6.8/10
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21 user 11 critic

The Male Animal (1942)

Passed | | Comedy, Romance | 4 April 1942 (USA)
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2:29 | Trailer

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It's Homecoming weekend at Midwestern University, the weekend which will culminate with the big game between Midwestern and Michigan. Homecoming marks the return for the first time in six ... See full summary »

Director:

Elliott Nugent

Writers:

Julius J. Epstein (screen play), Philip G. Epstein (screen play) | 3 more credits »
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2 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Henry Fonda ... Tommy Turner
Olivia de Havilland ... Ellen Turner
Joan Leslie ... Patricia Stanley
Jack Carson ... Joe Ferguson
Eugene Pallette ... Ed Keller
Herbert Anderson ... Michael Barnes
Hattie McDaniel ... Cleota
Ivan F. Simpson ... Dean Frederick Damon (as Ivan Simpson)
Don DeFore ... Wally Myers
Jean Ames ... 'Hot Garters' Gardner
Minna Phillips Minna Phillips ... Mrs. Blanche Damon
Regina Wallace Regina Wallace ... Mrs. Myrtle Keller
Frank Mayo ... Coach Sprague
William B. Davidson ... Alumnus
Bobby Barnes Bobby Barnes ... Nutsy Miller
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Storyline

It's Homecoming weekend at Midwestern University, the weekend which will culminate with the big game between Midwestern and Michigan. Homecoming marks the return for the first time in six years of alumnus All-American Joe Ferguson, whose world is all about football and especially his place in it. Mild-mannered English Professor Tommy Turner is able to handle the thought of Joe's return to campus as the ex-boyfriend of Tommy's wife of six years, Ellen Turner née Stanley, who is temperamentally more like Joe than him. Tommy knows that Ellen loves him, the reason he doesn't mind the thought of Joe. The weekend starts off well enough for Tommy in that he believes he is being promoted from associate to full professor, which if be the case would be much earlier than he or Ellen had expected. However, it comes to his attention that Michael Barnes, an idealistic student of his who is also the editor of the campus' literary magazine, has written an editorial for the upcoming edition of the ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

SHE turned a lamb into a lion!

Genres:

Comedy | Romance

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

4 April 1942 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Assim é que Elas Gostam See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

"The Screen Guild Theater" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on December 28, 1942 with Olivia de Havilland and Jack Carson reprising their film roles. See more »

Goofs

While the camera is zooming into Henry Fonda right before he is going to read the infamous letter, on the right of the screen, you can very plainly see the boom mike pole shadow edging across the screen. 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.
See more »

Connections

Version of The Male Animal (1956) See more »

Soundtracks

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
(1933) (uncredited)
Music by Frank Churchill
Lyrics by Frank Churchill and Ann Ronell
Sung a cappella by Henry Fonda
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Cute at times, but it's pretty trite overall
19 July 2005 | by FilmOtakuSee 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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