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Bringing Up Baby

Bringing Up Baby  

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  1. 1. Does "Bringing Up Baby" belong on the AFI list?

    • Yes 🐆
      5
    • No 🦕
      4

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  • Poll closed on 08/09/19 at 07:00 AM

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Posted (edited)

Amy & Paul dig into 1938's Howard Hawks screwball classic Bringing Up Baby! They ask if Cary Grant was the model for Christopher Reeve's Superman, learn how Hepburn modulated her performance to get the comic tone just right, and wonder why weddings were so casual in the 30s. Plus: Cary's daughter Jennifer Grant shares memories of growing up with her father.

 

For Nashville week, call the Unspooled voicemail line at 747-666-5824 with a monologue that we'll turn into some Altman-style overlapping dialogue! Follow us on Twitter @Unspooled, get more info at unspooledpod.com and don’t forget to rate, review & subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts. Photo credit: Kim Troxall

Edited by DanEngler

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I hate this movie. I'm not sure if I think the movie is bad, because I mostly don't, but I find it super frustrating. I would describe myself as fairly particular or uptight or however you would describe Cary Grant early in the movie. So, I spend the entire movie watching Katherine Hepburn annoy him into love super super annoying. I identify with every bit of frustration he feels in the movie and it drives me fucking crazy the one time I watched this. I have the exact same problem with What's Up Doc that they also mention. Any movie with a straight laced guy being annoyed against their wishes into romance drives me insane and I can't take it. I just want the main character to tell this crazy stalker to leave them alone or get the police involved.

On the other hand, I saw Who's That Girl, which is practically a remake of Bringing Up Baby, when I was really little. Probably before my being an frustrated curmudgeon personality who dislikes really loud, boorish people cemented itself, and loved it as a kid. I watched Who's That Girl maybe 10 years ago after watching Bringing Up Baby and would absolutely watch it again over this movie. Maybe that's just Goonies Conundrum type nostalgia. It's definitely the most low rent, insane movie preference I have.

I get why people like this. Even my reasoning for hate hate hating this is that I identify with the characters too much which is, in a sense, a compliment to the movie. But, oh boy, I would never watch this again.

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My thoughts are very much along the lines of Amy and Paul. I liked the movie just fine. I thought it was fun and charming. However, there was nothing about it that made me feel like it was the best cinema has to offer - not even within its own genre.

So, no, I don’t think it belongs on the list, but I don’t want it to be forgotten either.

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Listening to this episode, I realize that I like very few modern comedies. 

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Re: Paul's suggestion that the movie needs a better title, it should obviously be called "Baby's Day Out".

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This is one of those "I like it but don't love it" movies, but I was swayed to vote yes because of the laundry list of movies they mentioned that used Katharine Hepburn's character as a model for their female leads. The creation of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope was here, basically. (Though this character has more of her own life and agency than the pejorative use of that term would suggest.)

Could be that His Girl Friday deserves to be here in its place though.

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As I said on my Letterboxd, it reminds me of the absurd improv podcasts I listen to all the time.

"What's a one-word phrase and a movie style?"

"'Leopard' and romantic comedy".

It's an Improv4Humans sketch and I'm here for it! 

I'm charmed by this movie. I like Hepburn's annoyingness, it makes me laugh a lot. I will probably watch it many more times over the course of my life (last night was my 2nd viewing).

But.. I voted no.

I just don't get how or why the AFI gravitated to it. (It didn't win Oscars, didn't make good money, and had pleasant but not great reviews. What were voters basing this on?)

Most of the comedies Paul mentioned, I wouldn't put ahead of this one, tbh, but I do think there are a ton of comedies I'd place over it. This one was amusing but I just don't think it quite had the comedic craft of the best ones of all-time (we've seen that craft in City Lights and Duck Soup, for example).

What I think the discussion here comes down to is, it's hard to judge comedies on this sort of historical level. "How much you laugh" should be the ultimate guide for a comedy, but that's too different for everyone, and ignores most other clues of what makes good cinema. But then if you judge stuff like this like you would a more important drama, it falls apart for lack of logic or weird acting. 

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30 minutes ago, AlmostAGhost said:

What I think the discussion here comes down to is, it's hard to judge comedies on this sort of historical level. "How much you laugh" should be the ultimate guide for a comedy, but that's too different for everyone, and ignores most other clues of what makes good cinema. But then if you judge stuff like this like you would a more important drama, it falls apart for lack of logic or weird acting. 

I think this is why I voted “no” as well. It’s also why I feel like comedies are so hard to pin down in terms of greatness. From a cinematic perspective, they rarely push the envelope. It’s not like you can point to the camera work or something more tangible. It honestly comes down to “Is this funny?” It has to essentially live and die on that question alone, and as we’ve discussed before, that’s a highly subjective thing. Did I think Bringing Up Baby was funny? Sure. Are there other movies that I find funnier? Absolutely. 

Honestly, one of the reasons I keep pushing for Groundhog Day for inclusion, even though it’s not necessarily my favorite comedy, is because it’s not only funny, but it’s well-crafted, innovative in subject matter (Groundhog Day has become an adjective to describe similar time looping stories), and it has a point of view. There’s a philosophical reason for it to exist, even if the viewer doesn’t personally subscribe to that philosophy. With movies like Bringing Up Baby it’s all just “aren’t dizzy dames and leopards zany?”

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On a formal level, probably Dr. Strangelove is the one on the list that most meets the standards of "great filmmaking" while also being funny.

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I watched this recently enough that what I wrote is still accessible under Disqus' now shortened history, so I'll quote from my verdict there: "When I said that Me and My Gal fell short of a certain standard of comedy, that standard is set by Bringing Up Baby". It was one of the funniest films I've ever seen, and since Hawks' later "His Girl Friday" helped set my standard (which the Philadelphia Story did not meet when they matched up for the Canon), I probably should have seen it even before this podcast prodded me to do so. Many old-timey comedies aren't actually that funny now (like the two I've slighted above), but this & Duck Soup really do seem to deserve their place of cinematic immortality in a way that most Harold Lloyd also doesn't (Lloyd was arguably more of a populist who prioritized quantity with a relatable lead like any interchangeable comedy today over perfectionism in reaching the greatest heights of comedy). Maybe I haven't seen enough Judd Apatow, but I highly doubt his stuff can compare to that zaniness. Groundhog's Day is a good movie, but unlike some commenters above, I primarily judge a comedy on just being funny. More laughs means a better movie, which is why the Paramount Marx brothers movies are better than the MGM ones. Worrying about Grant's character as a poor victim of this insane stalker is the wrong way to watch the film: all his suffering is for your amusement, like Margaret Dumont or any cartoon victim of Bugs Bunny.

 

Divorce really was much less common back in that era. The difficulty of obtaining a divorce prior to no-fault laws was part of the plot of "Sullivan's Travels", which you've covered before.

I don't know if the film can be given credit for inventing the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope though, I've heard others say that My Man Godrey did it a couple years earlier.

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Here's a wild line I didn't hear you guys mention. Near the beginning when they're in the dinosaur room, talking about the million dollars, Cary Grant says, "That's pretty white of Mr. Peabody." I had to play it again to make sure I heard it right. Did not expect that in this film!

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To confirm Paul's intuition, apparently Christopher Reeve said, in his 1998 autobiography, that he modeled his Clark Kent on David Huxley.

It's around pp 195–197, if you're near a bookstore.

Maybe if I watch this as a Superman & Chico Marx buddy comedy I'll be able to dial into it.

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I am CRAZY about this movie -- forget the 100, it's in my own personal Top 10.  And it's not just me; I showed it to my daughter when she was nine years old, and she laughed so hard she literally fell off the couch.

Meanwhile, I can't believe that Amy and Paul didn't mention the single most charming thing about the backstory of "Bringing Up Baby," which is that Hagar Wilde and Dudley Nichols actually fell in love while writing the screenplay together.  She had written the original short story, which ran in Collier's magazine.  Howard Hawks brought her to LA to collaborate with Nichols, a very experienced screenwriter (with one other movie on the AFI 100, "Stagecoach").  The team wrote several other movies together -- including "Carefree," for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers -- before breaking up.  But I think you can feel that giddy new-romance energy pulsing through the movie.

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I enjoyed this film but for me, the best screwball comedy is My Man Godfrey! Please watch it Paul and Amy!

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When we get through this whole list, it might be good to review just how many are comedies. I know I tried it once when we were doing the Marx Brothers movies, but I remember putting enough disclaimers on filtering out movies that are probably on the list for non-comedic aspects, so it turned into a short list. But it's been feeling like there's actually a lot of comedies on the list (which is contrary to how it felt when we first looked at the list).

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7 hours ago, ol' eddy wrecks said:

When we get through this whole list, it might be good to review just how many are comedies. I know I tried it once when we were doing the Marx Brothers movies, but I remember putting enough disclaimers on filtering out movies that are probably on the list for non-comedic aspects, so it turned into a short list. But it's been feeling like there's actually a lot of comedies on the list (which is contrary to how it felt when we first looked at the list).

Two Marx Brothers, Singin In The Rain, City Lights, The Graduate, The General, Some Like It Hot, Annie Hall, Philadelphia Story, It Happened One Night, MASH, The Gold Rush, Sullivan's Travels, Tootsie, Modern Times, Bringing Up Baby, Swing Time, Toy Story.

How comedic you find some of these is up for debate but I'd say these are mostly comedic (or trying to be). Maybe the romantic comedies are light on comedy by that's 18 movies. Plus there are a couple comedy dramas like Forrest Gump and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and Network is a dark satire that I could see some people considering as kind of comedic. Wikipedia calls Nashville a comedy drama which is true I suppose.

I think the idea that comedy isn't represented, which Amy and Paul have stated, is kind of unfounded. If you want to say modern comedies or a specific genre doesn't get representation, that's fair. I could certainly swap out a lot of them for similar comedies that are, in my mind, better. I'd say approximately 20% being comedy is fair representation.

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1 hour ago, grudlian. said:

Two Marx Brothers, Singin In The Rain, City Lights, The Graduate, The General, Some Like It Hot, Annie Hall, Philadelphia Story, It Happened One Night, MASH, The Gold Rush, Sullivan's Travels, Tootsie, Modern Times, Bringing Up Baby, Swing Time, Toy Story.

How comedic you find some of these is up for debate but I'd say these are mostly comedic (or trying to be). Maybe the romantic comedies are light on comedy by that's 18 movies. Plus there are a couple comedy dramas like Forrest Gump and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and Network is a dark satire that I could see some people considering as kind of comedic. Wikipedia calls Nashville a comedy drama which is true I suppose.

I think the idea that comedy isn't represented, which Amy and Paul have stated, is kind of unfounded. If you want to say modern comedies or a specific genre doesn't get representation, that's fair. I could certainly swap out a lot of them for similar comedies that are, in my mind, better. I'd say approximately 20% being comedy is fair representation.

I consider satire comedy - so both Network and Dr Strangelove (missed above) 

I consider Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf a dark comedy, which wouldn't have crossed my mind based on my vague knowledge of it beforehand.

While I laughed at a number of points in Nashville, I didn't think of it as a comedy, though after revisiting it, I think someone arguing it is does have a lot of scenes to justify their claim.

I think that general impression isn't limited to just Paul and Amy (I think fueled partially by other lists, but also the comedic entries being just slightly older, so a lot of people in their 40s and younger don't have famous comedies from their youth on there, outside Toy Story). But just stopping to tally them up, the number actually seems fairly high. Like I said, I think I want to revisit it afterwards because there might be some I wouldn't have thought as comedies just by reputation.

 

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