ANIMAL KINGDOM, THE (aka: The Woman in His House) (director: Edward H. Griffith; screenwriters: Horace Jackson/Adela Rogers St. Johns/from play by Philip Barry; cinematographer: George J. Folsey; editor: Daniel Mandell; music: Max Steiner; cast: Ann Harding (Daisy Sage), Leslie Howard (Tom Collier), Myrna Loy (Cecelia Collier), William Gargan (“Red” Regan), Neil Hamilton (Owen), Ilka Chase (Grace), Wm. B. Davidson (Grace’s Husband), Henry Stephenson (Rufus Collier), Leni Stengel (Franc, cellist), Donald Dilloway (Joe Fiske, novelist); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: David O. Selznick; RKO; 1932-UK)
“Though its dialogue seems stiff by today’s standards its dramatics still remain adult.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Adapted from the Broadway comedy by Philip Barry and written by Horace Jackson and Adela Rogers St. Johns. Edward H. Griffith (“Holiday”/”The Sky’s The Limit”/”One Night in Lisbon”) directs this sophisticated drama about an awkward love triangle. The smart comedy-drama was remade into the ineffectual 1946 One More Tomorrow. The Animal Kingdom offers a fair observation of society mores and though its dialogue seems stiff by today’s standards, its dramatics still remain adult.
The traditional Tom Collier (Leslie Howard), a Connecticut intellectual publisher, on the eve of his announced engagement to manipulative society woman Cecelia Henry (Myrna Loy) receives an ocean liner radiogram from the free-spirited commercial artist Daisy Sage (Ann Harding), his former lover and best friend he lived with for three years, announcing her arrival in New York from abroad. When he meets Daisy, she takes the news of his marriage harder than he thought and he loses her friendship.
Tom lives a quiet bourgeois life in the country with his stodgy controlling middle-class wife and becomes conflicted over losing the artistic values of Daisy (he starts publishing low-brow popular books) while nevertheless yearning for the physical attractiveness of Cecelia and the comforts of his soft materialistic life. The conflict grows when Cecelia maneuvers Tom to fire the rough-edged and much too informal “Red” Regan (William Gargan), a washed-up boxer who now works as Tom’s loyal butler. Red is aware that Cecelia disapproves of him and finds another job. Tom feels lost without his pal Red to talk to and visits Daisy in New York for support. The now painter has an exhibition. Upon seeing him, Daisy finds she’s still in love with Tom and flees temporarily to Nova Scotia rather than act amoral.
Cecelia will later telephone Daisy and invite her and two of Tom’s former New York friends, cellist Franc Schmidt (Leni Stengel) and novelist Joe Fiske (Donald Dilloway), to Tom’s birthday party. Daisy finds Tom has lost his way and has slid down to his wife’s greedy materialistic level, sacrificing his once strong feeling for the arts. She thereby abruptly leaves.
Cecelia sides with Tom’s domineering wealthy industrialist father (Henry Stephenson), when he offers a large gift of a house that Tom refuses. At last Tom sees through Cecelia and signs over to her a generous check that dad gave him as a birthday gift. With that, Tom and the rehired Red head to New York by car, where Tom says he’s going to see his “wife” Daisy.
REVIEWED ON 4/16/2009 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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