Directed by Howard Hawks, “Bringing Up Baby” casts Grant as mild-mannered paleontologist David Huxley, who, after a four year effort, is one bone short of assembling the skeleton of a Brontosaurus, when he has a chance meeting on a golf course with Susan Vance (Hepburn). Vance is a high spirited woman who proceeds to bring chaos into his life, in the form of, among other things, a pet leopard named “Baby.” “Arsenic and Old Lace” tells the story of Mortimer Brewster (Grant) who visits his old family home where his two maiden aunts still live with his slightly delusional uncle. Mortimer is shocked to find a corpse hidden in a window seat, and is even more shocked to learn that the elderly Aunts Abby and Martha are responsible for the man being dead. It seems they’ve developed a “very bad habit” of poisoning lonely old bachelors, thinking they”re relieving the men from their suffering. The situation worsens when Mortimer’s brother Jonathan (Raymond Massey) arrives, on the run from the police. Jonathan is a psychotic killer, who has come home hoping to dispose of the body of his latest victim. As Mortimer says, “insanity runs in my family…it practically gallops.”
It’s interesting to note that “Bringing Up Baby” was not considered a successful film in its day, in fact, RKO was so displeased with the end product that director Howard Hawks was removed from his next assignment, “Gunga Din,” which also starred Cary Grant. Katharine Hepburn’s career was also, temporarily, damaged by the movie, as she was forced to buy out the remainder of her contract. Time has been kind to “Bringing Up Baby” as it eventually became considered a classic screwball comedy, ranking #97 in AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies.
“Arsenic and Old Lace” was based on a popular play that ran on Broadway during the early 1940’s. The movie version was filmed in 1941, but was not released until 1944, after the play had finished its run. The Broadway production of “Arsenic and Old Lace” included Boris Karloff playing the role of the despicable Jonathan, who throughout the play, is reminded of his resemblance to…Boris Karloff. Karloff was unable to reprise the role on the screen, as he still doing the play at the time.
Note: A line from “Bringing Up Baby” is, to this day, subject to debate. In one scene, Cary Grant’s character is caught wearing a negligee, and when asked why, he answers, “because I went gay all of a sudden.” Its never been determined if the term “gay” was meant as a homosexual reference, or the original definition, which just meant happy.