“Behold, the bridegroom cometh. And no oil for my lamp, as usual. A foolish virgin me. Oh, foolish anyway.”
The Animal Kingdom is a Pre-Code film I sat through because Myrna Loy is in it. I always look for as many films I can with an actor or actress I like either from the Golden Age or today. Sometimes I find myself liking the films even if the person I like is only in it for five minutes the whole time and sometimes I do not. I found myself in the middle with The Animal Kingdom- on one hand it is very risqué with great dialogue and on the other hand it is boring and many of the actors are boring and too over the top.
Tom Collier (Leslie Howard) is a free spirited book publisher. He has lived his like the way he likes much to his father’s dismay. His father says that he sent Tom to Harvard and he was only there for two years. He then sent his son to Oxford and he traveled to the school from Paris. To top his free spirited living off for many years he lived with a woman named Daisy Sage (Ann Harding) whom he was not married to.
Daisy was gone for three months without notice and in the meantime Tom met a woman named Cecelia “Cee” Henry (Loy) and is now engaged to her. Tom’s father approves of Cee very much because he believes that she can ground his son and get him to settle down to what he sees a proper life. Tom travels into the city to let Daisy know about his engagement. Not knowing that Tom is about to marry Daisy suggests she and him get married and travel down to Mexico where she can paint. Upset and wanting to save them from doing something they will regret Daisy leaves again for another few months.
When Daisy comes back she holds a showing of her work at a gallery. Tom and Cee are invited but she does not really want to go and tempts her husband to stay. When Tom finally sees the show he tells Daisy that her work is not that good to be shown her talent needs more time.
Cee holds a surprise party for Tom and invites Daisy and his other bohemian friends. She does this not out of good feelings and intentions but to show her husband what outcasts his friends are compared to her socially acceptable friends. The friends do not mingle they mainly stick to themselves. Daisy reads Tom’s latest work and lets him know that his work is not good and he is selling out and not writing what he is capable of. During the party Cee talks to her friend Owen about buying Tom’s publishing company. Daisy walks by them and sees the two of them kissing. She cannot take anymore and she and the two other friends leave.
Tom’s receives a huge check from his father. He tells Cee about the check and her true money hungry self comes out. While they are eating dinner in her room he tells her how much the room reminds him of a London brothel meaning that Cee is acting like a prostitute willing to do anything he wants for his money. She promises him anything wants now even unlocking her door and telling him not to take long.
When Tom leaves the room and goes downstairs he tells his butler/friend to take him to the train station to go into the city.
This is a pretty racy film. The two scenes I found the raciest were the ones with Myrna Loy in them (and not just because I am so used to her as the nice “perfect wife”). Tempting Tom to not go to the gallery opening Cee comes down in a negligee. He comments she barely has anything on to which she says he should come and help her dress. He starts kissing her on the chest and says he better not because they will be late. Cee recalls the story of how she found it one time and he liked it. This temptation is what leads Tom not to go to the opening. The last scene with Tom and Cee as I mentioned is really racy especially when he says how much her room reminds him of a brothel. I cannot even tell you how gorgeous and sexy Loy looked when Cee tells Tom as she closes the doors to her room to not take long.
I was not impressed with the acting in this film. Leslie Howard and Ann Harding had been in the stage version of the story. You can definitely tell they were stage actors by the way they spoke their lines and dramatically acted. On the other hand you can totally see that Myrna Loy was strictly a film actress. Howard I am never really impressed with if I see him in a film. Loy had been loaned out to RKO for Cee since apparently Selznick saw her as the only one who could really pull off the role. They were going to go with another actress but the producer felt Loy was prettier and could pull off the role of a seductress. She carried it off flawlessly you can see it in her eyes that her character was money hungry and had a great sexuality underneath. She had those eyes that could either be really sexy or could be really warm and caring in her films.
The Animal Kingdom is an alright film. The story is interesting especially in the aspect that the wife acts more like a mistress than the other woman does. That is a great angle and one I would like to see explored in a film today. The acting is not the greatest but that can be over looked. Watch The Animal Kingdom for the dialogue alone because for a 1930s Pre-Code film it is some of the raciest I have ever heard from that period.
The film is available to view on Youtube in full as of this writing.