6.9/10
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The Male Animal (1942)

Approved | | Comedy, Romance | 4 April 1942 (USA)
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The trustees of Midwestern University have forced three teachers out of their jobs for being suspected communists. Trustee Ed Keller has also threatened mild mannered English Professor ... See full summary »

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(screen play), (screen play) | 3 more credits »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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...
...
...
...
...
...
Ivan F. Simpson ...
Dean Frederick Damon (as Ivan Simpson)
Don DeFore ...
Jean Ames ...
Minna Phillips ...
Regina Wallace ...
...
Coach Sprague
William B. Davidson ...
Alumnus
Bobby Barnes ...
Nutsy Miller
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Storyline

The trustees of Midwestern University have forced three teachers out of their jobs for being suspected communists. Trustee Ed Keller has also threatened mild mannered English Professor Tommy Turner, because he plans to read a controversial piece of prose in class. Tommy is upset that his wife Ellen also suggested he not read the passage. Meanwhile, Ellen's old boyfriend, the football player Joe Ferguson, comes to visit for the homecoming weekend. He takes Ellen out dancing after the football rally, causing Tommy to worry that he will lose her to Joe. Written by Will Gilbert

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Romance

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Approved | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

4 April 1942 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Assim é que Elas Gostam  »

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Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The play by James Thurber and Elliott Nugent opened at the Cort Theatre in New York on 9 January 1940 and closed on 3 August 1940 after 243 performances. Don DeFore, Ivan F. Simpson, Minna Phillips and Regina Wallace originated their movie roles in the play. The opening night cast also included Leon Ames as Joe Ferguson, author/director Elliott Nugent as Tommy Turner, and Gene Tierney as Patricia Stanley. See more »

Quotes

Ellen Turner: You'd better take a hot water bottle to bed with you.
Prof. Tommy Turner: Nice of you to arrange for a substitute.
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Connections

Version of The Male Animal (1956) See more »

Soundtracks

Who?
(1925) (uncredited)
Music by Jerome Kern
Lyrics by Otto A. Harbach and Oscar Hammerstein II
Played and sung twice on the phonograph and played during the closing credits
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User Reviews

 
Home Wreckonomics---8/10.
14 April 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

On the outside, "The Male Animal" works most of the time as a lightweight comedy starring two heavyweight actors, Henry Fonda and Olivia de Havilland. However, from the inside, 'The Male Animal' is more than just a 'brain vs. brawn' type of film, it is a convoluted mess of love triangles, rival jealousies, and a liberal viewing of the moral ideals that separate liberal America from conservative America. And if that's not enough to chew on, there's also a superfluous sub plot that features a love triangle mirroring the lead love triangle.

This sub plot is one of the weakest parts of the film, perhaps because the supporting parts in it end up being largely inconsequential to the main plot and therefore just become lighter and younger copies of the main characters. Does it really matter that Patricia Stanley (Joan Leslie) finds herself caught between two college crushes, the first being the current football star Wally Meyers (Don DeFore) and the second being a nerdy journalism major named Michael Barnes (Herbert Anderson)? Not really, but I have the feeling it was supposed to.

The strongest attribute from this film comes by the way of the comedic interplay through the leading love triangle between the ex-football player Joe Ferguson (Jack Carson), his old cheerleader flame Ellen Turner (Olivia de Havilland) and her husband Tommy Turner (Henry Fonda). Much of the film centers on the homecoming of Ferguson and the subsequent home wrecking of the Turners. Ferguson's arrival brings out the young romantic dreamer in Ellen and the insecure jealousy in Tommy. Ellen and Tommy keep a smiling facade for Ferguson and school boosters who traipse in and out of the house, but behind closed doors lurk a lot of pent up questions that quickly turn to accusations. This love triangle works well through a good part of the film; however the impending, or rather, the implied and impending divorce arrangement that is understood, or better yet, misunderstood by the lead characters quickly becomes monotonous. One wonders how better this film would have been had it been directed by Preston Sturgess instead of Elliott Nugent. The funniest line in the film centers on the response Tommy gives Ellen when discussing Tommy's irritability at having to entertain house guests. Ellen suggests that Tommy have a soda to calm his nerves, to which Tommy calmly replies, "let's not bring this down to the level of bicarbonate of soda".

If the dizzy love triangles account for the comedy in this film, then it is the threat of a letter being read by Turner to his English Literature class, penned from the hand of a convicted criminal and communist, that makes up the drama of the film. Ed Keller (Eugene Palette), the chairman of the board of trustees at the college mentions to Turner that their college isn't a place for "too many ideas". Keller, although never having read the letter, thinks this type of letter goes against all that he sees as good in America; namely 'Abraham Lincoln', 'right guys, stand up guys', 'pep rallies with bonfires' and of course, 'The big game'.

Turner could always watch from the safety of his porch the yearly mob mentality of a pep rally during homecoming, when all that was at stake was a football game. However, this mob has assembled to burn him at the stake. His job, his marriage, and his safety all hinge upon whether he can make the whipped up mob not only listen, but try to understand the beauty and composition of the letter. Before Turner starts to read from the letter, his wife, in the audience with Joe Ferguson, looks on with pitying eyes. By the time that Turner has finished his letter and calmly walked off stage, she feels she's made a terrible mistake by not standing by her man.

What happens next is a very clean and tidy ending. Everyone in the film is in smiles and Turner finally gets to enjoy a rally away from his porch and his bicarbonate of soda.

Everyone in the cast has their moment to shine. Fonda and Carson get the bulk of what is good. Fonda seems at his best when he's in a film where he is standing up for what is right, whether it be as a juror in '12 Angry Men' or the voice of reason in 'The Ox-Bow Incident'. 'The Male Animal' is no different; his reading of the letter is brilliant. I didn't care too much for his drunken buffoonery that lead up to the end, but the letter reading at the end more than makes up for it. Carson is always a solid second banana. He is outstanding as the ex-footballer and ex-boyfriend to Olivia de Havilland. I always like to see Olivia de Havilland, she's always good, but she seemed just a tad wasted by the end of this film. She was great whenever she would become emotional at the realization of how difficult Fonda was making her decision to run away. She's a terrific actress who is easy on the eyes, but mixing comedy and drama in this film was not her highest moment.

Just like the trick 'Statue of Liberty' play employed by the school to win the big game, you might not appear to have had a ball watching this movie, but it still features a few extra kicks in it, and after all, that could be the small difference in the big game.

8/10. Clark Richards


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