Tom Collier (Leslie Howard) is a publisher who has lived out of wedlock with his good friend Daisy (Ann Harding) for quite some time. But while she is away on business, Tom decides to marry Cecilia (Myrna Loy). When Daisy returns, he swears to Cecilia that any romantic feelings that he and Daisy might have once had are long gone. But when he goes to see Daisy to tell her about his engagement, he finds that Daisy still has feelings for him after all. When he tells Daisy about his engagement, he also tells Daisy he still wants to be friends with her, but she wants nothing to do with him.
After some time passes, Tom is becoming less and less satisfied with his life with Cecilia. She’s pressured him into turning his publishing company into a factory for cheap, trashy novels instead of the more artistic novels he used to prefer. He doesn’t spend time with his old friends anymore and Cecilia even wants him to fire his friend Red (William Gargan), a former prizefighter who now works as their butler. When he finds out Daisy is having an art exhibition in town, he wants to go, but Cecilia convinces him to stay home at the last minute. He eventually goes to visit Daisy on his own to make amends with her, but the encounter is enough to make Daisy want to leave town ASAP. But when Cecilia invites her to Tom’s birthday party, she reluctantly accepts.
During the party, Daisy realizes what Tom’s life has become and can’t help but pity him. He’s clearly not truly happy and when he sees Cecilia in a compromising position with Tom’s attorney Owen (Neil Hamilton), she can’t stand to stay around anymore. After the party, Tom and Cecilia get into an argument and realizes that he doesn’t really belong with Cecilia after all.
The Animal Kingdom is a pretty decent movie with an intelligent story. It reminded me a lot of Platinum Blonde with Jean Harlow. Not the greatest performances from either Myrna Loy or Leslie Howard, but they do just fine, as does Ann Harding. However, I enjoyed being able to see all of them working together. Keep in mind The Animal Kingdom was based on a play so it does get a bit dialogue heavy at times. But viewers who are unfamiliar with the pre-code era are sure to be surprised by how frank the dialogue gets.