Bringing Up Baby

It's possible that George Clooney is today, for younger viewers, the Hollywood equivalent to Cary Grant (1904–1986). And it's possible that some millennial and Gen-Y filmgoers have never even seen Grant's movies. But because he retired early and still handsome, kept his private life scrupulously guarded, and gracefully expired without scandal, Grant retains an aura that stars of the TMZ era will never attain. His whole image was perfected and protected by the studios. And before the former Archibald Leach reached America, he had shed his lower-class British accent and begun to develop a poshly assured persona that owed much—he would later admit—to Noel Coward. Yet, crucially, he undercut his good looks and tailored image with humor. An erstwhile circus performer, he was no snob; and he knew how to do a double-take or pratfall (Chaplin was another formative influence). You can see all those traits in the GI's four-film salute to Grant, which begins tonight with Howard Hawks' 1938 screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby, which pits Grant's meek paleontologist against Katharine Hepburn's overbearing heiress. The fact that they're two of the most beautiful people on the planet, plainly meant to fall in love, matters not a whit. Grant cowers behind his specs at the sight of her, fumbles his fossils, flees from her pet leopard, and does everything possible to pretend he's not Cary Grant. And all the while, of course, we're laughing at the ruse. Also note: running Sat.-Thurs. is the classic newspaper farce His Girl Friday; weeklong engagements follow for North by Northwest (April 6) and Charade (April 13). BRIAN MILLER

Fri., March 30, 7 & 9 p.m.; Sun., April 1, 7 & 9 p.m., 2012

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