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The Male Animal (1942)

Approved  |   |  Comedy, Romance  |  4 April 1942 (USA)
6.9
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 774 users  
Reviews: 19 user | 9 critic

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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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
...
...
...
Herbert Anderson ...
...
Ivan F. Simpson ...
Dean Frederick Damon (as Ivan Simpson)
Don DeFore ...
Jean Ames ...
Minna Phillips ...
Regina Wallace ...
Frank Mayo ...
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

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

4 April 1942 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Assim é que Elas Gostam  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

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

Prof. Tommy Turner: [Reading Vanzetti's writing sample, at 1:35:40] If it had not been for these things, I might have lived out my life talking at street corners to scorning men. I might have died, unmarked, unknown, a failure. Now we are not a failure. Never in our full life can we hope to do such work for tolerance, for justice, for man's understanding of man, as now we do by accident. Our words - our lives - our pains - nothing! The taking of our lives - lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fish peddler - all! ...
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Connections

Version of She's Working Her Way Through College (1952) See more »

Soundtracks

The Old Grey Mare
(uncredited)
Traditional
Played during the opening credits and later sung with modified lyrics as a football fight song
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User Reviews

 
Cute at times, but it's pretty trite overall
19 July 2005 | by (Milwaukee, WI) – See all my reviews

There are some actors and actresses who can seamlessly cross film genres, and then there are some who don't. While I have not seen a lot of comedies starring Olivia de Havilland, I do know that from what I have seen, despite the occasional moments of inspiration (her turn as a young, star struck debutante in "It's Love I'm After" was particularly charming) she really does her best work in melodramas. Unfortunately, in Elliott Nugent's 1942 film "The Male Animal", de Havilland proves that her successful comedic turns are most certainly an exception and not the rule.

"The Male Animal" focuses on Tommy Turner, (Fonda) an English professor at Midwestern College in Michigan. His effervescent wife Ellen (de Havilland) is both celebrating her birthday and planning a dinner party the eve of the small college town's biggest football game of the year. Tommy, a fairly serious academic, is vexed when he finds out that one of their weekend guests will be Joe Ferguson, the former captain of the football team and all-around campus hero. Joe and Ellen have a romantic history together (she was head cheerleader to his football hero), an element that is further complicated when he finds out that Joe is recently separated from his wife. A subplot involving Ellen's younger sister Patricia and her two beaus mirror Ellen's situation; boyfriend #1, Wally, is the current football star and boyfriend #2, Michael, is a scholar. The two plots collide when Michael writes an editorial for the school paper hailing Tommy's decision to read a letter written by Bartolomeo Vanzetti (of Sacco-Vanzetti fame) in his class the following Monday. Tommy soon becomes a target for the school's trustees and his job situation becomes unstable while he decides whether he is going to succumb to the trustees and not read the letter, or exercise his academic and personal rights. Between his job situation and his fear of losing his wife, Tommy ends up having an unprecedented weekend.

Like the plot itself, "The Male Animal" is conflicted in the kind of movie it wants to be. On one hand, it is a goofy physical comedy wrought with misunderstandings worthy of Shakespeare (or Three's Company), yet it throws in a fairly compelling subplot concerning the freedom of speech element that is great on its merits, but coupled with the silliness around it, it doesn't quite fit. Fonda is a great, laid-back actor who doesn't look lost with comedy, and while my first impression is that he looked a little lost and befuddled during the high hilarity, I can safely attribute that to the character that he played. de Havilland, on the other hand, is charming for a total of 15 minutes of her screen time and spends the rest of the film being shrill and acting helpless. It is films like this that remind me of her comedic limitations; actresses such as Bette Davis or Myrna Loy are able to slide effortlessly between the comedic and dramatic genres I think, because they have a wryness about that. Davis is able to deliver a comedic line with a whip smart raise of an eyebrow and Loy has the aplomb and class to deliver a line with typical dry humor. de Havilland, at least in my experience, doesn't always possess these gifts, and therefore failed in this film. Jack Carson played the same kind of role here as he did in "Mildred Pierce" or "Arsenic and Old Lace"; he is predictable, but his predictability works.

"The Male Animal" is billed as a comedy/romance, and there is indeed some comedy and some romance. Unfortunately, by throwing in a heavy subplot involving something as important (and, admittedly, refreshing) as freedom of speech, particularly when it involves a convicted anarchist, it both waters down the romantic comedy aspects and lessens the effectiveness of the statement it is trying to make about personal and academic freedoms. If the film had either handled these conflicting themes better, or gave up on one or the other entirely, the film may have been more enjoyable, but as it was presented, and despite the fact that it featured a couple of actors I really enjoy, I can only give "The Male Animal" a 5/10.

--Shelly


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