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Howard Hawks
Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Charles Ruggles
Writing Credits:
Dudley Nichols, Hagar Wilde

Hoping to procure a million-dollar endowment from a wealthy society matron for his museum, a hapless paleontologist finds himself entangled with a dizzy heiress as the manic misadventures pile up.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
English PCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 102 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 7/6/2021

• Audio Commentary With Filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich
• Interview with Biographer Scott Eyman
• Interview with Cinematographer John Bailey
• Interview with Film Historian Craig Barron
• “A Hell of a Good Life” Featurette
• Selected-Scene Commentary with Costume Historian Shelly Foote
• 1969 Audio Interview with Actor Cary Grant
• 1972 Interview with Director Howard Hawks
• Trailer
• Booklet


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-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer.


Bringing Up Baby: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1938)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 14, 2021)

With 1938’s Bringing Up Baby, we get a much celebrated example of the “screwball comedy” genre. Here Howard Hawks directs the acclaimed pair of Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.

The film opens at the Stuyvesant Museum of Natural History, where we meet Dr. David Huxley (Grant) as he reconstructs dinosaur bones to assemble a full brontosaurus skeleton. The henpecked David is engaged to prim and proper assistant Alice Swallow (Virginia Walker). The no-nonsense Alice wants their marriage dedicated to his work and sees no time for fun or relaxation.

David tries to snare a million dollar contribution from Alexander Peabody (George Irving), the representative for Elizabeth Random (May Robson). While they schmooze on the golf course, David runs into brash and headstrong Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn). They butt heads on the fairway and then again at dinner, and her goofiness threatens to subvert David’s fundraising efforts.

A silver lining appears when Susan tells David that she’s friends with Peabody and she can influence him. Along the way, Susan demands that David accompany her to Connecticut so she can deliver a leopard named Baby. The movie follows their shenanigans as they take the cat to Connecticut and encounter all sorts of silliness and complications.

That synopsis doesn’t cover the film terribly well, mostly because Baby features an absurd plot. The basic concepts related to the leopard couldn’t possibly seem more ridiculous, and the other circumstances that occur don’t come across as all that much more connected to reality.

Somehow Hawks makes it work, largely because Baby zips along at a breakneck pace. My, does this flick zoom past us! Occasionally I started to think the screenwriter got paid by the word, as this 102-minute effort packs in more dialogue and action than most movies twice its length.

This means that Baby needs to race from one insane circumstance to another without any pause. Somehow the pace never seems annoying or obnoxiously frenetic.

Instead, we always remain involved in the flick, and the speed with which it moves keeps us interested. Actually, it benefits things since we never have the time to dwell on the story’s absurdity.

Of course, a terrific cast helps. I admit I used to think that Cary Grant never did more than play Cary Grant in his movies, but efforts like Baby demonstrate his range. It seems odd to see him so goofy and hyper, but he makes it work.

Hepburn also takes a character who probably should be reprehensible due to her extreme level of self-absorption and creates a likable and engaging personality. The stars dig into the movie’s spirit and bounce off each other well.

Brining Up Baby isn’t the kind of movie you discuss and analyze after it ends. You watch it, you laugh for 102 minutes, and you go on with your life. That’s good enough, as Baby offers a bright and brisk piece that consistently entertains.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

Bringing Up Baby appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. According to the package’s booklet, the film’s “existing elements are few and problematic”.

This meant the image didn’t compare with the best of the era, but given the limitations of the source, it looked reasonably good, though sharpness varied a fair amount. Much of the film offered largely positive delineation, but more than a few exceptions occurred.

Those meant that occasional instances of mild blurriness popped up at times. Most of the flick brought reasonable to good clarity, though.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, and edge haloes remained absent. With a fairly heavy layer of grain, I didn’t suspect any noise reduction concerns, and print flaws failed to create distractions.

Black levels generally appeared deep and dense, and shadows were reasonably concise, though a few shots seemed overly bright. Though this appeared to be the best the movie could look under the circumstances, the image nonetheless felt erratic.

A perfectly acceptable track for its era, the PCM monaural audio of Baby didn’t do anything particularly special, but it felt more than acceptable. Speech sounded a little brittle and showed a smidgen of edginess, but the lines were intelligible and reasonably concise.

Effects played a small role in this talky flick. Though they lacked much life, they were fairly clean and without any difficulties.

Music also played a minor role, as only a few instances of score appeared. These were typically thin but sounded decent overall.

No noise, hiss or source defects marred the presentation. This was a soundtrack that worked just fine for a movie from 1938.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD from 2005? The PCM audio seemed a bit cleaner and more precise the lossy track on the DVD.

Visuals also showed an upgrade, as the Blu-ray looked cleaner, better defined and smoother than the DVD. Even with its limitations, this became a clear improvement over the DVD.

The Criterion Blu-ray mixes old and new extras, and we open with a component from the DVD: an audio commentary with filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich. He offers a running, screen-specific track that only sporadically provides quality information.

Bogdanovich gets into occasional details about the production, the structure of the film and its genre, and where it fits in movie history. He also discusses the way the movie influenced him, with a specific emphasis on his What’s Up, Doc? from 1972.

The best parts of the commentary come when Bogdanovich quotes some old interviews he did with director Howard Hawks. On those occasions, we get useful remarks about the film and the director’s work.

I also like some of Bogdanovich’s insights into the methods used to create the scenes in which the actors interact with the leopard. Unfortunately, much of the time Bogdanovich does little more than echo funny lines and laugh.

A fair amount of dead air occurs as well. Spurts of quality information appear here, but the commentary sags too much of the time and doesn’t give us much.

Other than the film’s trailer, the remaining extras didn’t appear on the DVD. From 2021, an Interview with Biographer Scott Eyman runs 18 minutes, 32 seconds.

Billed as a “video essay”, we see archival photos/footage while Eyman offers a view of actor Cary Grant’s early career. Eyman delivers an insightful take on Grant’s formative days in Hollywood.

Also from 2021, an Interview with Cinematographer John Bailey spans 11 minutes, 22 seconds. Bailey discusses Baby DP Russell Metty plus aspects of Baby. Expect a solid examination of these domains.

Next comes a 2021 Interview with Film Historian Craig Barron. It goes for 12 minutes, 40 seconds and brings Barron’s thoughts about visual effects producer Linwood Dunn’s work on Baby as well as aspects of Dunn’s career. Barron provides an engaging discussion of Dunn’s techniques.

Under A Hell of a Good Life, we find the final interview with director Howard Hawks. From November 1977, it lasts 56 minutes, 37 seconds.

Hawks covers aspects of his life and career. The structure can feel a little scatter-shot, as the program skips around too much, but we still get some useful thoughts from the director.

A Selected-Scene Commentary from costume historian Shelly Foote occupies 22 minutes, 21 seconds. Across four scenes, Foote looks at costume designer Howard Greer’s career and clothing choices for Baby. Foote delivers a nice array of thoughts and details.

From October 1969, we find an Audio Interview with Actor Cary Grant. It fills 35 minutes, 57 seconds and allows Grant to take audience questions after a screening of Baby.

Relaxed and loose, Grant turns this into a highly enjoyable piece. He covers a nice array of questions and even trots out “Judy, Judy, Judy” at one point. This becomes a fun listen.

Note: at one point, an audience member asks Grant about farce movies. This guy sounds a crazy amount like Jeff Goldblum. Logically, it can’t be Goldblum since the actor was only 16 and a resident of Pittsburgh, but man! The vocal resemblance is stunning.

Finally, we get a 1972 Peter Bogdanovich Interview with Howard Hawks. It goes for 15 minutes, one second and examines aspects of Baby. Bogdanovich fares better as an interviewer than as a commentator, so this becomes a pretty good chat.

As always, Criterion includes a booklet. This one features credits, photos, an essay from critic Sheila O’Malley and the 1937 Hagar Wilde short story on which the film was based. It becomes a better than average booklet for Criterion.

Probably the best-realized example of the “screwball comedy”, Bringing Up Baby beats us into submission with its relentless procession of insanity. The movie easily could have gone sour, but it works quite well, as the combination of bright dialogue and peppy performances makes it a winner. The Blu-ray offers acceptable picture and audio along with an appealing set of supplements. Even with its issues, this turns into the best version of the movie on the market.

To rate this film visit the DVD review of BRINGING UP BABY

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