Filmsite Movie Review 100 Greatest Films
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Pages: (1) (2) (3) (4)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

Fighting against impossible odds to get their attention, David shouts: "Quiet" for silence, but Susan won't shut up. So he stomps heavily on her foot to distract her from speaking and secondarily to cause her as much physical pain as possible. While she agonizes in pain, he continues his search for clothes, sternly asking the Aunt: "Perhaps you could help me. Perhaps you can help me find some clothes." He is told to find clothes in one of the bedrooms.

Susan counts down her crushed toes like discarded flower petals: "He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not, he loves me! David!" But she realizes that if he gets clothes to wear, she will have lost him forever: "If he gets some clothes, he'll go away and he's the only man I've ever loved." She dashes off to dress and stop him from leaving.

To top things off, George aids and abets Susan - the dog steals the priceless dinosaur bone, the final piece David needs to complete the dinosaur reconstruction. The animal runs outdoors with the bone in its mouth. Susan finds David emerging from the closet wearing the servant's restrictive, poor-fitting riding outfit - the only clothes he could find, vowing:

Oh, go on and laugh. I know it looks ridiculous, but I'm past caring....I'm going back to New York if only to repair the damage that's been done since I've known you. My goodness, the damage I've done to Miss Swallow, to the museum, to Mr. Peabody and everybody else.

Suddenly, Susan divulges that the "one way" to get to Mr. Peabody is through her Aunt Elizabeth - the grant giver Mrs. Carlton Random is the same person as Aunt Elizabeth. But because he has already given her an "unfavorable impression," it is impossible for David to now get the donation in the usual way. David tells Susan (now only interested in his new persona and how good-looking he is without his glasses) how frustrated he seriously feels:

David: Out of seven million people, why did I have to run into you yesterday?
Susan: Well, what have I done?
David: Susan, Mrs. Random is gonna give away a million dollars...I wanted it for the museum.
Susan: (with great understatement) Oh, David, well, I'm afraid that you've made a rather unfavorable impression on Aunt Elizabeth.
David: I quite realize that...there's only one thing to be done and this is important to me and to my work...
Susan: (melting) You're so good-looking without your glasses.
David: ...I've made a horrible mess of things, and your Aunt must never find out who I am...You can tell her that I'm a friend of Mark's, that I have bats in the belfry but don't ever tell her my name is David Huxley. Now can you remember all that, Susan?
Susan: Yes, David.
David: You're sure?
Susan: Yes, David. But you are good-looking without your glasses.
David: Oh, never mind, Susan, never mind.
Susan (following after him): What did I say? What did I say? What did I do? What did I say? What did I say? What did I do, David?

And then David discovers the empty package without the symbol of his work/life: "My bone! It's rare, it's precious. What did you do with it?" They both suspect that George took the valuable, precious bone. In tandem, they run through the house looking and playfully calling out for the dog, with Susan trailing behind and repeating his exact words four times - she sounds like an annoying echo:

Susan: David, George.
David: Who's George?
Susan: The dog. You know? Don't you see? Dog - bone, dog - bone?
David: OH! (They scurry around) George!
Susan: George.
David: George.
Susan: George.
David: George.
Susan: George.
David: George.
Susan: George.
David: Oh stop it, Susan! You sound like an echo. George.
Susan: Nice George.
David: George.
Susan: Nice George.
David: Nice George.
Susan: George.

They find George fresh from burying the bone somewhere in the large, 26-acre property. Searching with David and trying to be helpful, she reasons with the dog to produce the bone: "Now George, we're not angry, no. David and Susan need that bone. It's a nasty old bone. It's hundreds of years old. That's David's bone." She confidently assures him: "Everything's gonna be alright, David." After digging in one place and producing a boot, they continue their search while Susan demands more help ("David has to find his bone") and comments cheerfully:

Isn't this fun, David? Just like a game.

Time passes and after digging holes in many spots, they have not been successful in producing the bone:

David: I'm getting tired of all this digging.
Susan: Yes, what we need is a plow.

Susan's Aunt Elizabeth asks about all the holes and the identity of the lunatic, childish stranger. She is aghast when she learns from Susan that she plans to marry him - a man dubbed 'Mr. Bone' [a sexually-suggestive pseudonym]:

Susan: I know that I'm gonna marry him. He doesn't know it but I am.
Aunt: Now see here! If you're planning to marry him on my money, you're very much mistaken. I don't want another lunatic in the family. I've got lunatics enough already. When are you going to marry him? What's his name?
Susan: It's um, Bone.
Aunt: Bones?
Susan: One bone.
Aunt: Well, one bone or two bones is a ridiculous name? What does he do?
Susan: He hunts.
Aunt: Hunts? Hunts what?
Susan: Well, animals I should think.
Aunt: Big game hunting, huh?
Susan: Yes, very big.
Aunt (pointing at David crawling around in the garden behind George): You call that 'big game hunting'? Look at that.
Susan: Well, Auntie, he's just playing with George.

Later that evening before a dinner party, Susan breaks in on another phone extension and disrupts David's conversation with Miss Swallow as he explains that he has been detained. She expresses her worry about the noises the hungry leopard is making in the garage. One of the Aunt's invited dinner guests is a stuttering, effeminate Major Horace Applegate (Charlie Ruggles) - oddly, a big game hunter by profession. In a confused conversation regarding David's real name and his assumed name, David is introduced as "Mr. Bone" to Applegate. They shake hands with each other with the same greeting: "How do you do, Mr. Bone?" (Susan knees David from behind and alerts him to his new name: "You are Mr. Bone."

After feeding the hungry animal in the garage, David questions Susan about the fictitious name created to disguise his identity: "I didn't tell you to think up a name like Bone." David also protectively carries George away in his arms, fearful that Baby might see George as the next meal:

David: Did you ever stop to think what would happen if Baby and George got together?
Susan: Oh, they'd probably like each other.
David: And if they didn't?
Susan (matter of factly): If they didn't, why Baby would eat George.

During dinner on a June summer night, David single-mindedly keeps his eyes attentively directed toward George, repeatedly excusing himself and rising up from the table to follow the dog's wanderings - hopefully to lead him to the lost bone. [Sitting on a chair behind them, George links Susan and David together in the frame.] In the garage, the drunken servant Mr. Gogarty (Barry Fitzgerald) mistakenly leaves the door open to Baby's pen after reaching for his bottle of alcohol - and allows the leopard to escape. Baby is soon making loud leopard cries in the night, but Applegate, boasting of his authoritative (but flawed) ability to identify animal cries, insists: "That was a loon, Elizabeth. Loon, L, Double O, N. Yes." Although ignorant of animal life, Applegate demonstrates the sound of a leopard cry with fingers placed on his upper lip. Baby fondly returns the cry (called an "echo" by Susan), causing Applegate to ponder: "There aren't any leopards in Connecticut, are there?"

Out on the porch, a totally drunk Gogarty mumbles to himself: "If one more thing happens to upset me, I'd be seeing things," and then turns to see Baby leap up on the table next to him and begin purring. After causing a tremendous commotion in the kitchen when Gogarty rushes in and describes the animal: "A cat, as big as a cow, with eyes like balls of fire," Susan and David both instantly realize that Baby has escaped. However, David is only interested in his own problems - George and the discovery of the bone. Susan threatens to reveal his real identity to her Aunt if he doesn't help her find Baby, so he reluctantly agrees to join her ("I'll do anything you say").

David tries to calm Susan down when she becomes frantic:

David: ...Don't lose your head.
Susan: I've got my head. I've lost my leopard.

To complicate already zany matters, David proposes:

Nothing's gonna be gained by uncontrolled hysteria. Now compose yourself...Now look, I'll call the zoo. Tell them we saw a leopard and they'll come and catch him. Now come on.

Just after David has phoned zoo officials and notified them that there is a leopard loose in Connecticut and that they should take the leopard away if they find it, Susan learns by cable that her Aunt had actually ordered the leopard from her brother Mark. David is coerced into calling back the zoo to reverse his request, but it is too late - zoo officials have already been dispatched for "leopard hunting."

Susan frantically drags David after her into the midsummer's night to try to follow two animals: to catch the leopard before the zoo does, and to follow George to the buried bone. With all David's and Susan's scrambling and running around in the great outdoors, the Aunt suggests to Applegate that they get some fresh air too. So arm-in-arm, they get up from the dinner table and scamper outside:

Aunt: Oh, I can't stand this another moment. Horace, come along, let's get some fresh air.
Applegate: Yes. Shall we run?
Aunt: Yes. Let's!

Outside, Horace offers a leopard-cry lesson to Elizabeth, prompting the prowling Baby to respond with another growl. Suddenly losing his big-game hunter bravado after spotting the fearsome beast, he fearfully nudges Elizabeth back into the house ("Don't you find it a bit chilly without a gun, Elizabeth?")

In the film's most magical segment, Susan and David give chase after the leopard into the woods. Susan carries a butterfly net while David is prepared with a rope and croquet mallet. During their search, she ducks and crawls on the ground to avoid being thrashed in the face by branches that he inadvertently flips into her face. When he loses sight of her, he scolds her for game-playing:

Susan, this is no time to be playing squat-tag.

Along the way, he tumbles down a steep ravine's embankment, making Susan laugh uncontrollably at him. When she takes a spill herself, she comically captures David's head in her butterfly net - an apt image of her artful netting of her romantic target. The leopard's growl and George's bark propel them further into the dark, and they spot the two animals playing with each other (according to Susan, "they like each other"). [Their own sparring with each other is also playful fun.] Susan assures David that a stream that divides them from where Baby "plays" with George is "shallow - we can wade across." In their first step into the creek, they are both totally submerged. Sputtering, Susan blames the changing riverbed. They try to dry their clothes by the heat of a fire, as Susan suggests that their zany time together is fun. Their comic situation and series of adventures are woodenly summarized by David:

Susan: Oh David, don't be so grouchy. We could have such fun. There's moonlight and everything. It's so lovely. And I do so like being with you.
David: You do? Well, I like peace and quiet.
Susan: But it's peaceful and quiet here!
David: Oh! Well, let's just stay here and let George and Baby look for us.
Susan: (The flames accidentally catch one of his socks on fire.) Oh David, your sock's on fire.
David: Oh, that's all right, I don't care anymore.
Susan: Well - (She throws the other sock into the bonfire.)
David: Ha-ha, that's fine. Throw the other one in.
Susan: Oh that's true, you could have...Oh, well, don't be upset, David.
David: Oh well, who wouldn't be? My goodness, Susan, here I am trying to help you find a leopard so that your Aunt Elizabeth won't be angry at you. And then she'll probably give you the million dollars that I need for my museum. Well, if you'd planned it, you couldn't have ruined my chances more completely. You told your Aunt I was crazy, didn't you?...You told her my name was Bone and you didn't tell me. You told her I was a big-game hunter and you didn't tell me. You tell anybody anything that comes into your head and you don't tell me...
Susan: Well, here's something else I didn't tell you either.
David: What, what now?
Susan: Boopie - Mr. Peabody is coming to see Aunt Elizabeth tonight.
David: Oh dear. Oh well, that's the end. That's the end, that's all. Peabody's sure to tell your Aunt who I am. Yeah. He'll never remember those four years hard work I put in on that brontosaurus. No, all he'll remember is that I conked him on the head with a rock last night, he thinks.

Unbeknownst to Susan and David, a nearby circus dispatches a dangerous leopard to the zoo in Bridgeport, Connecticut - after mauling its new trainer - to be humanely put to sleep in a gas chamber. When the circus truck pulls up at the side of the road near David and Susan, Susan mistakenly assumes that it's the zoo truck with Baby inside. While David distracts the circus men in the front of the truck, she opens the cage and releases the wild animal - it promptly runs away. When the real wild leopard is thought to be the tame Baby, things get very complicated. Soon afterwards, Major Applegate (with a gun) brags of his expertise in catching the apparently tame leopard ("kitty, kitty, kitty"), but ends up cowardly when the vicious killer leopard is the one that he is stalking.

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