Bringing Up Baby Howard Hawks

What's lost in the long-cemented images of Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant — she the impossibly sophisticated independent woman, he the incredibly adroit and charming man of class — is the great diversity of work they did in films, both apart and together. Rarely is this range more delightfully showcased than in the screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby, in which they both play beautifully against type. Cary Grant plays a nerdy, socially awkward scientist whose whole life is his museum. Hepburn plays a ditzy, oblivious heiress whose well-intentioned actions wreak havoc on Grant's work. It's classic screwball: fast-paced, full of easily explained misunderstandings that escalate to levels of absurdity, propelled forward by snappy dialogue and a quick, light pace. Watching Hepburn (a gifted athlete) and Grant (who was trained in England as a vaudeville acrobat) sink their teeth and bodies into these antics is a delight, one that easily glosses over more ridiculous plot elements. (That there are two different leopards involved, for example.) This is a match to the two-disc set of The Philadelphia Story and they bookend nicely — here it's star Cary Grant and director Howard Hawks who are the subject of extended featurettes, and Grant's life particularly fascinates. (He took a lot of acid for medicinal purposes before it was outlawed in 1965.) It's a testament to their skill that Grant would seduce many more leading ladies and Hepburn's lifelong on- and off-screen love affair with Spencer Tracy had not yet begun, but Grant and Hepburn never seemed more perfect together. Plus: live action and animated shorts, commentary by Peter Bogdanovich. (Warner)