Susan: Your golf ball. Your car. Is there anything in the world that doesn’t belong to you?
David: Yes, thank heaven: You!
The “Baby” of the title is a leopard; this is a tale of two lookalike leopards, one tame, the other vicious. Embedded here in a “screwball” romantic comedy, they underscore the need of making the correct choice. David Huxley (Cary Grant), a fussy young paleontologist, is about to marry museum assistant Alice, who explains to him, “I see marriage purely as a dedication to your work.” Upon meeting David by accident, though, Susan (Katharine Hepburn, dizzyingly hilarious, radiant, gorgeous), intrigued, cannot let this marriage happen. She wants David for herself and will go to any lengths, however risky, to get him. Susan’s idea of marriage includes fun. She more or less kidnaps the boy, steals his clothes while he is showering and exquisitely torments him with her ardent pursuit. Meanwhile, Susan’s dog has confiscated and hidden the rare bone that will complete the brontosaurus skeleton that David has been working on. This artifact of a stodgy past will be sacrificed so that David and Susan, who has exhausted his resistance, can face together a more interesting future.
Brilliantly written by Hagar Wilde and Dudley Nichols from Wilde’s story, and directed by Howard Hawks even more brilliantly, this dark, dazzling, almost alarmingly funny film submits its two lead characters to considerable danger to underscore the degree to which reality constantly threatens romance. This is one Hollywood film where the final clinch isn’t just a generic formality; it is an earned event. Susan has worked incredibly hard and adventurously to bag her David, and David deserves Susan more than he knows. In each other’s arms: for the time being, both are where they belong.
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