Saturday, March 6, 2021

THE ANIMAL KINGDOM (Edward H. Griffith, 1932)


A zoological study of three members of kingdom Animalia, specifically Homo Sapiens, victimized by their rigid cultural hierarchies where values such as integrity and self-esteem are eclipsed (or dominated) by fiduciary and social concerns.

Cecelia (Myrna Loy, looking absolutely ravishing) is the Apex predator who feasts upon the lean body and deep pockets of Tom Collier (Leslie Howard), a charmingly naïve man whose heart is held captive by his bedfellow Daisy Sage (Ann Harding). It seems Tom and Daisy were quite a thing for years, sharing intimacy and friendship without serious commitment as Daisy pursued her career of a designing woman and Artist. Until Cecelia meets Tom and uses her feminine wiles to rush him into marriage while Daisy is off painting in Europe. Tom’s father is a crushing bore, a man more in love with money (or the power that money brings) than his only son who barley supports himself by publishing artsy-fartsy books. Of course his father just fucking adores Cecelia who will mold him into both a good husband and a successful son. Daisy returns from Europe coincidentally on the day that Tom is going to announce his marriage with Cecelia and proclaims her desire for marriage and children with her paramour. Uncomfortable silence. Interestingly, Daisy and her affinity to Tom feels very similar to Midge and Scottie in Hitchcock’s masterpiece VERTIGO...but without the murders and domestic violence.

The relationship between Daisy and Tom is one of trust and friendship, two people who have shared their bed out of wedlock (Oh, the shame!) and mutually support one another in both body and soul. Cecelia’s narcissism is cloaked in her wifely obligations to encourage Tom but her true face is eventually unmasked and what lies under her beauty can be purchased at any brother by leaving legal tender on the mantelpiece, in advance, thank you very much. It’s frustrating that it takes the good-natured Tom until the Final Act to realize her sex as reward/punishment to manipulate him into printing salacious (yet best selling) novels and selling his Publishing Company so she can move to the city and be near the Socialites...and his father’s checkbook. And Daisy is his Queen of Hearts who refuses to interfere in their marriage yet adroitly understands that friendship is an impossibility; but still she struggles like an animal in a trap while retaining her human identity and integrity. One wonderful and healthy relationship that Tom displays is his affection for Red, his male ex-prizefighting Butler. Their Platonic love for each other remains unspoken (as it often does between men) yet shines through in their scenes together. That Cecelia and his father both find fault with the unrefined servant is a critique upon them, not Red or Tom.

Though the film resolves without a murder, suicide or some other violent catastrophe Tom is finally able to lay his cards on the table or, more precisely, his father’s check on the mantelpiece.

Final Grade: (C+)