Harold Lloyd in “The Cat’s Paw”


Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Harold Lloyd comedy The Cat’s Paw (1934), written and directed by Sam Taylor.

The Cat’s Paw  is Lloyd’s least characteristic film. He is well cast as a young missionary raised in China who returns to his American hometown for the first time. But the film is weirder and darker than Lloyd’s usually are. His character is made a straw man candidate for a nonexistent reform party and accidentally wins the election. When he tries to clean up the corruption, the crooks conspire to frame him. His response is to round them all up and make them think they will have their heads chopped off. Mass decapitation is a note that’s just distinctly un-Lloyd. Yet there’s something distinctly Capraesque about the story arc that Lloyd and his team should have followed up on in subsequent movies. Naïve young man of goodwill gets cruelly used by a bunch of greedy crooks. That’s a formula Depression era audiences warmed up to, and that would have been an easy adjustment for Lloyd. Just with less head-chopping (and even less use of the word “chink”.) It’s not the most progressive film in the world, but certainly worth watching. It’s also got Una Merkel, Nat Pendleton, Alan Dinehart, Fuzzy Knight, Vince Barnett, and Billy Bletcher. 

For more on slapstick comedy history, including the great Harold Lloyd, don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc


  1. “The Cat’s Paw” is the only Harold Lloyd film I really like. He’s deadly serious and pretty scary when he decides to start decapitating.
    The Capra comment is apt. I read the book by Clarence Budington Kelland, who also wrote the source material for “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.” He was also a hardcore Republican politician who despised Roosevelt and held Eisenhower in contempt for “wrecking the party.”


    • a genuinely interesting perspective! If I was doing a Lloyd symposium sometime I would totally want someone at the table who only liked the Cat’s Paw. For real. It gets so monotonous hearing the same perspectives parotted by everybody day in, day out!


  2. I just finished watching this film and think Lloyd was brilliant in his portrayal of how things would go for a white man who was raised in China, spoke the language perfectly, but didn’t know the slang of the US, where people assume he’s from.


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