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Gable & Harlow Get Torrid In The Tropics
Ron Oliver6 April 2001
The fetid RED DUST of a Malaysian rubber plantation is the 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 to 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.
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One of My Favorite Pre-Code Films
cng44 June 2003
To me this is one of the films that defined the Pre-Code Era. Complete with prostitution, adultery, sex as a major plot point, partial nudity (well, much more than was allowed during the Code enforcement), drunkenness, and strong women characters, this film has it all. Plus, it has an extremely engaging storyline, interesting setting, and an explanation of how rubber is made. Aside from the racism present, this film is great. One of the most interesting things about this film, which I have studied a great deal as a part of my senior thesis in undergrad film school, is the freshness of the dialogue. Coming only a few years after the addition of sound to films I was shocked to find how fun and refreshing the dialogue was. Whereas lots of films these days disappoint me in that the dialogue is so overly cliched and stale, Red Dust has lines about favorite cheeses and stories read about bunnies-- how fun!

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.
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Gable & Harlow without interference from the Production Code
stwhite30 August 2003
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
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Pre-code period piece melodrama with intelligent writing.
radkins6 July 2002
Context is an important element in viewing any work of art or commerce and 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 the 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, showing the freely running passions of Gable and the two women, while in retrospect, 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 delivered by Jean Harlow. Harlow notices Fung giggling at her underwear, to which she replies " 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.
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Harlow/Gable chemistry is unmatched in cinema
oneway19 December 1999
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.
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Highly charged
Michael Bo11 July 2004
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 Gable.

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.

Heartily recommended.
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Gable and Harlow raise the heat
moviefreak3730 November 2003
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.
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Gable, Harlow and Astor make for one good film
Matthew Dickson9 September 2005
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.
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Steamy sizzling - Harlow outdoes Gable
amboyd20 February 2002
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!
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A Trip to Cinema's Past with a Timeless Theme
Ralph Michael Stein10 January 2004
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.

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A Sultry Film about Rubber Plantations
theowinthrop14 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
It's a soap opera, but it is also a terrific film in terms of acting and emotional power. And it fits in nicely, by locale and subject matter, with Bette Davis' later film THE LETTER.

Clark Gable is the manager of a rubber plantation in the Malaysian jungles (this is nine years before the Japanese invaded Malaysia). He lives there with fellow workers Tully Marshall, Donald Crisp, Forrester Harvey, and Willy Fung. Word is sent to Gable that a new man, Gene Raymond, is being sent as well. Gable (who has been going around the plantation on his duties, returns to find that someone has arrived: Jean Harlow who is a prostitute stuck until the steamer comes (which will be bringing Raymond) in about a week.

The film was made before the Hollywood code was given it's teeth by the Breen office and the Catholic Legion of Decency. So Harlow's character is very salty with her double entendres, and suggestive sequences (like when she is bathing in the water tank, or when Willy Fung giggles at her antics with considerable pleasure). Even Tully Marshall gets a zinger across, regarding how he could have given her some new tricks if it was only 1894.

Gable is not too happy at first (he sees Harlow as disrupting the orderly running of the plantation), but gradually he becomes used to Harlow - more than that, they are starting an affair. But the steamer arrives, and in comes Raymond - with his wife, the poised and worldly Mary Astor. Gable is quite struck by Astor, much to Harlow's dismay. This was a usual dilemma for Harlow in film after film (although occasionally she played society dames). In CHINA SEAS it was Rosalind Russell who was the rival with class. In WIFE VERSUS SECRETARY it was Myrna Loy who gave her the competition. She fights back, but she is aware that she comes across as too close to the street. Oddly enough (or sensibly enough, perhaps) MGM never thought of pairing her with or opposed to Joan Crawford as a rival.

Harlow leaves, and soon Raymond comes down with malaria. Gable is now thrown together with Astor, and an affair begins. It has not progressed far when Harlow returns after the steamer develops a broken engine. Gable is carefully considering his moves vis-a-vis Astor, with Harlow making barely veiled comments about their antics. It does not sit well with Marshall, Forester, and Crisp either (Raymond is the only one who is oblivious to the situation due to illness - but he's recovering!). When Raymond is ready to take his job the matters reach the boiling point - will Gable betray his new colleague with Astor, or will he come to his senses and resume actions with Harlow?

As pointed out the set is the same as that used in the same year by Joan Crawford in RAIN. It's very effective. So are such touches by Vincent Flemming as the brief sequence showing how tree sap is turned into rubber with the addition of chemicals.

The characters are not really bad (except, perhaps, the surly, usually drunk Crisp - a turn from his silent villainy as "Battling Burroughs" in BROKEN BLOSSOMS - but his biggest moment of villainy is when he ignites Raymond's belated jealousy and anger at Gable by just being a big mouth). That the soap opera antics are compelling is a monument to the script's dialog, it's actors, and the director. You can't really ask for more than that.
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"You can check the wings and halo at the desk."
utgard1413 April 2014
Wonderful pre-Code film with Clark Gable playing a rubber plantation owner in Indochina. Jean Harlow plays a prostitute that becomes an unwanted visitor of Gable's. Unwanted for a little while, at least. She is Jean Harlow, after all! Then an engineer arrives at the plantation along with his wife (Mary Astor). Gable quickly takes an interest in Astor, tossing Harlow aside.

This movie would make the career highlight reel of all involved. Good script and solid performances from all. Gable is at his charmingly gruff best. Harlow is sexy, fun, and very likable. Possibly my favorite role of hers. Astor is quite good, too. Even Gene Raymond works well and I usually can't stand him. This was remade as "Mogambo," directed by John Ford. It also stars Gable but with Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly and the setting moved to Africa. It's not as good as this one but still worth checking out. This one, though, is a classic that everybody should see.
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first key role at MGM for Harlow
didi-53 March 2007
This film was the one which really showcased Jean Harlow, fresh at MGM after a stint at Columbia, and a film or two as one of the muses of Howard Hughes.

In real life she'd married and been widowed in quick succession, and although the Paul Bern scandal must have been a strain, it doesn't show here on screen. Harlow is absolutely luminous, a wise-cracking hardboiled good-time girl with a soft centre and a hint of innocence. What else could she be but a bright platinum blonde? Mary Astor, tight-laced and classy, arrives at the sexually-charged rubber plantation with feverish husband Gene Raymond, and catches the eye of wide-boy hard-man Clark Gable (a real he-man of the 'grab em by the hair' school).

A fascinating slice of 1930s pre-Production Code history, 'Red Dust' sizzles and is always in heat. Remade as 'Mogambo' and apart from the addition of colour, some recasting (Gardner for Harlow, Grace Kelly for Astor, Donald Sinden for Raymond), it remained a heady brew, even down to the indefatigable Mr Gable reprising his role as Carson!
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"Do you think I'd live in a menagerie like this?"
classicsoncall20 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
It's always cool to come across an unexpected little gem like this, kind of makes you thankful for tuning in to Turner Classics on the spur of the moment and have your viewing decision made for you. This was a surprisingly entertaining film, due in large part to Jean Harlow's sassy presence as the woman of questionable virtue, Lily Vantine. You didn't really need a steamy jungle set with Harlow and Gable in tow, they pretty much provided their own. Speaking of which, this is probably the wettest picture I've ever seen. The actors must have been a mess most of the time while filming.

The setting for the movie was kind of interesting I thought. Obviously located somewhere in the world like Indochina or the Phillipines, recurring reference was made to a town called Sagaing, or at least that's the way closed captioning spelled it. I pretty much decided that it must have been Saigon, so that would place the story in Vietnam some three or four decades prior to the conflict that would consume the globe throughout most of the Sixties and early Seventies. I just find that kind of fascinating.

This was my first look at Gable and Harlow together and it was a pretty successful screen pairing. The arrival of Mary Astor at Denny Carson's (Gable) rubber plantation sets up the sparks that follow in a relationship I didn't quite get between her character and Carson. Though obviously attractive, I didn't see the appeal of her character to the masculine likes of Carson when someone like Vantine was around. But then again, maybe that was part of the challenge, and Gable plays it to the hilt. The idea that Carson attains a humble streak of nobility makes the resolution to the story credible, though I WAS shocked when Babs (Astor) shot Denny. Where did she get the gun?

Other reviewers on this board note the racist elements in the story with some dismay, but I think you have to consider how films of the era reflected attitudes of the time. This was not uncommon, and viewing most stories like this today I don't get the impression that the film makers were supportive of racism, but were merely showing that it existed. With that in mind I think Hollywood helped in improving racial and ethnic relations over the course of time. With that said, I do have to admit that Willie Fung's Hoy was a pretty pathetic character.

Besides the line of dialog in my summary quote, it appears that Harlow had all the best lines in the picture. Probably some of the best scenes too. The bath in a rain barrel is classic and is probably the one that will remain with you long after the rest of the picture fades from memory. Just one of the many bits here that make the picture such a treat for fans of pre-Code films like this.
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"We all slap each other out here"
Steffi_P6 February 2012
The creation of a star in classic Hollywood was not just a case of finding the right man or woman, it was about creating the right persona. Clark Gable had been in movies for several years by the time of this, his breakthrough picture, first as a bit player, then as a (usually villainous) supporting actor, before finally landing romantic leading roles. It wasn't necessarily that he took time to hone his abilities (although that was some part of it); it was more that it took a long time for everyone to figure out what kind of a guy he should be.

Red Dust is in many ways the perfect romantic melodrama – a steamy exotic location, a jagged love triangle, sex that while passionate is never gratuitous, and of course the desirable lead performers. It's just the kind of setting to show Gable off at his best, allowing him to appear sweaty, unshaven and loose-shirted. Put this man in a tuxedo and he became decidedly boring, but in Red Dust he sizzles. The movie doesn't demand a great deal from him acting-wise, but he knows how to pose with an air of virility, and can carry a woman to bed without appearing rapey. Love interest number one, Jean Harlow, was never really an exceptional actress but she's at her most natural and laid back here. Love interest number two, Mary Astor, on the other hand matches Gable for sexual presence despite her well-mannered bearing. There's a lot of attraction in her ability to switch from propriety to passion. Her acting is also the best of any on display here.

This was Gable's first pairing with director Victor Fleming, a craftsman whose approach really suited the manly star. Fleming's movies are all about constant movement. Actors will almost always walk as they talk. It stops the movie from ever seeming slow or dull. Fleming would coach his cast in some detail about how to act. Although Gable and Astor begin to realise their feelings for one another on a fast-paced trot through the jungle, he has them stop for a moment to give emphasis to important lines. He also has actors bark out their dialogue, and make every movement sharp, almost aggressive. And Fleming was a master shot composer, often juggling foreground and background, or knowing how to frame a really iconic moment like Gable and Astor's kiss.

Although he'd had a number of leading roles before this, it was Red Dust that really sealed Gable's superstardom. His career as a desirable hero would have huge longevity, and I'm reminded of Lillian Gish's comment about the women in Hollywood ageing while the men stayed forever young. Before long Mary Astor would be playing middle-aged and increasingly minor characters, even though she remained very beautiful. Gable on the other hand continued to be a screen lover for more than two decades. When they came to remake Red Dust as Mogambo in 1953 the female roles were filled by hot young newcomers Grace Kelly and Ava Gardner. Gable, twenty-one years older, was still cast as the man they fought over.
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And the Sparks Fly!
drednm7 July 2005
Excellent drama set on a rubber plantation stars Clark Gable as a rough-and- tough boss who drives his men to produce rubber in a harsh southeast Asian locale (they mention Saigon a lot). He's awaiting a new surveyor to join his small band on white men (Tully Marshall, Donald Crisp) and Asian workers. But the boat brings Jean Harlow instead, a call girl who has fled the city for a while. Gable and Harlow are terrific as they spit and snarl at each other befall falling into each others' arms. But then the new kid arrives (Gene Raymond) with a wife! Mary Astor (the wife) has one of her first great roles in talkies in this film. Her arrival sets off all kinds of sparks with Gable and with Harlow. The husband is sick right off, allowing Gable and Astor to get friendly. Great chemistry among the stars here, and a very adult script for 1932. Two memorable scenes: Harlow taking a bath in the water barrel; Gable carrying Astor through the torrential monsoon rains. Certainly ranks among the best performances of the 3 stars. Raymond has the thankless role of the wimp husband; Crisp is the drunk; Marshall is the loyal sidekick. Willie Fung (Hoy) and Forrester Harvey (Limey) round out the cast. Hard to believe Harlow is only 21 here and had already made more than 25 films, dating back to silent films in 1928. Oddly, Harlow, Astor, Gable, Marhsall, and Crisp had all started in silent films. It's wonderful to see these stars at their peak. Not to be missed.
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Steam Heat in the Malayan Jungle
bkoganbing26 December 2005
One thing about the old Hollywood studios, they never let anything go to waste. Look very carefully and you'll see this is the same set on which Joan Crawford and Walter Huston filmed Rain. And the plot's real similar about some hormone driven men and women in the jungle.

Clark Gable is the manager of a rubber plantation in the Malayan jungle and if the only company you had at the plantation were Tully Marshall, Donald Crisp, and Willie Fung you'd get the itch too. Along comes stranded Jean Harlow and it's hinted at that she's a working girl. Red Dust was pre-code so ladies of easy virtue were permitted.

Then comes newly assigned Gene Raymond and his bride Mary Astor. She's a lady, more unattainable and hard to get. Well maybe not so hard. Testosterone and estrogen take over for Gable and Astor.

Now this plot should sound very familiar and it is the one of the more recently filmed Mogambo. Mogambo in fact is a remake of Red Dust. Of course since it was shot on location in Africa where Gable is a white hunter instead of a plantation manager, it's production values put Red Dust to shame. I like Mogambo better because of that and the story line was more mature. The only flaw with Mogambo was the miscasting of Grace Kelly. Mary Astor is far her superior.

One thing though, I would never want to have to pick and choose between Jean Harlow and Ava Gardner. I don't think anyone else would want to choose either.

Gable is still Gable, but in 20 years time he's moved from the hardnosed cynical plantation manager to the world weary game hunter. But a man's man all the way.

Of course Red Dust became notorious because of the death of Harlow's second husband, producer Paul Bern during the filming. That tragedy turned out to be a box office gold mine for MGM.

Still fans of the stars will like the work they did here.
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Spirited Exotic Romance.
Robert J. Maxwell22 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This is a lot of fun as long as you're not looking for poetry. It's a product of the old studio system, with actors, directors, and gofers under contract, grinding out one production after another, with a lot of seasoning and skill.

Director Victor Fleming ("Gone With The Wind", etc.) was a sturdy man's man, vulgar and given to drink. Gable earned his paycheck and didn't care what the result looked like. Jean Harlow enjoyed herself, despite the long hours and the recent death of her oddball husband. Screenwriter John Lee Mahin wrote a hilarious parody of middle-brow Hollywood productions in the style of James Joyce's "Ulysses." (Last sentence: "yes -- but on a higher plane.") John Ford's remake in the mid-50s, "Mogambo", illustrates the difference that twenty years can make -- same male star, but a bigger, splashier, more worrisome production set in Africa instead of IndoChina. Gable went big game hunting. Ford thought it was disgusting.

This 1932 effort takes place in a studio-bound jungle out of which Gable has carved a rubber plantation. He's been shacked up with the raucous Harlow and kicks her out before his new Administrator, Raymond, arrives. Raymond gets there on time but shows his weakness by promptly falling ill, leaving Gable alone with Raymond's inexperienced young wife, Mary Astor.

Since Gable keeps tearing off his shirt at every opportunity and oozes pheromones, it isn't long before Gable sends Uriah, I mean Raymond, off for a long trek into the bush, while he balls Astor back at the Big House. By this time Harlow has returned, her exit boat having gotten stuck in the mud. She sees immediately what's up and engages in a lot of sarcastic sniping.

Gable has been planning to get rid of Raymond and keep Astor for himself but discovers at the last minute that he has a heart after all. This is always the kind of realization that brings misfortune. In this case it takes the form of a bullet. But everything winds up happily, this being an old-fashioned studio production.

Gable's ears are more impressive than his muscles but it doesn't matter. He's masculine enough and that's what counts. Harlow is saucy and takes a nude bath in the drinking water. That's okay with me too.

As I say, it's much fun, but I did miss the usual exotic city scene with the men sporting white suits and pith helmets and an abundance of beaded curtains.
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SMHowley10 June 2002
This movie is early Hollywood at its best. Harlow and Gable feed off each other's energy delivering excellent performances, especially in their squabble over which cheese is best, Roquefort or Gorgonzola. Later, there is a shot of Harlow as she watches Gable and Astor from a distance. The shot is a close-up and as Harlow watches them, her lower eyelids flicker just once, but it reveals more about her jealousy than any dialogue could. The film is horribly racist in its ignorant depiction of Asians but it's also over 70 years old so recognize that it was wrong, realize how far we've come, move past it and enjoy the rest.
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It Sizzles
Incalculacable20 April 2006
In this pre-code romance set in Indo-China Clark Gable and Jean Harlow sizzle up the screen in absolute style - this feat has never been matched up to the present day. I believe that Jean Harlow outshines Gable acting wise - she delivers her lines so well, with such ease! You can almost feel the electricity between them (despite the fact they were simply friends in real life). Gable plays a rubber plantation owner who gets involved with the wife of one of his employees, meanwhile a prostitute on the run is falling for him. Will it end happily, or in tragedy? The original of Mogambo (1953), this would be especially interesting for anyone wanting to see the original, or to Gable, Harlow, Astor fans, or just anyone who loves movies from this era. It is a piece of Hollywood history that is amazing to watch over 70 years later.
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Red Hot Dust
GManfred11 December 2015
Golden Age fans will love this one, a Pre-Code film that's much like a filmed stage play - in fact, it's based on a play which, by all accounts was even racier than the movie. It was made in 1932 and certainly couldn't pass muster after the inception of the Hays Office, but nowadays anything goes; odd someone hasn't tried. They would be hard-pressed, though, to find a better cast, especially the two principals. Gable and Harlow are perfect together, the animal magnetism fairly leaping off the screen. Gable was the very model of modern masculinity at the time, and Harlow his female counterpart.

Some reviewers noted an element of racism woven throughout the picture, but they should give it a rest. The world in general and society in particular were vastly different from the modern PC era. Also of interest is the support cast, headed by Mary Astor, who admittedly was a better actress than Harlow but minus the manifest 'feminine wiles'. In a departure from more dignified roles, Donald Crisp plays vulgar drunk and to excellent effect.

Have you seen it? If not, do so. It's well worth your time just to see how the 'pros' used to do it, inherent plot flaws notwithstanding.
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unmatched for sheer screen presence
moonbus-982-51939810 April 2011
For viewers who may not be familiar with Jean Harlow, this is a terrific film to start with. Her screen presence was unmatched; certainly the sexiest actress on the silver screen until MM, and extremely well-matched with Gable. Harlow plays a sassy hooker who gets most of the clever lines ("I don't usually sleep nights.").

Gable is perfectly cast as the rough plantation owner living in a thoroughly man's world with no use for women (except as playthings). The man had more screen presence in his little finger than most actors have at all. His boyishly arrogant grin after Astor slaps him is simply great.

Mary Astor shines as the lady who should be above all this but who succumbs to Gable's animal magnetism. Her face as she reflects on the first wild kiss is a landscape of emotional turmoil: "Oh my God, what have I done? Wasn't it wonderful though!"--should be required viewing for any aspiring actress.

There's not much plot--it's yer basic love triangle story: who's he going to end up with? The woman with class, or the sassy hooker? Astor's character is out of her depth in the jungle setting, so she's easily overwhelmed by the overly self-confident Gable-character. Gable's character is out of his depth with a woman of class; she would normally be out of reach for him anywhere else. Their dalliance makes sense only in that setting. Harlow at first snipes at her rival, Astor, but soon realizes that Astor is really only a victim and redirects her heavy artillery at Gable instead. The banter is terrific and bears rewinding as it goes by so quickly.

The film lives from its dialog and clever lines. Considering that the film was made so soon after the introduction of talkies, it holds up extremely well--credit to director Fleming, no doubt. The dialog in Marocco, made two years earlier with Gary Cooper and Marlene Dietrich, was awful by comparison--stilted, wooden, very awkward, and cannot be attributed to lack of actors' ability, but lack of experience with talkies as a medium. Fleming showed that he had mastered it already.

A few commentators have derided the film for being racist. DUH. The colonial powers occupying Indochina at the time were racist and probably treated the locals much more savagely than in the film. Sure it's painful to watch--it should be! Drop the political correctness nonsense and just enjoy the banter.
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Gable and Harlow
Michael_Elliott28 February 2008
Red Dust (1932)

*** (out of 4)

Victor Fleming film has Clark Gable playing a tough as nails rubber plantation owner who has a fling with a blonde (Jean Harlow) but falls in love with a married woman (Mary Astor). Here's another film I've been meaning to watch for quite a while now and it was worth the wait, although I was hoping it would be somewhat better. The film's biggest asset is the terrific cast who all give wonderful performances. This is just the type of role Gable was born to play and he has terrific chemistry with both Harlow and Astor. Gable manages to be quite a jerk but also tender at the same time, which is what made him so legendary. Harlow is very funny in her role and Astor steals the show as the woman getting in over her head. The Pre-Code elements are also very strong with Harlow constantly showing off her body and the scene in the tub is priceless. The underline sex going on throughout the film also sets it apart from other movies of its time. I think the weakest thing was some of the plot, which is pretty familiar but the ending certainly packs a nice little punch and it somewhat made me curious if the writers of Casablanca were influenced by it.
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Great for fans of Gable or Harlow.
dain_bramaged_92610 July 2005
If you've never seen a Gable/Harlow movie, "Red Dust" would be a good place to start. Although this film's plot is not as strong as some of the other movies featuring this duo, their chemistry is unbeatable.

Harlow plays Vantine, a 'hooker with a heart of gold' (forgive the cliché) who finds herself stranded in plantation owner Carson's house. (Carson is played by Gable in one of his most rugged and manly roles). Unfortunately for Vantine, who finds herself falling hard for Carson, one of the plantation worker's wives, Barbara (Mary Astor) is also staying in the Carson household. Carson is bewitched by Barbara's elegance and poise and soon can't be bothered with Vantine and her loud, exuberant ways.

This movie only drags on once (in a scene where Gable and Harlow are separated) but other than that, it is very absorbing and romantic. Another thing that was sort of difficult to get through was Mary Astor's character in the movie. She manages to cry through nearly every scene, making the viewer feel nothing but an annoyance with her character.

However, Gable and Harlow make up for all this with a particularly steamy performance. A glance between those two is somehow sexier than any love scene could ever be and they share enough steamy moments together to keep the viewer transfixed.

All in all, a great movie for Gable or Harlow fans, but for those who are hoping to see Mary Astor at her best, I would look elsewhere.
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tedg11 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this with "Star Spangled Rhythm" which features Betty Hutton. I was bowled over by her screen energy, but not even that prepared me for this.

Jean just completely dominates this rather tepid story with her crackling crisp dialog. What she delivers she does outside of the story which is supposed to have her watching a film romance between "her" man and someone else's woman. A good writer would have invented something other than the simple sassyness we have here, especially since we already have a bird as an observer. But this was before Sturges.

But no matter, its just great to watch controlled exuberance. I think Clara Bow had it. Marilyn only pretended and I suppose that was good enough at the time. Are there only a few?

Screen energy is so rare, I suppose because after about 38 or 40, Hollywood movies started to take on an energy outside of the characters. Actors had to fit in unless if it was truly cinematic, and that automatically introduces constraints on the energy. So we get a different kind of honesty and appeal, either a smile (like the pampered Julia) or raw risk (like Emily Watson in "Breaking the Waves").

Although the Vietnam environment is pretty stagy, it does reflect on some rather heavy colonial attitudes that were then current, (though the exploiters in this case would be French).

I have no idea what the title means. Perhaps it was clear in the original play. Which also probably did more with the character played by Crisp.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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