The Male Animal

  • 1942
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Comedy

Charming adaptation of the comic play by Thurber and Nugent (who also directed the film) about a stuffy midwestern college professor who plans to read a letter written by Vanzetti (of Sacco and Vanzetti infamy) to his students. The trustees, lead by Pallette, say that Fonda will be fired if he dares read the missive that was penned a few days before the...read more

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Charming adaptation of the comic play by Thurber and Nugent (who also directed the film) about a stuffy midwestern college professor who plans to read a letter written by Vanzetti (of Sacco and Vanzetti infamy) to his students. The trustees, lead by Pallette, say that Fonda will be fired if

he dares read the missive that was penned a few days before the alleged anarchists were executed. At the same time, Carson arrives in town. He's an old flame of Fonda's wife, de Havilland, and she is, once again, taken by his dubious charm. Carson has come home for "the big game," and Fonda thinks

he's just a big, beefy bore. Anderson is the editor of the school paper who writes an editorial in which he applauds Fonda for his decision to read the controversial letter. The editorial also states that the school seems to have a bias against liberal teachers. Simpson, the dean, is irate and

warns Fonda that his job is in jeopardy. Matters come to a head when de Havilland suggests that Fonda forget about reading the letter. He refuses and cites the First Amendment. She gets angry, they quarrel, and she exits to join Carson at a cocktail party. Fonda and Anderson meet and get drunk

together, and this infusion of whiskey courage causes Fonda to say he will never let his wife be stolen by another man. When Carson and de Havilland return to the Fonda home, they find Fonda smashed so badly that he attempts to fight the bigger Carson and only manages to knock himself unconscious.

Carson lifts Fonda, puts him to bed, and realizes that he may be in the middle of a separation. Although he likes de Havilland, that's as far as it goes; there's no way that he is about to steal her away. On the following day, Fonda reads the letter in the school auditorium. He's slightly hung

over from the drinking the night before, and, as he reads the real letter, the trustees and other members of the faculty relax visibly when they hear it. The letter contains no politics whatsoever; in fact, it's a lovely plea that calls for humanity to understand. Tears are seen at the corners of

some eyes, and de Havilland and Fonda are reunited.

Director Nugent not only cowrote the play, he also starred in it on Broadway. He insisted that Fonda was the only person who could do it justice on screen. The remake, SHE'S WORKING HER WAY THROUGH COLLEGE, was terrible. Fonda eventually played it on the stage in the 1950s, when he accepted an

offer from his onetime stock company to do the role. (One of the supporting parts in this stage version was essayed by an up-and-coming actress who had a hugging relationship with Fonda. It was his daughter, Jane.) In small roles, note Gig Young, David Willock, and Audra Lindley as students, as

well as Raymond Bailey and William Hopper as reporters.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Charming adaptation of the comic play by Thurber and Nugent (who also directed the film) about a stuffy midwestern college professor who plans to read a letter written by Vanzetti (of Sacco and Vanzetti infamy) to his students. The trustees, lead by Pallet… (more)

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