The Criterion Collection has done it again: its treatment of the celebrated 1938 screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby offers a feast of fresh material to sink your teeth into. There’s a German-made interview documentary with Howard Hawks filmed in 1977, a year before he died… Peter Bogdanovich’s audio interview with the director from 1972, as well as a commentary that Bogdanovich recorded in 2005…a superlative video essay about Cary Grant by his biographer, Scott Eyman…an informative overview of cinematographer Russell Metty’s career by fellow cameraman John Bailey…an eye-opening exploration of Linwood Dunn’s visual effects by Craig Barron…a knowledgeable look at Howard Greer’s costumes by expert Shelly Foote…a keen-eyed essay about the movie by film critic Sheila O’Malley… the original short story by Hagar Wilde that appeared in Collier’s magazine in 1937, revealing the origins of the screenplay she wrote with Dudley Nichols…and the piece de resistance, a 1969 q&a session recorded at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in which Cary Grant provides a candid, charmingly self-deprecating view of his career and this film in particular.
The Grant exchange with members of the audience is worth the price of admission alone. That’s not to belittle the other valuable contributions; it’s just that Grant was a rare presence on television talk shows and I’ve never heard him open up as he does here.
As for the Wilde story, it’s fascinating that a studio reader saw so much potential in it. It’s amusing, to be sure, but I don’t know if I would have sensed the possibilities in it—unlike the magazine stories that inspired All About Eve and Sweet Smell of Success, also republished by Criterion, which are virtual blueprints for those classic films.