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Take on Bringing Up Baby

Updated on February 4, 2014

Bringing Up Baby, a Howard Hawks film from 1938, is a compelling screwball comedy that not only fits its genre but also pushes the limits. According to Bordwell and Thompson, a screwball comedy usually contains an eccentric romantic couple at the middle of it. They also contain wealthy people who can behave oddly even in the hardships of depression because of their excessive amount of money. Early screwball comedies dealt largely with depression. Finally, sexual antagonism is also a characteristic of this genre. This paper will discuss how Bringing Up Baby incorporates these characteristics of the screwball comedy genre.

Straight from the beginning Bringing Up Baby incorporates an unconventional and eccentric couple that plans to get married. When talking about their wedding and their future, David wanted to go on a honeymoon vacation and have children. His fiancé said that was ridiculous and that they’re coming straight back to his work to let him continue. This is interesting because it sort of reverses that wants of the stereotypical male and female in a relationship. Following this slightly off kilter couple, David ends up with another woman, Susan, who brings him nothing but bad luck and terrible situations that push him out of his comfort zone. As the film progresses, her love for him causes her to make irrational decisions that force an odd relationship between the two to continue.

Going off of this odd relationship, David finds himself at Susan’s aunt’s house. Her aunt also happens to be the one who would potentially give him $1,000,000 for his work with dinosaur bones. The aunt, Aunt Elizabeth, was a very wealthy person. Although she is not one of the two in the couple, this is a way that the film incorporates wealthy people who act irrationally because of the strange situations. Obtaining a leopard is one of the central parts of the film. The leopard is brought in because of the Aunt’s obsession with wanting one. On top of this we see David deal with depression, just like any other screwball comedy. When nothing goes right, he continues to press on so that he can get back to his normal life. Susan keeps increasing the awkward situations and David keeps trying to get out of them, but finds himself further and further from having everything under control. This is a typical characteristic of a screwball comedy and is seen easily in this film.

Sexual antagonism is another characteristic of screwball comedies that is very prevalent in this film. While you’d expect this friction to be between David and his fiancé, this film applies this characteristic much more effectively by using Susan. Susan couldn’t have made David’s situation worse, but her love for him caused her to bring him with her and not give him an option to leave. Her constant strange behavior transforms from David hating her to David leaving his fiancé for her. The tension between Susan and David is seen throughout the film, and this is typical of the screwball genre.

The screwball comedy was a huge success in the 30’s with the incorporation of sound. Bringing Up Baby is one film that fits this genre perfectly. We see so many characteristics included in the genre throughout the film. This is possibly why this film was so successful and is seen as a classic of the genre to this day.

Bringing Up Baby (Trailer)


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