Monday, January 26, 2015

Don't Make a Scene: Bringing Up Baby

The Set-Up: David Huxley, you see, has a bone. He's an archaeologist, and he's a very busy and important man securing funding for the museum of his employment and building the skeletons of dead dinosaurs. But despite working on dinosaur skeletons all day, he doesn't have much of a spine of his own. He's about to get married to the very stable, very organized, very dull Alice Swallow. Then he meets Susan Vance, who is anything but, and life changes immediately. 

This movie, Bringing Up Baby, is one of Howard Hawks' best, one of the most absurd comedies/love stories to ever whip through a projector aperture. It's surface conversations and misunderstandings are all due to people listening to themselves and hearing only what they want to hear from others. It's with some trepidation I type all this dialogue, because without the inflections, and the pace, it's a bit hard to follow...or even to see what's so special about it. But like the elaborate plot of Hawks' The Big Sleep, at some point you could care less about the details and just go with the flow of the thing, and if some participles and some plot-points are left dangling...well, who cares, that was half an hour ago. The surface means nothing. If you care, you're...well, you're in the same leaky boat as David. The direction and where it all lands—that's everything. What it means...well, that's subject to interpretation, and there's a lot of that going around Bringing Up Baby

Ah, who cares? Just do the scene, already.

The Story: It's chaos, basically. Let's just say that two incidents of ripped clothes at a swanky restaurant have brought David Huxley (Cary Grant) and Susan Vance (Katherine Hepburn) back to her home, where she is taking a shower, and he is looking for clothes as his tux and tails is in tatters. The best Susan can offer is one of her negligee's, because she doesn't want David to leave so that he can attend his own wedding. Was that the doorbell? 


David: The gardener must have clothes. Clothes are clothes.
Susan: The gardener’s in town.
David: Well, he couldn’t have taken all his clothes with him!
Susan: Oh yes, he could!
David: Of all the conceited spoiled little scatter-brains! My goodness, the man who gets you...(doorbell rings) The man who gets you is going to have a lifetime of misery!! “Everything’s going to be all right.” Yes, everything’s going to...(David opens door)
David: What do you want?
Aunt Elizabeth: Well, who are you?
David: Who are you?

Aunt Elizabeth: Well, who are you?
David: What do you want?
Aunt Elizabeth: Well who ARE you!?

David: ...I don’t know. I’m not quite myself today.
Aunt Elizabeth: Well, You look perfectly idiotic in those clothes.

David(agitated): THESE aren’t my clothes!
Aunt Elizabeth: Well, where ARE your clothes?

David: I’ve LOST my clothes!
Aunt Elizabeth: Well, why are you wearing THESE clothes?

David: Because I just went GAY all of a sudden!!

David: ...Excuse me, I’m sorry...
Aunt Elizabeth: Now, see here, young man, Stop this nonsense. What are you doing?
David: I’m sitting in the middle of 42nd street waiting for a bus…
Aunt Elizabeth's dog, George walks in, starts barking
David: Now, George, SHOO! Go away!
Aunt Elizabeth: George, calm down.
David hisses at dog.
Aunt Elizabeth: Who is this man?

Maid: I don’t know.
Aunt Elizabeth: Oh, STOP it, George! Well, what’s he doing here?
Maid: I don’t know!
Susan runs out, sees aunt, stops dead and spins around

Susan: W-uh-oh! Aunt Elizabeth: Susan! Come back here! Stop it, George! Susan, Come here...Tell me...
Susan: Why, Aunt Elizabeth, it’s you! I’ve never been so thrilled in my life! Susan: It’s amazing to see you here and George, dear little George (George starts to bark again) What made you come out here from New York?

Aunt Elizabeth: Quiet, George!
Susan: Now why didn’t you stay there...

Aunt Elizabeth: Susan, now stop gushing and tell me who is this man?
David: I...
Aunt Elizabeth: Where’d you get him?
Susan: He’s a friend of Mark’s.
Aunt Elizabeth: Well, what’s he doing here?
David: Susan brought me!

Aunt Elizabeth: I don’t doubt it, but why?
Susan: You see, I got a letter from Mark, he said David was an old friend of his, he’s been working very hard in town...
Susan: And he was on the point on having a nervous breakdown! (makes the “crazy spin” with her finger. David starts muttering)
David: I’m a nut from Brazil!
Susan: Well, he’s very excitable. We let him do what he wants.
Aunt Elizabeth: Well, where are his clothes?!
David: Susan TOOK them!
Aunt Elizabeth: What’s he doing in that thing?

Susan: Well, Mark said he should be allowed to wear a negligee if he WANTS to wear a negligee because Mark says there’s no telling what will happen if he doesn’t have his own way.

Aunt Elizabeth: Does he want? to wear those clothes
David: No, I don’t want to wear this thing, I just want to get married!!
(David begins hopping up and down)
Aunt Elizabeth: Susan, I forbid it! I absolutely put my foot down. The idea!
The women begin arguing. David stews in frustration. Finally he snaps.

David: Quiet. QUIET!!!
Susan: Well, exactly, David, don’t talk so much! (David stamps on her foot) Susan: OW!! Oo-o-oo!
Susan groans. David towers over Aunt Elizabeth

David: Perhaps you could help me. Perhaps you could help me find some clothes.
Aunt Elizabeth: Well, yes…yes…there must be some of Mark’s things around...somewhere...and...
David(to maid): Are there?
Maid: Well, uh...oooh, yes, there are some in Mr. Mark’s room, sir. Yes, sir.
David: Which is Mr. Mark’s room?
Maid: Well, it’s the end, sir. Yes, sir.
David: THANK you. THANK you.  
(David walks off George grabbing at his hand) David: Go away, Go ‘way...Aw, go ‘way!  
Susan counts her toes
Susan: He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me...DA-vid!! Where’d he go?
Aunt Elizabeth: Well, to get some clothes!
Susan (panics): If he gets some clothes he’ll go away and he’s the only man I’ve ever loved. David!! Oh, what will I ever do without David! Oh, get away from me! Oh, George, PLEASE be quiet!
Temporarily ignored, George gets the clavicle out of the box David's been keeping it in, complicating matters.

Bringing Up Baby

Words by Hagar Wilde and Dudley Nichols

Pictures by: Russell Metty and Howard Hawks

Bringing Up Baby is available on DVD through Warner Bros. Home Video.

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