Considered lost until Peter Bogdanovich located the originals in the depths of the Fox archive, The Cradle Snatchers remains slightly incomplete, missing part of the third reel and all of the fourth. Despite the absent ten minutes, Hawks’ adaptation of Russell G. Medcraft and Norma Mitchell’s popular, dialogue-heavy play into a silent film remains an enjoyable, captivating feat. Three middle-aged wives punish their philandering husbands by hiring college boys to pose as their secret lovers. The young men’s convincing performances twist a few comical knots in the ladies’ vengeful strategy, and the result is, in the words of Hawks’ biographer Todd McCarthy, “a boisterous, energetic Jazz Age film, sprightly paced and fresh-feeling, despite its obvious theatrical origins.”
Preserved by the Library of Congress.
In order to help guarantee his loan to the floundering Mediterranean kingdom of San Savonna, an American financier requires that the king’s son start showing some interest in the opposite sex. Like many Hawks men intellectually consumed by other interests, Michael the Crown Prince (George O’Brien) only has eyes for all things automotive. Thus, two “old fools” team up like a meddling married couple—undoubtedly a Hawks touch—to concoct a scheme to spark Michael’s latent libido. Adding to the comic incongruency, they venture to a notorious Paris dive only to discover another Hawks prototype: the gorgeous, self-made and street-smart doyenne of the underworld. Because of her skill at deception, Virginia Valli’s nightclub performer is half-wittingly pulled into a tangle of role-playing, mistaken identities and clashing classes—with a young and slithering William Powell appearing as the foil. Clearly influenced by the surge of German expressionism washing over Hollywood at the time, Hawks’ amusing frolic features an array of un-Hawksian creative camera moves and artful flourishes, as well as a few startlingly erotic pre-Code moments, including a scene with Powell slowly unpeeling and eating a banana while watching Valli, unaware, disrobe.
Preserved by the Museum of Modern Art with support from the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation.
Live musical accompaniment by Robert Humphreville.