The Cradle Snatchers (1927) Poster

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8/10
Incomplete but still enjoyable
Igenlode Wordsmith10 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Unfortunately, the currently extant print of "The Cradle Snatchers" cuts out part-way through reel 3, just as we are being introduced to two-thirds of the titular characters, and doesn't resume until the fifth reel, as the three boys whose escapades form most of the surviving part of the beginning arrive for what, it becomes apparent, is the denouement of the film involving three married ladies, two of whom we have hardly met. The result is that what initially looks like a fraternity-house comedy turns out to be a tale of marital revenge, minus most of the marriage -- once you have extrapolated backwards from the obvious jump, it makes sense, but in consequence the opening horse-play section does end up occupying a rather higher proportion of the running time than was ever intended.

The connection between the two sets of characters is that Susan Martin is the aunt of young Henry Winton's girl -- and when she discovers the damning note that proves her husband, supposedly on a business trip, is actually inviting his friends along on a rendezvous with some sugar-daddy-seeking flappers, her indignant niece comes up with the idea of punishing the errant husband by having her handsome young beau pretend to be Susan's own trophy 'toy-boy'. At some point during the missing reels, this arrangement is apparently extended into a formal contract involving the recruitment of Henry's two room-mates to perform the same function for the other deserted wives, in return for a thousand-dollar fee... even though one of them is scared stiff of women and the other is required (for some rationale now lost in nitrate decay) to pretend to be a Spanish osteopath.

Inevitably, the reluctant seducer is paired off with the most upright of the wives, the 'Spaniard' proceeds to base his role (with great success) upon a stage melodrama, and young Henry and Aunt Susan scarcely have time to practise their own canoodling between trying to sort out all the rest. And equally inevitably, the husbands and their floozies turn up at the same spot for some intended canoodling of their own; they get what they deserve, reconciliations are made, and lessons are learned. Franklin Pangborn as a weak-kneed husband gets one of the best lines: when advised by his young 'rival' that to win back the wives their husbands will have to court and flatter them, he complains aghast that the women will then expect that sort of thing all the time...

Apparently this was an adaptation of a dialogue-rich Broadway comedy; if so, it makes a very effective stage-to-silent transformation, without heavy reliance on title cards to convey either its plot or its humour. Even the surviving print shows clear nitrate damage in a number of places -- fortunately rarely obscuring the image -- and it is a pity that almost all the material dealing with the errant husbands seems to have been lost, with only Uncle George really making any kind of showing in the existing footage. However, even in its incomplete state the film is still good fun, with the sequences in which the three boys attempt to satisfy their contract with their variously-assigned ladies verging upon the hilarious -- especially the scene in which the shy young 'Swede', pumped full of Dutch courage by his room-mates, tries to do his duty by his stiff-backed date, likewise bullied into a far too revealing dress by her two female friends and just as ill at ease as he is.

(Incidentally, so far as I observed, there is no reference to 'cake-eaters' in this film.)
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No cake was harmed in this movie.
F Gwynplaine MacIntyre20 November 2004
'Cradle Snatchers' was a 1925 Broadway farce that came back from the dead in 1941 as the Broadway musical 'Let's Face It', with the three Jazz Age gigolo college boys reworked as army draftees to keep up with the times. Very few things about 'Let's Face It' are noteworthy, although it starred Danny Kaye and it had a score by Cole Porter (not among his best). One of Porter's lyrics for this show (in the song 'Farming') used the word 'gay' in a context that was unambiguously sexual. Apparently there was some legal problem with the story rights, because 'Let's Face It' was eventually filmed (starring Bob Hope) with a plot line entirely different from both the Cole Porter show and 'Cradle Snatchers'. Interestingly, Eve Arden was in the casts of both the Broadway 'Let's Face It' and the film, but playing two entirely different roles.

I viewed an incomplete and damaged print of 'Cradle Snatchers'. The three main characters are Susan Martin, Kitty Ladd and Ethel Drake, who would nowadays be counted among the 'ladies who lunch': they are society matrons of leisure, with prosperous husbands. Susan's husband goes out of town on a business trip, but she later learns that he lied to her and he actually went duck hunting. (The movie -- what I've seen of it, at least -- is slightly less suggestive than the original play, in which the husbands were cheating on their wives with some jazz-baby flappers.) Kitty's and Ethel's husbands have been equally dishonest with their wives.

To get revenge on their husbands, the three women -- all of them middle-aged -- hire three handsome college boys to squire them about town. It's all meant to be quite innocent, with the wives merely intending to embarrass their husbands and teach them a lesson. Part of the problem here -- again, I've only seen an incomplete version of this film -- is that the movie seems to be flaunting its naughtiness but it isn't really all that naughty, even by 1920s standards.

I had no end of trouble following the action of this movie, partly down to the physical deterioration of the nitrate print, but largely because of the extreme use of 1920s American slang in the intertitles. The three college boys are identified as 'cake-eaters'. I knew this was a slang term (no actual cake is eaten in the scenes I witnessed), but it took me a while to twig that 'cake-eaters' are lounge lizards. Arthur Lake is mildly funny as one of the male trio. Louise Fazenda manages to be attractive as Mrs Martin, even though the role calls attention to the fact that she's significantly older than her cake-eater escort. I shan't rate this film, as I wasn't able to view it in its entirety. But based on what I've seen here, I doubt that 'Cradle Snatchers' was very funny even in its own time.
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6/10
Boys Will Be Boys & How to Stop Them
boblipton26 July 2015
Three husbands go out every night, going you-know-where. Their wives decide that the only way to stop them is to make them jealous by hiring three college boys to woo them.

This was a successful Broadway farce and the resultant film that shows up on YouTube times out at 45 minutes, with a faded and abrupt final reel. It's clear that a lot of business has been cut out. Not the titles, amusing as they are; director Howard Hawks would shine, once sound came in, in Screwball comedy in which people would talk a mile a minute, only to fall into a lake. He's clearly just waiting for the chance. He also needs a topnotch cast to pull off his style of farce. Here he's got a mix of great performers going through their bits (Louise Fazenda, Arthur Lake); great performers without much to do (Edgar Pangborn, J. Farrell MacDonald, Ethel Wales); and possibly fine performers who don't have much screen time.

The result is a spotty comedy, with a long, dull set-up and then some wonderful comedy bits. It was good enough to keep me watching through the end.
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