STREAMING SATURDAYS! Myrna Loy and Ann Harding Fight It Out in THE ANIMAL KINGDOM
Welcome to another edition of STREAMING SATURDAYS, bringing you free, fabulous films to watch right here!
This week: 1932’s The Animal Kingdom, which, had it been made two years later, would have sent everyone in the Hays Office scurrying for their scissors.
Directed by Edward Griffith with an uncredited assist from George Cukor, the film had been thought lost for years, until historian Ronald Haver, on the hunt for excised footage from the 1954 version of A Star Is Born, found a print and a negative tucked in the back of a Warner Bros. vault. It seems that in the mid-1940s, the studio had bought the rights from RKO to shoot a remake, but eventually shelved the idea along with the film and completely lost track of it. (And yes, you and I take better care of our DVDs and tapes than the studios often took of the actual films.)
Based on a play by Philip Barry (after Holiday and before The Philadelphia Story), it stars Leslie Howard and Ann Harding as Tom and Daisy, who were happily living together as lovers until Tom’s father (Henry Stephenson), a wealthy publisher, tugged on the reins—convincing Tom to move back home, “live respectably,” and take over the family business.
Allied with Dad is Cecilia (Myrna Loy), who’s eager to marry the son with the suddenly-bright prospects. When she’s warned that Tom’s been “wasting his life from the cradle,” she responds wryly, “Aw… it must have been pathetic to see him wasting it at three!” And BAM. Just like that, Myrna Loy—the real Myrna Loy—is born. No wonder she called this one of her favorite films.
After years of toiling away as “exotics” and one-dimensional bad girls, Loy was loaned out—or should I say paroled—from MGM for this fabulous role. Mind you, she’s still bad, gaspingly so at times, but she’s also herself. And at 27, she’s already so damn good, she makes no actressy attempt to win the audience’s sympathy. She knows exactly what she is—a social climber and a golddigger—and she goes all in, with wit, brains and elegance to burn.
Early on, Cecilia wins her man, but not his heart. Daisy, a deco goddess if ever there was one, is still lingering languidly in the background. Awaiting a visit from Tom, she muses, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh. And no oil for my lamp, as usual. A foolish virgin me. Oh, foolish anyway.”
And on that note, let the games begin!
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