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Masters of Screwball: Howard Hawks & Cary Grant

Bringing Up Baby | Film Studies: Screwball Express

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The Screwball Express reaches its final destination with an appreciation of director Howard Hawks, a giant of American cinema. Hawks worked in practically every film genre, including screwball comedies for which he was arguably the headmaster of the madcap. Michael van den Bos looks into Hawks’s flight of funny film farces and then throws the spotlight on the clown prince of screwball – the great actor and movie star Cary Grant. This is followed by a screening of the quintessential screwball comedy, Bringing Up Baby (1938), surely one of the funniest films ever made.

“The love impulse in man often reveals itself in terms of conflict…” pronounces screwball psychiatrist Fritz Feld. Certainly that’s true in the cinema of Howard Hawks. This discreetly risqué comedy of sexual attraction has madcap heiress Katharine Hepburn locating the beast in Cary Grant’s much-abused paleontologist, who only wants to recover his intercostal clavical and get back to the city in time for his wedding. And baby… baby is the leopard who stops him in his tracks.

Long since enshrined as a classic, this roaringly funny, quickfire farce was a box office flop in its day. The famously professional Hawks allowed it to go 40 days over schedule, blaming the leopard, the dog, and his stars’ proclivity for cracking up at the script’s dirty innuendos. RKO was not amused. They dispensed with Hawks’ services, and offered ’box office poison’ Hepburn the choice between buying out her contract or appearing in a B picture, Mother Carey’s Chickens. (She paid, and made three straight hits, Holiday, The Philadelphia Story and Woman of the Year.)


Please note that these films from nine decades ago sometimes reflect attitudes and assumptions that are considered offensive today, in particular in regards to their treatment of racial and ethnic difference, as well as towards sexuality and gender. VIFF invites audiences to view these films through a historical lens and with the critical distance that time provides for us.


10:30 am


11:00 am


Michael van den Bos


Howard Hawks


Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Charles Ruggles, Barry Fitzgerald

Country of Origin






150 min

Book Tickets

Monday April 29

10:30 am
Guests/Q&As Hearing Assistance
VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre
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Masters of Screwball: Howard Hawks & Cary Grant

The Screwball Express reaches its final destination with an appreciation of two giants of the genre: director/producer Howard Hawks and leading man Cary Grant, followed by a screening of one of the funniest films ever made, Bringing Up Baby.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre