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Comments for Cat's Paw Clarence Budington Kelland

<"catspaw.html">Cat's Paw by Clarence Budington Kelland: 04/20/05

The Thursday after I was laid off from Oracle in 2003 I came into possession of four giant vegetable boxes of books. My goal has always been to release them via Book Crossing for other people to read but in the process I've been reading most of the books before I release them.

One of the authors represented in the collection is Clarence Budington Kelland, whose name was familiar to me but not immediately so. He was more like a distant memory, a name I had seen somewhere but couldn't quite place where or when. I had vague memories of having seen his name on the placards of an old film or two and now I know where — Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (among others). Kelland is also Harlan Ellison's favorite author and he has a rant on his website bemoaning that no one reads Kelland's books anymore or even remembers him.

Last night I finished reading Cat's-Paw, a morality tale of the evils of corrupt government and prejudice. Cat's-Paw seemed like such a stretch from the other Kelland books I've read that I ended up doing a little Google search for the author.

This particular book was in fact made into a film, also called "The Cat's-Paw" and it starred Harold Lloyd in 1934. Harold Lloyd playing a rather serious character who grew up in China (but is not Chinese)? From the description on IMDB, it sounds like the book was turned from a cautionary tale against government and business corruption to a full-out screwball comedy romance. Yes, there is a romantic element to the book (all Kelland books contain a romantic boy-meets-girl thread) but in Cat's-Paw, this romance is muted and down-played. If I ever come across a copy of the film I'll have to rent it just to see how it was bastardized.

Another important theme which was probably tossed out for the film was that of prejudice. The main character, though American by birth, is culturally Chinese having spent his entire life in China. He speaks Chinese (Cantonese), he respects the Chinese leaders and philosophers (and quotes them frequently). He is always respectful to the Chinese immigrants living in Middlesex (much to the bemusement of the other characters) and rebukes his friends who do not show the same respect. From the movie poster on IMDB, I think all of this was tossed out.

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