Filmsite Movie Review 100 Greatest Films
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

Later that evening in her apartment, Susan sews his torn coat tails, and learns that he has become exasperated trying to speak to Alexander Peabody about a museum donation. She surprises him by telling him that she knows Peabody well - her pet name for him is Boopie. She was planning to have dinner with him: "He'll do anything I ask him to. I'll wrap him around my little finger." Thinking she will help David, she proposes that they go to Peabody's house in Riverdale a half hour's drive away. Susan offers to drive, overcoming his objections that he is supposed to meet his fiancee Alice Swallow at Carnegie Hall. Framed in her first close-up of the film, Susan stops short when he tells her that he is going to be married the next day:

Susan: Engaged...(pause) to be...(pause) married?
David: That's right.
Susan: That's nice. Then she won't mind waiting, will she?...I mean, if I were engaged to you, I wouldn't mind waiting at all. I'd wait forever.

When they finally reach Peabody's suburban Riverdale house late that night, David thinks it looks familiar:

David: ...we've passed this one six times in the last hour.
Susan: Oh, but David, it was such a lovely night for a drive.

When Susan is unable to arouse anyone within the darkened house by ringing the front doorbell, she leads him around to the side of the mansion. He objects:

David: But Susan, you can't climb in a man's bedroom window!
Susan: I know, it's on the second floor.

She decides to throw a fistful of pebbles at Boopie's second-story bedroom window. David is nervous and makes subtle suggestions: "Oh, I know we ought to go now, but somehow I can't move," but Susan doesn't listen to him. The smaller stones don't awaken him, so she uses a larger stone just at the moment that he comes out on the balcony. Susan's aim clouts Peabody square in the forehead with a large rock, forcing them to run away from the scene.

When she drops David off after everything has gone awry, they exchange parting words, and she confidently predicts: "Everything's gonna be all right." During what he believes is his final farewell to her, he reveals his exasperation with her chaotic, lively nature, but also admits that she is an attraction for him during those rare "quiet moments":

Susan: Tomorrow, when Boopie's calmed down, we'll go and see him together.
David: Now, just a moment, Susan. Don't think that I don't appreciate all you've done but...there are limits to what a man can bear. And besides that, tomorrow afternoon, I'm gonna get married!
Susan: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. What for?
David: Well, because...Well anyway, I'm gonna get married, Susan, and don't interrupt...Now my future wife has always regarded me as a man of some dignity. (She laughs.) Privately, I'm convinced that I have some dignity. Now it isn't that I don't like you, Susan, because after all, in moments of quiet I'm strangely drawn toward you, but well, there haven't been any quiet moments. Our relationship has been a series of misadventures from beginning to end, so if you don't mind, I'll see Mr. Peabody alone and unarmed.
Susan: Without me?
David: Yes. Without you and definitely without you! Now Susan, I'm gonna say goodnight and I hope that I never set eyes on you again. (He slams the car door.) Good night.

As David turns away from the car, he falls headfirst into the pavement in an out-of-control pratfall - another in "a series of misadventures" as a result of exposure to her.

The next day, David speaks twice on the phone - first to his fiancee, and then to Susan - the two poles of his "love impulse." He describes to Alice Swallow what happened the previous day:

Yes, I did see Mr. Peabody but I didn't see him...Yes, I spoke to him twice but I didn't talk to him.

She is primly dressed with her hair closely matted to her head. David is interrupted by a delivery man at his door with a package, just as he tells Alice: "Before we're married this afternoon, there's one thing we must have clear. I don't want any woman interfering with my affairs. It's fatal." The package contains a prehistoric animal's bone - the intercostal clavicle - the final bone needed to complete the reconstruction of the dinosaur in the museum. David calls it a "marvelous wedding present" for the day of his wedding. In a marvelous throw-away line as he leaves, the delivery man advises the bridegroom-to-be: "Don't let it throw ya." David makes plans to meet Alice at the museum with the bone.

Just after getting off the phone, Susan calls. In contrast to Alice, Susan wears a diaphanous white dress with billowing sleeves. She also has a request regarding an animal - this time a live one: "Do you want a leopard?" Susan has just received a tame, gentle three-year-old leopard named Baby from her brother Mark in Brazil. Baby affectionately snuggles against her legs. She guides Baby back into the bathroom and asks for him to come over because he is "the only zoologist" she knows:

The point is I have a leopard. The question is, 'What am I gonna do with it?'

When he refuses to help, she decides to trick him into believing that she needs to be rescued. Susan pretends that the leopard has attacked her - she trips clumsily over the phone cord, deliberately stumbles and knocks over a tray full of dishes and noisily runs the phone along the firescreen. To lure him to her apartment (when he questions: "Is it the leopard?"), she lets out excruciating screams. Convinced of the danger she faces, David heroically promises to rescue her:

Susan, Susan be brave. Be brave! I'll be right there, Susan. Hold it right there, Susan. Susan! Can you hear me? I'll be there, Susan!

With the package (and bone) under his arm, and the phone still in his hand, he rushes for the door to come to her rescue. He also falls flat on his face.

The following sequence of zany lines and actions is typical of the best screwball comedies. When he reaches her apartment and knocks frantically on her door, he is surprised to find her packed and wearing her traveling clothes. To prove her leopard story, she points in the direction of her bathroom. After convincing him that the leopard is attracted to a phonograph playing a song with his name ("I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby"), she conspires to lead him away from New York to Connecticut - away from being 'swallow-ed' by marriage:

David: Susan, why you're all right.
Susan: Yes, I'm all right.
David. You lied to me.
Susan: No...
David: Telling me a ridiculous story about a leopard.
Susan: No, it wasn't a ridiculous story. I have a leopard.
David: Well where is the leopard?
Susan: Right in there (gesturing toward the bathroom).
David: I don't believe you, Susan.
Susan: But you have to believe me. It's the absolute truth.
David: I've been a victim of your unbridled imagination once more. (He opens the bathroom door, and finds Baby snarling at him. He quickly slams the door and looks alarmed.)
Susan: That'll teach ya to go around saying things about people.
David: Susan, you've got to get out of this apartment.
Susan: But David, I can't. I have a lease.
David: Oh, it isn't that. You've got to get this thing out of here. (He moves toward the phone.) I'll fix it.
Susan: Don't worry about him. He's really all right. What are you going to do?
David: I'm going to call the zoo.
Susan: Oh no, you can't do that, David. Oh, that's the meanest thing I ever heard. He's a pet. He'd be miserable in the zoo. Listen, from my brother Mark from Brazil - (She reads part of her brother's telegram.) 'Dear Susan, I'm sending you Baby (that Baby), a leopard I picked up. Guard him with your life. He's three years old, gentle as a kitten and he likes dogs.' (An aside to herself) I wonder whether Mark means that he eats dogs or is fond of them. Mark's so vague at times. 'He also likes music, particularly that song I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby.'
David: Oh, that's absurd.
Susan: No, it isn't David. Really. Listen. (She puts the record on the victrola and begins playing it.)
David: This is probably the silliest thing that ever happened to me.
Susan: I know it's silly but it's true. He absolutely adores the tune.
David: Well, what's the difference whether it adores it or not?
Susan: It's funny that he should like such an old tune, isn't it? But I imagine that down in Brazil, they've got...
David: Oh stop this, Susan.
Susan: Oh David, let me show him to you.
David: Oh don't do that, Susan! Don't go near the door. Oh dear, dear, dear. (Frightened, he stands up on a coffee table with the clavicle held high in the air as Baby slinks out of the bathroom and is attracted to the revolving record.)
Susan: Now watch, David. You'll see. He'll go right toward the music. (Baby trots right up to the victrola and sniffs it.) Look at that. Isn't this remarkable? It loves singing.
David: Susan, if we put the victrola in the bathroom, will it go back in?
Susan: Oh yes, but the music sounds better out here, and besides, he likes it.
David: Oh, here it comes. Oh, now go away! (The leopard nudges David's feet.) Don't! Oh please, go away! Oh my, go away. I'm gonna get out of here. Oh, oh Susan, I don't like leopards.
Susan: Just think of him as being a house tabby. (Baby bites on David's trouser's leg and affectionately plays with his cuff.)
David: Well I-I don't like cats either.
Susan: Stand still, David. Don't be nervous.
David: Oh, oh, make him stand still.
Susan: Don't be silly, David. You can't make a leopard stand still.
David: Susan, do something. Turn off that victrola.
Susan: I don't think it's the music, David. I think it's you. (She turns off the music.) David, I think you've found a real friend. (Baby is sprawled on his back, playing with David's shoe.) Look, isn't it affectionate? Just like a little baby kitten. I never saw anything take such a liking to anyone in my life. It would follow you anywhere.
David (backing up toward the door): I wish it wouldn't.
Susan: We shan't have any trouble taking it to Connecticut.
David: Connecticut?
Susan: My farm in Westlake, Connecticut.

After she has introduced him to Baby [a symbol of her own free, unbridled sexuality and interest in him], David refuses to go with her to take the leopard to her Aunt Elizabeth's farm in Westlake, Connecticut: "I will not be involved in any more of your hair-brained schemes!" Susan protests: "It's not a hair-brained scheme!" and delivers a breakneck speed response, defending her plan to take her new pet by car from New York to Connecticut:

Imagine Aunt Elizabeth coming to this apartment and running smack into a leopard! That would mean an end to my million dollars! If you had an aunt who was gonna give you a million dollars if she liked you and you knew she wouldn't like you if she found a leopard in your apartment, what would you do?

David quickly answers: "I don't know" and then tells her: "There are only two things in the world I have to do. Finish my brontosaurus and get married at three o'clock." When she calls him a "quitter," he stalks out of the room, not knowing in his denial that she has sent Baby to follow him down the stairs and out into the street. The leopard casually trails behind David as he strides away with the bone package confidently under his arm. When David realizes that the leopard won't leave him alone, he gives in.

The next scene cuts to both of them in her car on their way to Connecticut with Baby. Sitting in the back seat, Baby is framed between them in the front seat. David accuses her of trickery but she again assures him that everything's under control:

David: You tricked me into this trip...Oh, look at the road...Oh, oh dear. I have a feeling something horrible is going to happen.
Susan: Oh no, David, everything's going to be alright.
David: I don't care anymore. (Baby sprawls over the front seat between them.)
Susan: (To Baby) Hello. Aw, what's the matter? Did you get lonely?
David: Susan, if you know any shortcuts, please take them.
Susan: We're gonna be there in no time now. David, really!
David Because all I want to do is deliver this leopard, take the first train back to town, and forget the last twenty-four hours ever happened.
Susan: Oh, well, now what's wrong with the last twenty-four hours? I've had a wonderful time.
David: Susan! Susan, I don't know. You look at everything upside down. I've never known anyone quite like you.

In her second case of bad driving, Susan rear-ends a truck carrying a load of chickens, causing fowl to fly everywhere. Holding onto Baby's tail to restrain him doesn't work, so she suggests they sing I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby. But Baby gets away and attacks the fluttering poultry (off-screen). When they continue their journey, David is fuming and covered with chicken feathers - annoyed that he had to pay for Baby's expensive meal - "an assortment of ducks and chickens, not to mention a couple of swans" that cost him $150. Off-screen, he had to wrestle the leopard in the middle of a pond.

Before getting to the farm, they stop in the small Connecticut town to get the hungry Baby some meat at the market. David asks the bewildered butcher for 30 lbs. of raw sirloin steak for his baby:

David: I want thirty pounds of sirloin steak, please.
Butcher: Did you say 'thirty pounds'?
David: Yes, that's right. Thirty pounds.
Butcher: How will you have it cut?
David: Oh, just in one piece.
Butcher: Are you gonna roast it or broil it?
David: Neither, it's gonna be eaten raw.
Butcher: Yeah...Say, do you grind this up before you eat it?
David: Oh, oh, this isn't for me. It's for Baby.

Outside, Constable Slocum (Walter Catlett) writes Susan a ticket for parking illegally in front of a fire plug (even though she had earlier assured David, "Don't worry about that"). By sidetracking him and getting him off the subject, she tricks the small-town constable into believing that the car isn't really hers. When Baby leaps into the adjacent car, Susan carries through on the trick ("I'm not parked next to a fire plug") by driving away to the farm in the second car - a stolen car. Coincidentally, the car is owned by Dr. Lehman!

In her Aunt's farmhouse garage, David and Susan sing to Baby to entertain the wild animal and lure it into an enclosed pen. To keep David around for a while in Connecticut and to prevent him from returning to New York to be married, she makes it impossible for him to leave, even though she encourages his marriage:

I want you to get married. I think you should be married. I think every man should be married. But I don't think that any self-respecting girl will marry you looking the way you do.

After suggesting that he take a shower to clean up, Susan steals his clothes and tells the maid/cook Hannah Gogarty (Leona Roberts) to take his garments into town to be pressed and cleaned. Susan picks up the package that he has deposited on the bed, asking: "What's in the box?" She is disappointed when she looks inside: "Oh, it's just an old bone!" Then, she calmly leaves David to take her own shower, promising him again, "Everything's gonna be all right."

The door to his bathroom opens to give a partial, inside glimpse of his shadowy silhouette dressing - he is forced to put on the only available article of clothing he can find there. When he emerges, he is wearing a frilly, fur-trimmed woman's dressing gown - and he has shed his glasses. Dressed foolishly, and disgusted by his appearance, David looks for the gardener whose clothes he hopes to borrow. He is furious, muttering under his breath about Susan: "Of all the conceited, spoiled...scatterbrained...A man who gets you is gonna have a lifetime of misery."

While searching for other clothing, David is interrupted by the ring of the doorbell. He answers the door when Susan's elderly, imposing Aunt Elizabeth (May Robson) - or Mrs. Carlton Random - arrives. Mortified, she insistently questions him about his strange attire, thinking he's crazy for wearing a boa-collared nightgown. David finally shouts and makes a ridiculous, improvised leap straight up in the air to prove how humiliated, frustrated, and emasculated he has become [the exclamation has been recognized as the moment in film when the meaning of the word 'gay' changed]:

Aunt: Who are you?
David: Who are you?
Aunt: But who are you?
David: What do you want?
Aunt: But who are you?
David: I don't know. I'm not quite myself today.
Aunt: Well, you look perfectly idiotic in those clothes.
David: These aren't my clothes.
Aunt: Well, where are your clothes?
David: I've lost my clothes.
Aunt: But why are you wearing these clothes?
David: Because I just went gay all of a sudden!

Into the front hall entrance comes an incessantly barking, wire-haired terrier named George (best known as Asta from The Thin Man series with William Powell and Myrna Loy). David is prevented from speaking about his predicament by the dog's loud yapping and the arrival of Susan's indulgent chattering. She explains to her Aunt that David is a friend of her brother's from Brazil and that David is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. David mutters behind her:

I'm a nut from Brazil.

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