It’s funny to think, now, that this film, made way back in 1938 and starring Hollywood greats Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, was not a success when it was first released. Today, it’s widely regarded as a classic in cinematic history, the pioneer of the screwball comedy and one of the best (and earliest) romantic comedies ever made.
The film is utterly charming, and warmly funny. Cary Grant plays palaeontologist David, the first absent-minded professor to hit the big screen, and Katharine Hepburn plays Susan, a lively and eccentric heiress complete with pet leopard, Baby. They meet, and Susan falls for David at once. Undeterred by the fact he is engaged, she sets out to win his heart, and after a series of funny calamities they are finally united.
The story is quick-paced, the script sharp and witty. Today, the film is counted among legendary US director Howard Hawks’ great achievements in cinema, alongside great films like Scarface (1932), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) and Rio Bravo (1959).
For me, the highlight of the movie is Cary and Katharine’s wonderful on-screen chemistry. This is one of four films the pair did together (see Holiday, 1938; Sylvia Scarlett, 1935; and The Philadelphia Story, 1940), and they were good friends off-screen.
If, like me, you sometimes find yourself yearning for a simpler time, before the Internet and iPhones and speed dating, revisit the Golden Age of Hollywood with this film. Pure, uplifting escapism, and bound to make you smile and sigh for the days when the likes of suave Mr Grant was every woman’s fantasy.