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Adapted from the stage comedy by Philip Barry, one of Broadway's most sophisticated playwrights, RKO's The Animal Kingdom tells the story of a publisher (Leslie Howard) who marries a sexy but unsympathetic woman (Myrna Loy) yet wants to maintain his relationship with the woman he really loves (Ann Harding). The movie provided a crucial turning point in the career of Loy, who had been typecast in exotic roles; her most recent role at her home studio, MGM, had been Fah Lo See, the sadistic daughter of Boris Karloff in The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932).
David O. Selznick, then head of production at RKO, was the first producer to see Loy's potential in roles requiring a cool comedy style. "Most casting successes are a matter of common sense," Selznick later wrote. "Myrna Loy had been playing Oriental sirens for years, which was always a joke with people who knew her." Selznick added that, when director Edward H. Griffith suggested that Loy be borrowed from MGM for The Animal Kingdom, "I leaped at the idea...It's strange that she was so long in reaching her natural field." Within a couple of years, of course, Loy would become MGM's queen of sophisticated comedy in The Thin Man and other films.
Still, before she was awarded the role in The Animal Kingdom, Loy had to make a test. Director Griffith talked Leslie Howard, the film's star, into acting opposite her. Loy recalls that her "wonderful Mexican maid, Carolla, who always pampered me, fixed scrambled eggs laced with garlic sausage before I left for the studio." The test went fine, although Loy noticed that Howard - who would later come to adore her - seemed a bit stand-offish. When she asked Griffith what Howard thought of her, the director replied, "He thought you were very good, but wondered if you always eat so much garlic."
Director: Edward H. Griffith
Producer: David O. Selznick
Screenplay: Horace Jackson, Adela Rogers St. Johns (uncredited), from play by Philip Barry
Cinematography: George J. Folsey
Editing: Daniel Mandell
Costume Design: Walter Plunkett (uncredited)
Cast: Ann Harding (Daisy Sage), Leslie Howard (Tom Collier), Myrna Loy (Cecilia Collier), William Gargan ("Red" Regan), Neil Hamilton (Owen), Ilka Chase (Grace).
by Roger Fristoe