Pre-Code Crazy: The Animal Kingdom (1932)

Harding, Howard, and Loy

I think I’ve made it clear on these pages that I’m a big Ann Harding fan. Her performances in Double Harness and When Ladies Meet rate among my all-time favorites. And she delivers again in my Pre-Code pick for this month, The Animal Kingdom (1932), co-starring Leslie Howard and Myrna Loy.

The Animal Kingdom focuses on a kind of love quadrangle between Connecticut book publisher Tom Collier; his former lover, artist Daisy Sage (Harding); Tom’s socialite fiancée, Cecelia (Loy); and Owen (Neil Hamilton), Cecelia’s would-be-if-he-could-be beau and Tom’s lawyer.  We meet all four players on the night that Tom and Cecelia reveal that, after dating only a few weeks, they are to be married. Not surprisingly, Daisy and Owen are less than happy to receive the news.

Daisy is none too pleased with Tom’s news.

In the scene where Tom visits Daisy to personally tell her of his engagement, Ann Harding is mesmerizing. She practically takes your breath away – you can feel her unalterable shock, her searing pain, her fierce pride, her self-righteous fury. She makes you want to bundle her in your arms and protect her from the world. Myrna Loy, conversely, plays an unexpectedly unsympathetic role in the film. When her Cecelia is first introduced, she appears to be completely devoted to Tom and both understanding and accepting of his close friendship with Daisy. As time goes by, though, we learn that Cecelia’s not the paragon of virtue that she initially appears to be. She encourages Tom to fire his brutish longtime friend (William Gargan), a former prizefighter who works for the couple as a butler; she convinces him to publish a series of tacky – but popular – pulp fiction novels instead of the more prestigious fare he prefers; she feigns a debilitating headache when Tom wants to attend the opening night of Daisy’s art exhibition – and when that doesn’t work, she uses her feminine wiles (if you know what I mean) to achieve her goal of keeping Tom at home. “You go in alone. . . I’m going to tuck myself into my warm bed and read,” Cecelia tells him, blowing him a kiss full of promises. “Goodnight, lover – I’ll miss you.” (Whoa!)

The interactions between our four major players come to a head when Cecelia invites Daisy to a surprise party for Tom’s birthday. I won’t tell you what happens there – or afterward – but, trust me, there are plenty of surprises to go around. You can discover them for yourself by tuning in to TCM on June 18th. Meanwhile, here are a few trivia tidbits concerning the cast and the production.

Cecelia’s snarky friend, Grace, is played by Ilka Chase. You might remember Chase as the kind-hearted sister-in-law of Bette Davis’s Charlotte Vale in Now, Voyager (1942). Chase was also in the original Broadway cast of The Women, where she played Sylvia Fowler, the role portrayed by Rosalind Russell in the 1939 MGM film. Chase’s first husband was actor Louis Calhern – they were married for less than a year.

The screenplay for the film was based on a play written by Phillip Barry. Barry also wrote the play The Philadelphia Story. He died in 1949 at the age of 53.

Barry’s play opened on Broadway in January 1932 and played for six months. Leslie Howard, William Gargan, and Ilsa Chase also starred in the Broadway version.

Don’t forget to watch The Animal Kingdom on TCM June 18th. And be sure to pop over to Speakeasy to see what gem Kristina is recommending for the month!


~ by shadowsandsatin on June 3, 2018.

11 Responses to “Pre-Code Crazy: The Animal Kingdom (1932)”

  1. I came *this* close to picking this, fun to see Loy as such an unlikable manipulator. I share your admiration for Ann Harding, she’s smart to steer clear of Howard here until he figures it out for himself. Also I love their adult relationship, they can criticize each other constructively and respectfully.

  2. Boy, I can’t wait to attend that surprise birthday party!

  3. Love Ann Harding! And you turned me on to her! Hope all is well. Dail


  4. Your timing on this review is impeccable! I’m working on a Myrna Loy Top 10 List for my blog. I had Animal Kingdom on my list to view, but I’m going to bump it to the top of pile! Myrna as a bad girl! Thanks

  5. Sounds great! I love Pre-Code and 1932 is one of my favorite years in Hollywood history. I’ll have to check out this one.

  6. I love Myrna Loy – this is a win-win !

  7. “… discover them for yourself by tuning in to TCM on June 18th”!!!! 😦
    We don’t get TCM here; but I’ll see if I can find it online!!
    Not a great fan of Leslie Howard, but I love Myrna Loy (especially in the “Thin Man” movies) 🙂

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