contrast levels stable. The restorers have done an admirable job in making this the best version of ‘BRINGING UP BABY.’

Blu-ray Audio Quality – The Criterion Collection has once again given us a very professional audio experience of one standard 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio and generally speaking it is very good, especially for a film that was released in 1938. It was remastered from the 35mm optical tracks found on the same picture elements using an Avid’s Pro Tools and iZotope RX. The uncompressed 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio experience brings solid fidelity to these very old recordings. Dialogue is clear and clean throughout the presentation, and the bits of music and the many sound effects have been combined most professionally. There are no problems with age-related artefacts like hiss, pops, crackle, and flutter.

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Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:

Newly restored high-definition 4K digital transfer

Special Feature: Audio Commentary featuring Peter Bogdanovich [2005] [1080p] [1.37:1] [000:00] With this featurette, which was recorded in 2005 and features filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, and to listen to this audio commentary while viewing the movie ‘BRINGING UP BABY,’ press the AUDIO button on your remote control and select 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono Audio experience. Here we get to hear Peter Bogdanovich offers an audio commentary track that is both amusing and also very intelligent and his obvious love of the film and of the director Howard Hawks and is more than a little bit obvious throughout the duration. Some may be put off by his references to ‘What’s Up Doc’ [1972] — a film that he directed that attempted to recreate the “screwball comedy” genre for a seventies audience — but these references are merely giving credit where it is due since ‘BRINGING UP BABY’ is probably the wildest and most beloved entry of that particular genre. Peter Bogdanovich had interviewed Hawks on numerous occasions, and much of his information is derived from those interviews, but he also discusses the actors while offering interesting biographical titbits that enrich the viewer’s appreciation of the film. Directorial choices are also discussed and usually praised throughout the length of the movie. Those who have listened to Peter Bogdanovich discuss classic films understand that they can expect a few Howard Hawks impersonations as well, and some listeners may be annoyed buy this tendency even as others are amused. Peter Bogdanovich sometimes cannot remember the film at times, and this has the unfortunate effect of making listeners question some of his analysis and the historical information that Peter Bogdanovich offers. One interesting fact is that Peter Bogdanovich knew Howard Hawks and had interviewed him a few times, so is able to quote the man first-hand. Peter Bogdanovich fills-in plenty of biographical details about the actors and underlines just how strong the cast was — bright young stars supported by seasoned, well-loved character actors that would’ve been familiar to audiences at the time. Apparently, Katherine Hepburn was not yet versed in comedy acting and veteran actor, Walter Catlett, who plays the Constable, coached her on delivery and comic timing. Bogdanovich lends his director’s eye to explain just how clever some of the sequences are, and how difficult to stage, including several long takes involving meandering dolly shots, multiple character interactions, physical comedy, and even a couple of pratfalls from Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn themselves. At times, Peter Bogdonovich seems mystified as to how Howard Hawks managed to elicit such a perfectly-timed performance from the leopard. This is made clear in another particular special feature where we learn about the special effects genius, Linwood Dunn. All in all, this Peter Bogdonovich audio commentary is well worth listening to. Please Note: due to the limited amount of space provided for my Blu-ray Reviews, these audio commentaries have had to be edited quite a lot, so I hope this will not disappoint your enjoyment in my review of this particular audio commentary.

Special Feature: Scott Eyman [Audio only] [2021] [1080p] [1.37:1 / 1.78:1] [18:32] With this featurette, we get to view the following video essay, that was created by The Criterion Collection in 2021, where Scott Eyman, author of “Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise,” and discusses the actor’s early acting career. Scott Eyman charts the evolution of the actor's screen persona and how excellent directors and talented female co-stars helped Cary Grant find his cinematic voice in this new video essay. Scott Eyman also analyses and dissects Cary Grant's brilliant performance in ‘BRINGING UP BABY’ and discusses his successful collaborations and friendship with Katharine Hepburn. “Cary Grant was to romantic comedy what Fred Astaire was to dance,” Scott Eyman says, “Cary Grant made something that is extremely difficult look easy, and in doing so he gave the audience joy and a display of prodigious artistry that seemed unassuming.” Scott Eyman also mentions the rise of Cary Grant’s illustrious acting career was due to especially working with some brilliant directors like George Cukor, Leo McCarey and of course Howard Hawks. We also get to view some clips from the films ‘BRINGING UP BABY,’ ‘The Awful Truth’ [1937], ‘Holiday’ [1938] and ‘Hid Girl Friday’ [1940]. Finally, if you want to hear something unique about the fascinating and amazing Cary Grant’s acting career, then this extra special featurette with Scott Eyman is a must view special feature.    

Special Feature: John Bailey on Russell Metty and the Language of Comedy [2021] [1080p] [1.78:1 / 1.37:1] [11:20] With this featurette, we get to view the following interview with cinematographer John Bailey, that was recorded by The Criterion Collection in March 2021. In this special feature John Bailey discusses the film ‘BRINGING UP BABY’ and John Bailey examines the work of acclaimed cinematographer Russell Metty, who worked with such legendary directors as Douglas Sirk, John Huston, Orson Welles, and Howard Hawks. John Bailey analyses several scenes in the film ‘BRINGING UP BABY’ and how the photography and editing heightens the humour. John Bailey also praises Russells Metty's nuanced lighting and sense of depth, and celebrates his versatility.

Special Feature: “But What About My Leopard?” – The Magic of Optical Effects Pioneer Linwood Dunn [2021] [1080p] [1.78:1 / 1.37:1] [12:40] With this featurette, we get to view the following imaginative, interesting and fascinating new interview with film historian Craig Barron, that was recorded for The Criterion Collection in March 2021. Here Craig Barron discuses and examines the career of visual-effects pioneer Linwood Dunn, who is credited with inventing the optical printer and who worked on the film ‘BRINGING UP BABY.’ Craig Barron reveals some of the amazing tricks in the film, including a then revolutionary process called split-screen technology that enabled the actors to work seamlessly with the leopard. Craig Barron calls Linwood Dunn “the keeper of the [special effects] flame” before ‘Star Wars’ came along and changed the industry forever.

Special Feature: Howard Hawks: A Hell of a Good Life [1977] [1080i] [1.37:1] [56:37] With this featurette, we have German filmmaker Hans-Christoph Blumenberg shot the last intimate portrait of director Howard Hawks in November 1977, just one month before the legendary director's death. Hans-Christoph Blumenberg gets an intimate visit to Howard Hawks at his home in Palm Springs, California, and resulting in having the filmed documentary being premiered at the berlin Film Fesival in February 1978 before airing on West German television later that year. It would prove to be Howard Hawks’ final interview, and the documentary is comprised almost entirely of Howard Hawks' endearingly recollections and musings on a variety of topics, including how he broke into motion pictures, his straightforward cinematic technique, and his friendships with fellow directors Victor Fleming and John Ford, and his interest in flying and car racing. Howard Hawks also shares marvellous anecdotes about Carole Lombard, John Wayne, Cary Grant, and George Raft. “I'm a storyteller, not an artist,” and Howard Hawks says. “I don't think my work is artistic at all.” Sadly, no film clips disprove that personal assessment, but even without them, this absorbing profile celebrates Howard Hawks' amazing work and provides a rare glimpse of the man behind the camera.

Special Feature: Selected-Scene Commentary [Audio only] [2021] [1080p] [1.78:1] [22:21] With this featurette, we have this program that has been created by The Criterion Collection in 2021, where costume historian Shelly Foote looks at the career of designer Howard Greer and discusses his ‘BRINGING UP BABY’ garment creations in this four-scene audio commentary. Shelly Foote talks about Howard Greer's artistic eye, his preference for lamé and “penchant for highly ornamental clothing” and Howard Greer's other collaborations with Katherine Hepburn. Shelly Foote also provides biographical information, discusses the challenge of designing contemporary costumes for films, and lauds Shelly Greer's humour that undoubtedly contributed to the negligee he created for Cary Grant in one of the film's most famous sequences. As you view this featurette, Shelly Foote does her audio commentary with the movie ‘BRINGING UP BABY,’ but only the time length of this featurette lasts. The only negative aspect of Shelly Foote’s audio commentary, is that you can tell Shelly Foote is reading here own written monotone script.

Special Feature: Cary Grant [Audio only] [1969] [1080p] [1.78:1] [35:57] With this featurette, we get to hear the following audio session with Cary Grant who sat down for this audience Q & A session after a 1969 screening of the film ‘BRINGING UP BABY’ as part of a “Hollywood in the Thirties” film series and presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In typically charming fashion, Cary Grant shares a bunch of funny anecdotes, banters with the audience, and talks about such varied topics as his early theatrical days, the differences between comedy and drama, how he approaches  or doesn't approach  a role, the challenges of shooting out of sequence, and the immense rewards of laughter. Cary Grant also shares his memories of various actors and directors and clears up the mystery as to whether he ever said “Judy, Judy, Judy.” As you view this audio featurette, you get to view a single black-and-white image from the film ‘BRINGING UP BABY’ with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn.

Special Feature: Howard Hawks and Peter Bogdanovich [Audio only] [1972] [1080p] [1.78:1] [15:01] With this featurette, we get to hear a short excerpt from a 1972 interview conducted at Howard Hawks' home in Palm Springs in 1972 and covers the genesis of ‘BRINGING UP BABY’ and its crazy characters and memorable lines, Howard Hawks' editing technique, and Cary Grant's brilliant comic instincts and timing. Howard Hawks also shares a few amusing behind-the-scenes anecdotes in this enjoyable tête-à-tête. As you view this audio featurette, you get to view a single black-and-white image.

Special Feature: Trailer [1938] [480i] [1.37:1] [2:20] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘BRINGING UP BABY.’

PLUS: Here we have a beautiful printed designed 42-page printed booklet with an essay by critic Sheila O’Malley entitled BONES, BALLS, AND BUTTERFLIES. We also get am essay by Hagar Wilde entitled BRINGING UP BABY. On top of all that, we have ABOUT THE RESTORATION. have ABOUT THE TRANSFER. SPECIAL THANKS. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS. PRODUCTION CREDITS. Plus we have a plethora of stunning black-and-white promotional photographs related to the film ‘BRINGING UP BABY.’

Finally, ‘BRINGING UP BABY’ is one of the all-time classic screwball comedies at last comes to Blu-ray! Side-splitting slapstick antics, rapid-fire dialogue, and the timeless allure and sparkling performances of Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant make ‘BRINGING UP BABY’ is an unequivocal joy from start to finish. Director Howard Hawks orchestrates the mayhem as only he can, and though Criterion's new restoration never quite meets our lofty expectations, it makes the most of less-than-optimal film elements. Solid audio and a comprehensive array of quality supplements sweeten this long-awaited release that demands a prominent spot with every film buff's collection. Howard Hawks’ ‘BRINGING UP BABY’ is one of the great comic creations of movie history. Its eccentricities won’t appeal to all tastes, but if you’re in the mood for rooted zaniness along with a batch of superlative bonus material, this Criterion’s release should be right up your alley. Very Highly Recommended!

Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado 
Le Cinema Paradiso 
United Kingdom

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