The Cat's-Paw

The Cat’s-Paw (1934) is a comedy film starring Harold Lloyd and directed by Sam Taylor. It was one of the comedian’s few sound films.

The Cat’s-Paw
Directed bySam Taylor
Produced byHarold Lloyd
Written bySam Taylor
Clarence Budington Kelland (story)
StarringHarold Lloyd
Una Merkel
George Barbier
Music byAlfred Newman
CinematographyBernard W. Burton
Edited byAlan Osbiston
Distributed byFox Film Corporation
Release date
  • July 30, 1934 (1934-07-30)
Running time
102 min.
CountryUnited States

The Cat’s Paw, a novel by Clarence Budington Kelland, had appeared in the Saturday Evening Post from August 26-September 30, 1933, when Lloyd read it, and decided to buy the rights to it for $25,000.


Ezekiel Cobb, a naive young man raised by missionaries in China, is sent to the United States to seek a wife. He is promptly enlisted by the corrupt political machine of the fictional city of Stockport, led by the corrupt boss Jake Mayo (George Barbier) to run for mayor as phony "reform" politician. He is expected to be the "cat's paw" of the political machine.

Cobb unexpectedly takes his job seriously. Frequently quoting Chinese poet “Ling Po” (an apparent mispronunciation of Li Po), he embarks on a campaign to clean his town of its corrupt political machine.

Fighting back, the corrupt politicians frame Cobb. He turns the table on them, however, by enlisting the help of his friends in the local Chinese community, who help him kidnap the corrupt politicians and their hoodlum backers, detaining them in the "cellar of Tien Wang." He tells them that since his attempts to use western methods have not worked, he is going to use the methods of the ancient Chinese: either they confess or they will be executed.

They take a man into a back room – everyone says it’s a bluff, but then the man screams in terror and a moment later his decapitated body is brought out with his head set on top of his chest. When the second man is taken to the back room, it is shown that Cobb has enlisted the help of The Great Chang a famous Chinese magician on his first American tour, and that they are using his tricks to fake the executions.

This tactic works, and Mayo decides to throw his support to Cobb after all. The town is swept of its corruption and Cobb, with the support of local girl Petunia Pratt (Una Merkel), abandons plans to return to China and stays in the U.S. to fight corruption in his town. But his new wife insists on him returning to China.

Production notes

In an early scene, Cobb, as a young boy newly arrived in China, is given a book written by Ling Po. In the closeup of the cover, the words 靈普哲學心理論述 (A Treatise on Philosophy and Psychology by Ling Pu) are seen. However, a subsequent closeup of an open page of the book shows an excerpt from the Analects of Confucius.



  1. Vance, Jeffrey and Suzanne Lloyd. "Harold Lloyd: Master Comedian" New York: Harry N Abrams. p 182
  • The Cat's Paw at the American Film Institute Catalog
  • The Cat's-Paw on IMDb
  • The Cat's-Paw at AllMovie
  • "The New Pictures", Time, 1934-08-27, retrieved 2009-04-11
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