Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Male Animal (1942).

The Male Animal (1942). Cast: Henry Fonda, Olivia de Havilland and Joan Leslie. The film was based on a hit 1940 Broadway play of the same name written by James Thurber and Elliott Nugent. The screenplay was written by Stephen Morehouse Avery, Julius J. Epstein, and Philip G. Epstein, based on Nugent and Thurber's play. The film was also directed by Elliott Nugent.

This very charming story begins during homecoming weekend at Midwestern University, when English professor Tommy Turner and his wife Ellen host a cocktail party for Dean Frederick Damon and his wife Blanche, Ed Keller and his wife Myrtle and former football hero Joe Ferguson.

Damon, stops by during dinner to tell them that student Michael Barnes, has written an editorial calling the trustees fascists and reporting that Tommy is the only professor in favor of freedom of speech. Michael, also mentions that the following Monday during class, Tommy will read a letter by Bartolomeo Vanzetti, an anarchist executed for murder along with his associate, Nicola Sacco, in 1927. Damon and Ellen, are worried that the trustees will think that Tommy, is a Communist and fire him. Tommy, does not understand why he should not read the letter to his class.

Later Joe, arrives with flowers for Ellen's birthday, which Tommy has forgotten, and says that he and his wife are divorcing.

Later that evening, Keller learns about the letter and can not believe that Tommy would expose his students to something so un-American. Insulted, Tommy decides to read the letter to spite him.

 When Joe and Ellen dance together to an old song, Tommy is over come with jealousy. After the rally, Joe invites Tommy and Ellen to dinner, but.. Tommy says he is not feeling well and tells Ellen to go ahead without him.

The next day, the entire campus is in an uproar over Michael's editorial, and Tommy, believing that Ellen is still in love with Joe, decides she is better off without him. Even though, Joe does not really want to marry Ellen, he feels obligated to marry her if she leaves Tommy.

While Joe and Ellen are at the game, Tommy and Michael get drunk. Tommy says, if another male lion threatens to take away a lion's mate, he tears him apart. When Ellen and Joe return from the game, Tommy tells them that he wants to knock Joe out.

On Monday morning, Tommy, having been knocked out by Joe, must read Vanzetti's letter before the entire university. Will Michael be expelled from the university and will Tommy lose his job and his wife?

I'm writing this review as I'm  watching the film for the first time. I guess this a comedy, but I'm not sure.. It seems to have a serious story line. Fonda, does what he does best when standing up for what is right, while his reading of the letter to the crowd.  Carson, who was perfect in the roll as an ex-footballer and ex-boyfriend to Olivia de Havilland, who is always good.. 

Fun Facts:

Gene Tierney starred in the Broadway production as Patricia Stanley, she was to be loaned out to Warner Bros. but was cast in Tobacco Road instead.

Two of the "college students" in the cast went on to be well-known TV dads in the 1960s: Herbert Anderson (Dennis the Menace) and Don DeFore (Hazel).

Joan Agnes Theresa Sadie Brodel (born January 26, 1925), was known professionally as Joan Leslie. She began performing as a singer at the age of nine as part of a vaudeville act with her two sisters: Betty and Mae Brodel. She later began her Hollywood acting career while still a child, performing under her real name in several movies, beginning with her debut in the MGM movie Camille (1936) with Greta Garbo and Robert Taylor. She soon signed a contract with Warner Bros. In 1941, Leslie got her first major role in the thriller High Sierra with Humphrey Bogart, playing a crippled girl under her new billing as "Joan Leslie". She also starred in Sergeant York and The Wagons Roll at Night in that same year. Later in 1942 she appeared as James Cagney's wife in Yankee Doodle Dandy, and at the age of 18 in 1943, she starred in The Sky's the Limit with Fred Astaire. She starred in many more movies until 1950, when she married Dr. William Caldwell. Her last movie role was in The Revolt of Mamie Stover in 1956, and she eventually retired from acting altogether to look after her identical twin daughters Patrice and Ellen. She has appeared in several television commercials since then, and also made guest appearances in the TV shows Murder, She Wrote and Charlie's Angels. She also provided commentary as extras on the Yankee Doodle Dandy, Sergeant York, and High Sierra DVDs. Joan was a regular volunteer at the Hollywood Canteen where she danced with the servicemen and granted hundreds of autographs. In 1944, she starred with Robert Hutton in the Warner Bros. film, Hollywood Canteen.


  1. Missed it this morning, but I adore the cast in this movie and the way the "issue" and the romantic comedy aspects of the picture co-exist so perfectly.

    I adore the look that passes between Henry Fonda and Hattie McDaniel when he "impersonates" her on the phone. Too cute!

  2. I agree.. Wonderful cast. I always love to see the actress, Hattie McDaniel perform.

  3. Dawn, I haven't seen this. I had no idea Fonda and deHavilland made a film together. This doesn't sound like much of a comedy. Interesting storyline seeing as we were in the midst of WWII.

  4. Kim, I really wanted to see this film because it was the first performance I had seen Fonda and De Havilland perform in together.

    There are a couple of cute/funny scenes in the film and if I remember right, it is called a comedy.. I think that it is mislabeled.


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