In the second film adaptation of Philip Barry's play, The Animal Kingdom, the story is updated. A wealthy young man falls in love with a photographer and finances a liberal newspaper, but he makes the mistake of marrying a lying gold-digger.
At a surprise birthday party for Tom Collier (Dennis Morgan), Cecelia Henry (Alexis Smith) tells a friend she loves money most and will marry Tom Collier. Tom meets Cecelia but leaves the party with photographers Christie Sage (Ann Sheridan) and Frankie (Jane Wyman). Jim Fisk (Reginald Gardiner) is the editor of their liberal newspaper, and he says they need $7,000 to continue. Wealthy Tom agrees to take over the ownership. When a copper company offers six months of color advertising on the back cover, the others persuade Tom that it is better to refuse. He does so, knowing it will make his father's friends unhappy. As boss Tom gets to know and like Christie and asks her to marry him; but she is skeptical of wealth, says she does not love him, and goes off to Mexico.
Tom dates beautiful Cecelia and says he wants to have children; she agrees to marry him. At the wedding party she asks Tom to wait a while before having children. His wealthy father, Thomas Rufus Collier II (Thurston Hall), gives Tom a large check and asks him not to help the newspaper that is hurting his friends. Tom gives the check back; but Cecelia tells his father she is on his side and gets the check. The next day Tom receives a telegram from Christie, asking him to meet her at the airport. Tom tells Cecelia that he wants to tell Christie in person. After Christie says that she realized she is in love with Tom, he tells her he just got married. After missing her photographic exhibit because of Cecelia, Tom tells Christie he wants to go on seeing her as a friend; she agrees to meet him openly and in public. However, Christie tells Frankie how upset she is and says she cannot see Tom anymore. Frankie takes the message to a disappointed Tom.
Tom's butler Patrick (Jack Carson) is Tom's best friend; but Patrick drinks and does not like Cecelia, who asks Tom to fire him. Patrick tells Tom he got another job, and Tom lets him go. Jim tells Tom the copper company has been selling bad wire to the government that puts lives at risk in the war effort. Tom agrees to publish the investigative reports even though his father's friends may go to prison. Cecilia tells Tom that his father is the owner behind the copper company and that he will go to prison. Tom decides to cancel the series of articles. Christie comes to talk with Cecilia and says she wrote the reports and knows that Tom's father is not implicated. Cecelia admits she lied. Patrick is hired for a special dinner party. He overhears Cecelia talking with Tom's father and tells Tom that Cecelia lied. Tom confronts her, and she admits it. She also says she never wants any children. Tom is upset that their whole marriage is based on a lie. Tom goes to his real wife Christie while Cecelia goes to Reno for a divorce. Tom says he lost his shirt and has only the newspaper, but he is happy with Christie.
This drama explores the ethical issues that arise from
greed. Having wealth makes one a target of greedy schemers, and
Tom learns the lesson the hard way. In the permanent war economy
corruption in the weapons business is becoming a major problem.