Bringing up Maggie

If you love old school screwball comedies like I do, then Howard Hawks is manna from heaven. No one made screwier screwballs than Howard. With Bringing Up Baby he set a new bar for cinematic eccentricity.The storyline of Bringing Up Baby is preposterous, with Cary Grant playing a nervous paleontologist trying to secure a grant for his museum and Katharine Hepburn as a quick-witted heiress, who shanghais Grant into helping her transport a leopard, the eponymous Baby, to her aunt’s house. The film is even more ludicrous than it sounds.What with Cary wearing a ladies dressing gown, Hepburn imitating gangster’s moll Swinging Door Susie,  an adorable terrier and two leopards loose in Connecticut! Bringing Up Baby doesn’t do things by half. This is as screwball as it gets.Hepburn plays high society type Susan Vance to outstanding effect. Her natural lilt works wonderfully in this setting, and her timing is beyond. She was one of the true screwball comedy heroines, fast talking, ditzy, and glamorous. Watching her it’s hard to believe screwball’s dominant dames would soon fall from fashion, or slink down the misty alleyway into the world of film noir.There have been various attempts to reinvigorate the genre over the years, with Michelle Pfeiffer and her sister-in-screwball Meg Ryan, amongst others, taking screwball elements to create a modern interpretation of Katharine the Great and Queen Carole Lombard. Ryan’s Addicted to Love contains many screwball trademarks, but when love conquers all by the final reel; my abiding memory of the film will always be the outrageous antics of Meg’s vindictive Maggie.There’s not a great deal more I can say about Maggie. She goes above and beyond any other screwball character I can think of, making herself maniacally, possessively, wonderfully insane. I like her. I think she’d drive me up the wall in real life, but that’s the thing: she doesn’t exist in real life, she’s a crazy fictional character from a film that’s about as realistic as a Looney Toons cartoon.The urbanity we associate with Katharine Hepburn is more redolent in One Fine Day‘s Melanie Parker. Michelle has a relaxed rapport with George Clooney and she shows a flair for unpretentious physical comedy that pokes fun at her glamour and legendary beauty.With Melanie you get a seamless blend of seriousness with humour. A lady at odds with Ryan’s mischievous child-woman.Maggie’s wrecked hair and outrageous wardrobe form quite a contrast to Pfeiffer’s demure Breck girl, but if you accept the world of screwball comedy as an alternate universe, with its own illogical logic, then the idea of Maggie as Melanie Parker’s deranged sibling isn’t as screwy as it might appear. Maggie is like a tomboy princess of the Old World, but she’s finer because she’s Hawksian.

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18 Comments

Filed under Retrospective

18 responses to “Bringing up Maggie

  1. Another great post Paul. I particularly enjoy the visual that Maggie’s Looney Toons cartoon character reference brings up in my mind. Absolutely perfect description of her character.
    But, Maggie seems to be messing with my mind…I could have sworn I’d read and commented on a post you published last week about His Girl Friday…and then I somehow missed your Maggie’s a Hawksian Woman post…arrgh…what is going on? How could I miss these?
    Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

    • Thanks for the kind words. Maggie’s rendered me almost incoherent so I’m glad you’re enjoying these screwball inspired posts.
      I thought Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn were wonderful together in Bringing up Baby and I’m finding in screwball pictures, the women often play a much more dominant role than they typically do in other screen comedies. Screwball heroines aren’t simply the “love interest, they’re often the ones driving the romantic relationship at the heart of the film.

      P.S. I love the blogathon idea you posted on your site earlier. I think it will definitely be a goer!

  2. I have yet to watch Bringing up Baby. I feel as though I have seen parts of it but can’t recall. I’m not much for romance movies of this century but when it’s matched with a classic noir with the likes of Cary Grant and Hepburn I am always on board as I love their characters in each movie. Great post.

    • Each of my daughters has a favourite Cary Grant/Katharine Hepburn comedy. My younger daughter and I probably watched Bringing Up Baby together 20 times, over the years. We would quote lines to each other all the time. She just started university, but I still find myself quoting from the film.

      • I’m going to be watching the movie today. ☺ I admire the fact your daughters love classic movies such as these ( I wish your daughter all the best with her university) because growing up I was told I had an ‘old soul’ for my vintage fondness films and in general and it has stayed with me to my late 20’s now. I still don’t really have anyone I particularly share my vintage love with as no one seems to know of such movies which is a real shame with some people but at least I can enjoy them. 😊

  3. Great post 🙂 As said by one of the other replies above me, I too enjoy your Looney Tunes reference regarding Maggie from Addicted to Love 🙂 In many ways, all of Howard Hawks comedies (or at least the romantic ones) have Looney Tunes inspired humor whether it be explicit or implicit. It also makes one wonder If the humor of the Ealing comedies of the 40’s and 50’s (Kind Hearts and Coronets, Lavender Hill Mob etc.) are worthy of Woody Woodpecker cartoons? 🙂 When you say that “Bringing Up Baby is even more ludicrous than it sounds” it reminds me in a few ways (strangely enough) of the plot of director/writer William Peter Blatty’s Ninth Configuration. While their is comedy in that film, it can not be summed up totally as that. However, wacky things do happen in that film. If you do a youtube video search, type down “Mark Kermode Ninth Configuration” and you will get a few examples of what I mean. With all of this talk about Maggie from Addicted to Love and Melanie from One Fine Day, one wonders how they would have behaved teamed up with each other. In behavioral terms, would Maggie be the Daffy Duck (i.e. her wacky persona) to Melanie’s Porky Pig straight man (or in this case woman) persona? Interesting isn’t it? Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    • I’ve just been watching Kermode Uncut: The Ninth Configuration, very interesting. Thanks for the food for thought and for making me laugh with your Looney Tunes reference.
      Maggie as Daffy Duck? Priceless! Melanie as Porky Pig? Such sweet succulent ham! She’s always delicious. Throw Clooney’s Bugs Bunny into the mix and you’d have the ultimate Looney love triangle!

  4. I love “Bringing Up Baby” as well! I don’t think I’ve seen “Addicted to Love” or “One Fine Day.” Perhaps the best, and most self-conscious, tribute to screwball comedy is Peter Bogdanovich’s 1972 classic, “What’s Up Doc?” I enjoyed that as a kid.

    • What’s up Doc? is fabulous. The first time I watched it I was completely taken by surprise and I loved every minute of it. There was great chemistry between Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal and several brilliant pratfalls. I’m definitely due for a revisit!

  5. Did you know that Peter Bodganovich directed What’s Up Doc? The reason I mention this is because he is known for being a huge fan of Golden Age filmmakers like Howard Hawks, John Ford, Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock among many others. Once again, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    • I hadn’t even seen Bringing up Baby when I first watched What’s Up Doc? Now you mention it I can see it was an homage to screwball comedy. It also can’t be a coincidence that the film’s main character is named Howard. A Peter Bogdanovich commentary is one of the bonus featured on my DVD of Bringing Up Baby. During it he mentions how the coat ripping scene in What’s Up, Doc? was based directly on the scene in which Grant’s coat (and then Hepburn’s dress) was torn in Baby.
      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. I’m now really looking forward to watching What’s up Doc? again. Hopefully the humour will be enhanced after seeing Bringing up Baby

  6. Meg Ryan is the cutest, hands down. For the role of Maggie, she goes for tough. It works? Maggie’s outfits are AMAZING. Crushed velvet! Animal Prints! Leather jacket! Mini-skirt! Goggles! YOU GUYS. It’s so 90’s. Seriously, look how hot she is!

  7. Hey Paul. Thanks you for leaving those replies under my posts regarding my favorite Ben Wheatley, Howard Hawks and Peter Bogdanovich films 🙂 Speaking of Hawks, I am going to redo my favorite Howard Hawks films entry and place Bringing Up Baby at number one. You have convinced me 🙂 I also redid my favorite George Miller films and his most recent film is now my number one favorite (hint: it came out in 2015) 🙂 Once again, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    • You’re welcome. I find your posts to be a great resource and an inspiration for films I haven’t yet seen yet, but might want to watch in the future. Texasville is top of my list, once I’ve worked my way through some more screwball comedies. I’m addicted to screwball, so much so, my movie queue has become unmanageable.
      Bringing up Baby is the best of the bunch I’ve watched recently, funnily enough I didn’t like it when I was younger, love it now, and it keeps getting better. Hawks is a genius.
      P.S. I will take the Fury Road to have another look at your favourite George Miller films.

  8. I loved this post. Can’t believe I’ve never seen Bringing up Baby.

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