Monday, June 27, 2011

The Cradle Snatchers

Amanti per burla. US 1927. D: Howard Hawks; based on the play by Russell G. Medcraft and Norma Mitchell; SC: Sarah Y. Mason; DP: L. William O’Connell; PD: William Darling; Cast: Louise Fazenda (Susan Martin), J. Farrell MacDonald (George Martin), Ethel Wales (Ethel Drake), Franklin Pangborn (Howard Drake), Dorothy Phillips (Kitty Ladd), William Davidson (Roy Ladd), Nick Stuart (Henry Winton), Arthur Lake (Oscar), Dione Ellis (Ann Hall), Sammy Cohen (Ike Ginsberg), Tyler Brooke (l’osteopata), Sally Eilers; P: William Fox per Fox Film Corporation; Pri. pro.: 24 aprile 1927. 35 mm. Incompleto. 1181 m. 47’ a 22 fps. B&w. English intertitles. From: Library of Congress per concessione di Twentieth Century Fox. Preserved by the Library of Congress. Monday, 27 June 2011 at 12.00 Cinema Arlecchino (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). Electronic subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti. Grand piano: Maud Nelissen.

Catalogue: "In The Cradle Snatchers the blonde, shy, woman-fearing student claims that women bring bad luck so he stays away from them. They call him the Swede, and this melting-pot nickname resounds with an American destiny: wasn’t it a lying brunette siren that brought another poor Swede to disgrace in Hemingway / Siodmak’s The Killers? And wasn’t it a woman, the beloved and lost daughter, who caused the inconsolable grief of the Swede who looms over the history of literature, the main character of Philip Roth’s American Pastoral? Ramblings that can certainly worm their way into a film like this one, Hawks’s third, which is riddled with holes (about two reels are missing, the crux of the film some what elusive): and yet the fabric of the parts of the film we can see is light and feathery, with skilled, balanced editing. Beautifully decorated New York interiors (thanks to the young maestro William Cameron Menzies), three neglected forty-something wives, three skirt-chasing husbands, three students (one of them the Swede) ready to stage a comedy of errors, and three naughty flappers on the side. No melancholy, no misogyny, no ruined fate, even the Swede will reconsider his view of women, and everything ends in a carefree, democratic game of the sexes and of age (after all, a “cradle snatcher” is a person who has a considerably younger lover) that is rather theatrical and nevertheless a bit screwball. It could be that Hawks had DeMille’s thoughtful marriage comedies of the 1910s in mind, but here the moral lesson fizzes away in the ironic cheekiness of the jazz age: an acerbic little war of the sexes where we can glimpse the sparks of future masterpieces." Paola Cristalli.

AA: The title "The Cradle Snatchers" has the same meaning as "puma women" today. - I saw this rare Howard Hawks film for the first time. It survives in an incomplete form, with a reel missing, but the beginning and the end are intact. The image quality is often ok, but there are occasional water damage or nitrate decomposition marks. - The world of the fraternity comedy meets the world of the marriage comedy. The fraternity comedy which opens the film is clumsy. The marriage comedy is funnier. The three wives have had enough of their husbands chasing young flapper girls. They hire three young red-blooded students (including a "graduate Sheik" and a bookwormish "Swede" who may finally be the most serious womanizer of them all) to make the husbands jealous. (Might Luis Buñuel have seen this movie before making Un chien andalou? There is a similarity in the scene of the student chasing a woman.) It starts as make-believe but turns more real, and the spectator is free to speculate how far it goes. My guess is all the way. "I haven't been doing, I have been done by". "I gotta earn my money". "I'm just full of the joy of living". - The film is interesting but slight.

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