Back to back Cary Grant on KQED

Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant in "Bringing Up Baby"Fans of Cary Grant, which includes most people over the age of 50, can  receive a double dose of the great star on Saturday, July 10th when KQED channel  9 presents two of Grant’s classic comedies. “Bringing Up Baby” (1938),  co-staring Katharine Hepburn will be broadcast at 8 pm, followed by “Arsenic and  Old Lace” (1944) at 9:45 pm. Born Archibald Leach in Bristol, England, Cary  Grant (1904-1986) was always the handsome, charming and charismatic leading man,  whose career is studded with great motion pictures, ranging from romantic  comedies and adventure films to suspenseful and thrilling dramas. The American  Film Institute (AFI) places Grant at #2 in its list of the Greatest Male Stars  of All Time (Humphrey Bogart is #1).

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.