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For those that have never seen a pre-Code film, RED DUST is a great film to begin with. It certainly isn't shy about dealing with adultery, prostitution, or heavy drinking. Although it was made over 70 years ago, it holds up extremely well by today's standards. This is due to a well written script that dealt with these subjects directly and wasn't restrained by the Production Code that was enacted 2 years later. Later films either didn't deal with this type of content or did so in a way that was ridiculous. It is also due to the performances of a rugged and virile Clark Gable and a strong willed and street smart Jean Harlow and a strong supporting cast. There is no doubt as to the sexual stamina of their two characters. We find this out early and often. One example is when Gable tucks money down Harlow's dress and says, "It's been nice having you." and spanks her behind. Most modern films would have shown a sex scene while films subject to the code would have treated its audience as children and made us aware in a ridiculous way that would satisfy the censors. The scene where he warns her against misusing the plumbing and attempts to pull her out of the water barrel(yes, she's naked, but we don't see the nudity) while the society woman he is trying to seduce watches on is hilarious. Clark Gable and Jean Harlow made one the better on screen couples of that time. It is a shame that her career was tragically cut short. I also enjoyed the scene where a frightened Mary Astor slaps him across the face for his indifference to the plight of her sick husband and he responds with a smug and confident grin. The movie also gives one an appreciation of the primitive conditions people lived in on a rubber plantation during that time. RED DUST is directed by Victor Fleming who would later direct THE WIZARD OF OZ and Clark Gable in GONE WITH THE WIND. People have complained that this film is racist, but need to realize that the world was a much different place in 1932 than in 2003. If you can do that, you'll probably enjoy this film. 9/10
The fetid RED DUST of a Malaysian rubber plantation is
setting for an adulterous triangle involving the quick-tempered,
rawboned manager, a brassy American prostitute & the
upper-class wife of a new employee. Together, they're about
heat up the tropics.
Although blessed with good acting & fine production values, this is merely a soap opera set in the jungle. MGM was pushing the moral envelope here, seeing just how far they could go with libidinous behavior - and in those pre-Production Code days that was pretty far. Clark Gable & Jean Harlow exude sexuality, openly lusting for each other & spreading hormones around the screen. Harlow's lines (of dialogue) are both witty & suggestive, while Gable talks with his eyes and his hands. They were a perfect cinematic match and this film was such a big success that they would repeat the same basic plot 3 years later in CHINA SEAS, although the Code would cause that film to be a bit more covert.
Mary Astor adds a wrinkle to the plot as another fine-looking female for Gable to mate with, but the audience is never in any doubt that gorgeous Harlow will get him in the end. The rest of the cast (Gene Raymond, Donald Crisp, Tully Marshall & giggling Willie Fung) are good in small roles.
It should be noted that the story line contains racist elements, not unusual in a Hollywood film of that era.
By the way, the bedtime story Harlow is reading Gable at the end of the movie is a parody - and a good one - of the animal stories by Thornton W. Burgess which were very popular at the time.
To me this is one of the films that defined the Pre-Code Era. Complete
prostitution, adultery, sex as a major plot point, partial nudity (well,
than was allowed during the Code enforcement), drunkenness, and strong
women characters, this film has it all. Plus, it has an extremely
storyline, interesting setting, and an explanation of how rubber is made.
from the racism present, this film is great.
One of the most interesting things about this film, which I have studied a
deal as a part of my senior thesis in undergrad film school, is the
the dialogue. Coming only a few years after the addition of sound to films
shocked to find how fun and refreshing the dialogue was. Whereas lots of
these days disappoint me in that the dialogue is so overly cliched and
Red Dust has lines about favorite cheeses and stories read about bunnies--
All and all, this movie is terrific. Clark is as virile as anything and Jean Harlow is full of strength and sass and dimensions-- just a great female character. And hell if she isn't going to fight for her man! Mary Astor's character is also very well done as we see and believe that Clark is just so tempted by her and she by him. I recommend this movie to anyone and everyone-- It's a 120 times better than its remake, Mogambo, which despite Gable's presence just totally loses everything that Red Dust had.
Context is an important element in viewing any work of art or commerce
movies are both. "Red Dust" at it's core is about human weakness and
strength, in degree and in full force. Mary Astor, a star since appearing
opposite John Barrymore in "Don Juan", plays a repressed wife who doesn't
believe in the strength of her husband (Gene Raymond) nor her own weakness
when it comes to resisting the animal magnetism of rubber plantation owner
Dennis (Clark Gable). Conversely, Gable doesn't realize his weakness in
letting himself get involved with the ladylike Astor and underestimates
strength of prostitute Vantine (Jean Harlow) who, when Astor shoots Gable,
gives witness to Raymond that his wife is innocent and that Gable deserved
shooting. For it's time, 1932, "Red Dust" is sexually progressive,
the freely running passions of Gable and the two women, while in
it's depiction of Asians is as poor stereotypes. Willie Fung, who plays
Gable's houseboy, is also derided as gay in the script by the line
by Jean Harlow. Harlow notices Fung giggling at her underwear, to which
replies "Gee...you even find them in the jungle."
"Red Dust" has a tremendous "back story" as well. John Gilbert was to play the part of Dennis originally as an attempt to bolster his masculine image which had been damaged by the higher-than-anticipated timbre of his voice as recorded by early sound equipment. With the sensation caused by Gable when he returned Norma Shearer's slap in the face in "A Free Soul" Gable's star rose mercurily. No "hero" ever countered the indignation of the leading lady before, and certainly not the divas at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Gable was a whole new breed of leading man. Jean Harlow's star had been on the ascendant after scoring a huge hit in "Red Headed Woman" a scandalous story of a secretary who sleeps her way to the top. The realism of these two performers in those films made them a natural for the raw jungle tale of passion and betrayal. In the middle of the making of the film, Jean Harlow's producer-husband, Paul Bern, was found dead. The scandal that followed frightened the studio who thought that Harlow's career was over. Scandal had ruined the careers of Fatty Arbuckle and Clara Bow, causing their studio (Paramount) to loose millions on their films. M.G.M. was surprised when Harlow's fame and popularity increased. For her part, Harlow returned to the studio and never spoke an unkind word about her late husband. Bern, it turned out, had a common law wife who had emerged from years-long institutionalization and confronted him about his new wife.
Racism is not a key element in the plot of "Red Dust". For that, you would have to see "The Mask of Fu Manchu" where the Asians are neither lazy nor stupid, but sexual predators, instead. Or you could watch any number of other World War Two American movies with Asians in them. But for accurate Pre-censorship Hollywood adult dialogue and plot, "Red Dust" will do nicely, thank you.
Red Dust is definitive proof that Gable and Harlow were a unique phenomena in the field of cinema chemistry. It is also stands as a prime example as to why Harlow became a star so quick. She is a loveable sex goddess, and there has simply been no other like her. The way she stares at and chides Gable, and the sheer image of delight which graces her expressive face when she's in his presence, is something that couldn't be taught in any acting college. It is pure Harlow. The production value is quite adequate for 1932, with Harlow playing a prostitute on the run who happens upon Gables rubber plantation. The arrival of Mary Astor and her husband played well by Gene Raymond, threatens Harlow's chances with Gable, as he takes a liking to the pleasant demeanor of Astor. The rain-barrel scene in which gable scolds Harlow for being to "care-free" is one of Hollywood's most memorable film moments. This film was remade as "Mogambo" by John Ford in 1953. The role of "Vantine" (occupied by Harlow) was assumed by Ava Gardner, and the Mary Astor role was assumed by Grace Kelly. Though more than competent in their roles, neither of these actresses could recapture the spark that made Harlow and Gable the "it" couple of the 1930's.
A very entertaining movie with Gable and Harlow at their best.They really shine in their roles.Also a good performance by a young Mary Astor.It's easy to see that Clark Gable consolidated his newly won fame with this film.He shows his magnificent charisma on the screen perhaps for the first time to full effect.Harlow matches him all the way.An inspired pairing.
If you can't stand old films that perpetuate and even celebrate racist
notions, skip 1932's "Red Dust." Putting that historical reality in
perspective, "Red Dust" is a very good, well-acted film set in a studio's
fantasy of the Indo-China jungle and its rubber plantations.
Where would film have gone in depicting real romantic relationships with steamy exchanges and barely hidden amorous capers if, two years after "Red Dust," the puritanical code that stifled sexuality hadn't been imposed? Who knows but here Clark Gable as Denny, a plantation manager, Jean Harlow as Lily, a woman who, as they used to say, was no better than she ought to be and lovely Mary Astor as Babs Willis act out an adult story.
Babs is married to "gosh, oh, golly" idealist and almost straight man Gary Willis, played with affecting naivete by Gene Raymond. Gary works for Denny who is working Babs. Sent away into the deep black-and-white monsoon greenery of the jungle by Denny, Gene is thankful for what he thinks is a fine job opportunity. Also happy are Babs and Denny whose obvious affair is portrayed without any of the sweaty gymnastics that are the staple of today's films.
Enter Lily who really loves Denny and knows she's the only true tramp for him. Gene is planning (in 1932!) for a house in Westchester County, NY (then a true rural backwater, not a suburban one) complete with kids. Denny doesn't know what he wants and Babs loves him but she hasn't forgotten she's hitched.
Director Victor Fleming lets this story play out within, barely, the bounds of then acceptable storytelling.
"Red Dust" shows up on movie channels and is available for sale. It's an important piece of Hollywood's pre-war history and is still a viewer-grabbing flick.
A pretty good movie. Red Dust is one of the films that made Clark Gable a star and it's easy to see why. In it, he plays the kind of likable rogue character that audiences would come to know him as. Gable is Dennis Carson, the operator of a rubber plantation in Indochina, who is all business until his world is turned upside down by two women. First Vantine Jefferson (Jean Harlow), a prostitute looking for a place to lie low arrives. Then a prospector and his wife, Barbara (Mary Astor), show up at the plantation. Both women are unwelcome intruders into Carson's world at first, but soon they each end up igniting his desire. Fooling around with the floozy Vantine is easy, but things get complicated when Carson's eye falls on the married Barbara. With his more than questionable actions, any other actor might have been completely unlikeable in the role, but Gable somehow pulls it off. Harlow and Astor also give very good performances. It helps that the heavy subject matter and brash duologue, adapted from a stage play, was not watered down too much for the screen version. Definitely a well made film worth seeing.
Red Dust without a doubt is the best movie Harlow and Gable ever made together or separate! Harlow is magnificent and looks like a dream. She puts Gable in his place every time he utters a word. But together, they are magic - such chemistry! The rest of the cast just fades when these two melt together. Two scenes that are memorable - Harlow bathing in the water barrel and cleaning out the parrot's cage. Wow! She is dynamite. There is no other blonde bombshell that even comes close to this original!
Erotically highly charged melodrama that fairly sizzles, even today, more
than 70 years later. Cinematography has a plasticity and a sheen to it that
makes the film gorgeous to look at, editing is highly efficient and gets the
job done and the story told, and the acting is fabulous. I wasn't prepared
for the physical impact of the young Gable, how he makes absolutely no
excuses for his raw sexuality and libido and how amazingly attractive he
was. Harlow as well, I was prepared to find her vulgar and shallow, but she
was quite good and certainly had a chemistry thing going with
Recommended, and please, all of you insisting that this is an inexcusably racist picture, any work of art needs to be judged by its own unique standards, and those of its time. Racism in movies today is a lot subtler, but certainly exists just like it did in the early 30s, and politics or no politics it doesn't detract from the greatness of this genre movie.
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