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Further thoughts on "Bringing Up Baby"

Lorri Zipperer One of my favs too...has been for years - Love Grant and Hepburn together -- I think of it often when I consider how I really don't enjoy today's RomComs (in general) but love this movie. Can anyone help tease out the difference?

Mikaela Kindblom You are on to something here. I often feel lost and sad while watching today's romcoms. Has it something to do with the way failure and humiliation are depicted? I remember especially a romcom with Sandra Bullock where she played the successful career woman who had to demean herself in marriage in order to keep her job. A surprisingly evil version of a very old story. The film is The Proposal. I never see this kind of violence in the old screw ball comedies.

Cindy Bailey Saxl Agree! I have often thought about this, too. In Bringing Up Baby and other old screwball comedies, it seems to me the couple surrenders to love and to each other, foibles and all. It's satisfying to see acceptance and joy in the resolution of the story. Some of todays romcoms can be awfully cynical at their core. When the credits roll, we're often left without much confidence in a happily-ever-after.

Patrick McEvoy-Halston Cindy Bailey Saxl Pretty much his last comment to Susan is, "I'm afraid of you," as he launches himself up the skirts of a dinosaur to escape her. I'm reminded of the episode of Cheers where Diane can't be convinced she and Sam aren't made for one another... aren't the most ill-matched couple the world has ever seen.

Cindy Bailey Saxl Patrick McEvoy-Halston Yes, then he admits that the day spent with Susan was the best one of his life. They declare their love for one another, the dinosaur collapses & they collapse in each other's arms--all with that delicious sexual subtext. Painting with a very broad brush here: would a line like "I'm afraid of you" in a contemporary rom-com come across with that sweet subtext, or would we be primed for a machete to come out from behind the pillow? As Mikaela Kindblom says above--is it about the way failure and humiliation are depicted? Generally, the typical denouement today doesn't seem quite as satisfying.

Patrick McEvoy-Halston Cindy Bailey Saxl The dinosaur collapsing wasn't sexual subtext, but portent of the wreck she'll make on his future life. She is a predator. She's manipulative, coercive, she induces him into a dependent relationship with him ([now that i've destroyed it] you want your future and your money, I'm the rich girl with all the contacts...), she's indifferent to the possible harm she does to others when they're in way of her desires (think of how automatically she subverts Susan). It was brave of him to say he was scared of her, and wrong of her to ignore his honest expression and push past this until he takes second choice and pretends he had a great time with her, i.e., that at any moment he might have been co-conspirator with her rather than essentially always at her mercy. He marries her only to salvage a momentary sense of self-command. He's a #metoo victim of her.

Cindy Bailey Saxl Interesting perspective, well stated. Why don't you give a go at Lorri's original question? For many of us, it's a favorite, and far more enjoyable than most modern romcoms. Since you apparently don't care for it much, to what do you attribute its lasting appeal?

Patrick McEvoy-Halston For sure... because I did offer what I knew even for me was a one-sided account. Let me work at it. I CAN tell you now that both she and Grant are party to a level of awareness, of TRUTH, that no one seems to share... they draw us in to the psychopathology of everyday life where, for instance, forgoing children for a career can seem an irrational placement of sterility (dinosaur bones) over the living, where a game for the staid -- golf -- invites irrationality (a poor placed shot on your hole -- a normal occurrence -- does amount to a well-placed one on an adjacent one, and if it's first hole that'll mean onto the 18th, where any quarrel that occurs -- and it's easy to imagine what that might be if the golfer you're querying is a good one, as she is -- will carry on so will be to the parking lot, a parking lot where all the cars seem about the same so just getting it close would seem to be about the normal expectation rather than gross error, and so doing "normal" would lead to theft, a theft you can't let stand so you'd refuse to get off the car, and so you wave goodbye to your boss, still on the first hole, as you vanish off "crazily" into the distance), where formal events where proper decorum are the expectation and everyone is rich and in similar attire, invite mistakes which'd bring disaster (swapped black purses, one holding precious jewelry), and where torn clothing invites not measured response -- grace -- but quite genuinely catastrophic consequences, where throwing rocks at a window to get attention is revealed as always bizarrely close to perpetrating a displaced violent act, where a leopard in the bathroom isn't ridiculous but a vivid articulation of walking on into a bathroom is in our culture (later she stops him short from barging in on her, for warning him she's naked: gentleman into predator, just as she risked earlier going lady to tramp), where a tame leopard walking with him on the sidewalk is more ho-hum, relaxed, than a constant yapping, agitated dog, where a hunter who hides behind a gun is vividly less heroic than a couple who brave the dangers of a Connecticut estate at night, where zoos and circuses seem more wild than Africa, where jail and jailers are so extreme a response to the aberrant they invite rather than quell lunacy, where a genuine measure of sanity is if you are attracted and interested in people who are ostensibly insane and if you carry part of their "insanity" back with you into your normal state (the constable is not insane for instantly taking a liking to them, but savy), where a dog's instinct to be powerfully interested in bones isn't banal but fantastic, in that it's easily imagined as being limited in focus but unlimited in its bounds, and where a dog burying/digging up things has got more drama to it than do professions dedicated to it, where being manipulated into wear women's dress might be more welcome rather ruin, in that you can harness aggression out of the crazy, find yourself feeling strangely buttressed, and somehow seems to push out of mind worse fears.

There's a sense that what the movie does is switch you into a way of seeing things which makes sense, but are completely out of accord of where you were in originally perceiving something. The instinct might be afterwards to mentally go back and forth... a tame leopard wouldn't eat dogs, but a leopard out of africa wouldn't ever know a dog to get accustomed to and come to like, so would surely eat him, but then he wouldn't be tame... Afterwards, a loon's call might seem appropriate if similar to a leopard's, whereas before the idea would be lunacy. A world is being jumbled around a lot, an experience which might have felt safe for a 30s audience in that the the professor's empowered wife-to-be Susan, the senior lawyer, the wealthy matron... the institutions of command and certainty in this movie are in no position of tumbling. So a safe, illuminating game. If this was all done in the '60s, however, you'd be drawn back to the normal world wanting change, and this would have been anxiety-city for the Depression crowd dutifully weathering through their assigned, compromised decade. For a later audience, it's still a safe excursion into the psychopathology, the unreason, of regular lie.

The other answer would be in the relationship between Susan and the professor, which rings bells for people. More can be done on it than I've already done, certainly.


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