Mogambo

MogamboSuggested by Brad Nelson • Out leading a safari in Kenya, Clark Gable has the choice of Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly on the menu. Both are potentially dangerous wildlife. Will Mrs. Nordley’s marriage survive the hot Gable charm? Can Gardner vixen her way into his arms instead?
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2 Responses to Mogambo

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Continuing the Ava Gardner retrospective, Gardner is a different actress from the flat one she played in “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman.” She’s pure electricity. That could be due to a part that better suits her. More likely it is due to the direction of John Ford. Reports are that, after some initial abrasiveness, they got on swimmingly. Gardner certainly shows she is the master of the drop-dead gorgeous woman who successful combines some more in-your-face masculine traits. She’s a hard drinker, hard-talker, and hard-lover (as she was in real life).

    But mostly she is on the sidelines as Gable pursues the married woman played by reserved Grace Kelley. Her fidelity is not to be undone easily. After all, she’s married to the man she has known since early childhood.

    Gardner, and the various animals filmed on location, make the movie sparkle. This is a remake of 1932’s studio-based Red Dust that also starred Clark Gable. The script isn’t Shakespeare but the drama is keen. Stars fill the screen.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I watched about half of “Red Dust” last night. I’ll do a fuller review later. But it’s interesting to note the differences.

    Clark Gable in 1932 was a young, handsome, and I dare say, virile young man. The Gable of “Mogambo” (1953) was physically quite diminished. I think like Errol Flynn, Gable is known for living a hard-drinking life. He looked a bit used and withered in 1953.

    But, boy in 1932 he was something else. But in 1932, his acting style (at least in this movie) consisted of little more than barking out lines. In “Mogambo” his performance is varied, nuanced, and rich. He’d become a good actor.

    Also, the love interest in “Red Dust” makes much more sense. Jean Harlow plays the same character that Ava Gardner did in “Mogambo.” And in “Red Dust,” Harlow really does play a somewhat brainless, low-class girl — quite in contrast to the proper and respectable Mary Astor. And Harlow certainly doesn’t have the looks of Gardner. (In fact, I’ve never cared much for Harlow at all.) So in “Mogambo,” it’s a bit of a reach that Gable throws over the much more dynamic Gardner (who exudes elegance and style, if with a rougher edge) for the mousy little blonde, Grace Kelly. But it makes ultimate sense that he would prefer Astor to Harlow in “Red Dust.”

    I’m enjoying “Red Dust.” The movies themselves are indeed much the same. “Red Dust” is set in Indochina where Gable’s character has a rubber plantation. “Mogambo” is set in Africa where Gable’s character captures animals for zoos and such. Much of the dialogue and situations are similar. Both “nice” ladies slap Gable and then later apologize after seeing Gable devote such attention to saving their husbands from their fevers…which starts them on their way to their romantic fever.

    At this point, I prefer Astor over Kelly and Gardner over Harlow. (Gardner’s continual change of dress — all of them looking spectacular on her — is a site unto itself, especially as enhanced by Technicolor.) And although “Red Dust” is entirely shot in a studio, it still has a good look to it. I’d say the main shack is superior to the Technicolor one in “Mogambo.” It’s well-crafted and there’s something to be said for that stark black-and-white.

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