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Bonus Points: DVD Reviews

'Baby' and 'Philadelphia': You Can't Give Them Anything But Love

By Jen Chaney
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 8, 2005;

"Bringing Up Baby: Special Edition" and "The Philadelphia Story: Special Edition," part of the Classic Comedies Collection (Unrated; Collection list price: $68.98; Individual DVDs: $26.99 )
Released: March 1

Cate Blanchett deservedly won the Academy Award for playing Katharine Hepburn in "The Aviator." But as Marvin Gaye and Tami Terrell once sang, "Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby."

Bringing Up Baby
Bringing Up Baby
On DVD, finally: Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn star in the comedy classic "Bringing Up Baby." (AP)

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Warner Bros. clearly knows this, which is why it released special-edition versions of two of Hepburn's best films -- "Bringing Up Baby" and "The Philadephia Story" -- on March 1, a couple of days after the Oscars. The event marks the long-overdue DVD debut of "Baby," a box office flop about a nerdy scientist (Cary Grant) who falls for a loopy heiress (Hepburn) that's now regarded as an American classic. It also gives "The Philadelphia Story" the two-disc treatment it richly deserves after a previously issued version that contained no extras. Each can be bought individually or as part of Warner's Classic Comedies Collection, which also includes single-disc releases of "Dinner at Eight," "Libeled Lady," "Stage Door" and "To Be or Not to Be." While film buffs will likely covet the entire set, the DVDs that pair Hepburn with Cary Grant are clearly the standouts of the bunch.

Both of these sophisticated screwball comedies have been digitally remastered, but "The Philadelphia Story" looks visually sharper. Still, don't be surprised to see a few black lines and flecks onscreen while viewing both films. Bonus feature-wise, each includes documentaries, commentary tracks and shorts from the Warner Bros. vault. The shorts are superfluous and apropos of nothing, but virtually everything else on these DVDs -- particularly last year's Turner Classic Movies documentary "Cary Grant: A Class Apart," featured on "Bringing Up Baby" -- adds a layer of further appreciation for these beloved farces. Of course, in the end, the real reason to own these DVDs is for the movies themselves. Even though both are more than 60 years old, they still demonstrate that great comedy isn't merely funny. It's smart, too.

Up-Close-and-Personal Bonus Points: The aforementioned 90-minute Grant doc is a must-watch, as is "Katharine Hepburn: All About Me -- A Self-Portrait," a 1992 retrospective hosted by Hepburn herself and included on "The Philadelphia Story's" second disc. The home movies and old photographs are fascinating, but seeing the regal Hepburn talking directly to the camera in that unmistakable, stately, quavering voice makes it seem, for a moment, like she's still with us.

Most Educational Bonus Point: Filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich recorded the commentary track on "Bringing Up Baby" and historian Jeannine Basinger handled the task for "The Philadelphia Story." While both tracks are filled with interesting tidbits, Bogdanovich's is by far the more interesting. Basinger often sounds like she's reading from a script, but Bogdanovich speaks casually, often breaks into irrepressible chuckles and even impersonates Howard Hawks while reenacting his interviews with the director. At one point, Bogdanovich/Hawks says of the madcap movie: "I figure it would have done better at the box office if I'd had a few normal people in it."

Coming in next week's "Bonus Points": A review of "The Incredibles."

If you have feedback about "Bonus Points" or want to suggest a DVD for review, e-mail Jen Chaney.

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