The Animal Kingdom (1932)

Always beautiful Myrna Loy gets to show off her catty, controlling side as Tom’s wife, Cecelia, in 1932’s The Animal Kingdom. (Image via Dr. Macro)

Tom Collier (Leslie Howard) is a man stuck between two ladies. Daisy (Ann Harding) is an artist, and the two have plenty of fun together. On the other hand is Cecelia (Myrna Loy), a snooty high-society girl who doesn’t have quite as strong a relationship with Tom. Eventually he decides to marry Cecelia since Daisy turned him down so many times in the past.

After marrying Cecelia, Tom becomes very bored of his life. His writing career has taken a nosedive and he’s forced to publish less-than-significant novels in order to make Cecelia happy. He’s tired of the social scene and Cecelia wants to fire the butler, who is Tom’s long-time friend. He finds her pretentious and is angry that she won’t let him hang out with any of his “bohemian” friends.

Tom has lost his integrity, as a writer and as a person, by letting Cecelia manipulate him. But will he come to his senses? And if he does, what will he do to regain control of his life?

Edward H. Griffith (1943’s The Sky’s The Limit) directs 1932’s The Animal Kingdom, an RKO Pictures comedy/drama. The film is based on a play by Philip Barry.

The Animal Kingdom boast two truly great leads with strong legacies – Loy and Howard –  leading the viewer to begin watching with very high expectations.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite live up to its potential despite the talent of these two actors. The film remains believable throughout but doesn’t always pack a punch, and Harding’s delivery can be a bit stiff.

The pacing is also a bit too slow. It’s a very wordy film, with not many twists, so the story seems to drag on as an endless string of predictable conversations.  As is to be expected in pre-codes, some of the dialogue is very frank, but it isn’t as clever or witty as it wants to be (or as other films of the period).

(Image via Dr. Macro)

Much of the material still does a decent job of interesting the viewer, and there are some very great dramatic scenes peppering the film, but overall the slow pace and low amount of tension come close to sending the viewer into a snooze. The ending is also terribly predictable (though I still won’t spoil it, for those who haven’t seen the film and may not find it as easy to figure out as I did!).

The film does succeed in providing the viewer with a nice sense of contrast between the upper-class, privileged life that Tom leads with Cecelia versus the exciting, much less society-driven life of artists such as Daisy. The bohemian lifestyle is painted in a much better light than the lifestyle of the rich. Myrna’s performance is great but her character of Cecelia is easy to hate, since she’s a typical social climber who tries to mold her husband’s character in order to suit her own lifestyle and goals. She’s nowhere near honorable, leading the viewer to favor Daisy’s way of life.

The Animal Kingdom is a decent film, but is nowhere near great thanks to its all-too-wordy script, slow pace and somewhat wooden supporting performances. The score: 2/5

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