Howard Hawks’s (1938) film BRINGING UP BABY. The film is a fast and funny comedy about a nervous palaeontologist (Cary Grant) who meets daredevil socialite (Katharine Hepburn)and finds his life turned upside by a leopard called Baby.
The phrase “they don’t make ’em like that anymore” could well have been coined to describe this classic screwball comedy. It’s more that they can’t make ’em like this anymore. Imagine a comedy with a script more twisty than Inception and has the two of the most popular “serious” actors around make fools of themselves. It couldn’t and wouldn’t be done today.
No synopsis can do it justice: Cary Grant plays a stuffy palaeontologist who meets the anarchically free-spirited Katharine Hepburn. She has a pet leopard (the titular Baby, seamlessly inserted into scenes where one swipe of claws could have ended a Hollywood heart-throb’s career). It also involves a missing dinosaur bone, a million-dollar donation and perhaps the most competitive game of golf ever. Hawks powers through all of this, keeping his performers busy with a torrent of one-liners and physical comedy moves that only the extremely talented could even hope to grapple with. It’s perfect.