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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A sizzler to some, but really just a tepid tryst in the tropics

Author: SimonJack from United States
30 October 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Some movie buffs seem to think that if a movie is "pre-code" it must be good. Or, if it "sizzles," it must be interesting. Well, I like a good number of Hollywood movies made before the Hays Office enforced the studios' own code. Some definitely have sizzle. Others don't but they're good. There also are some real stinkers. Most are somewhere in between. I think a film needs more than sizzle to be very good – whether "pre-code" or later. It should have a good plot and screenplay. It should have good production qualities. It should have good sets, good camera work and good direction and editing. And the cast should all give good performances.

"Red Dust" has an interesting plot, and it has lots of sizzle. But unfortunately, it suffers in most other areas. The only very good performance in the film is Jean Harlow as Vantine. Harlow has true talent that never seems to be wasted in any of her films. She has a persona of a tough cookie, and often naughty girl in most of her films – comedy or dramatic. I would like to have seen her in a different type of dramatic role, and in a wacky comedy to see how she could handle such roles. Unfortunately, she died at age 26 from blood poisoning due to kidney failure.

As much as I like Clark Gable as an actor, I think he way overacts here in his character as Dennis Carson. And, for the first half of the film, he's a very unlikable fellow. We know Gable can be boisterous and cantankerous, but he's loud, complaining and grouchy to the point of being obnoxious in the early part of this film. Now, in contrast, Mary Astor plays way under her role. She gives the impression of one just biding her time as this soap opera plays out. Her performance seems wooden throughout the film. As Barbara Willis, she arrives with her husband on a boat at the rubber plantation upstream in a country of SE Asia. She changes at the drop of a coin from a prim and proper attitude at the start, to a withdrawn, apologetic milquetoast in the next scene, and then to a very familiar and perky person for a short time. Talk about mood switches in a movie. When Dennis comes on to her so quickly and blatantly, she seems to easily slip into adultery with so little struggle.

Tully Marshall and Donald Crisp are OK in their roles as McQuarg and Guidon. Gene Raymond as Gary Willis is just so-so. He seems too fragile and out of place – and not because he comes down with Malaria. Perhaps they made his character that way for greater contrast with the rugged, crude and vulgar Dennis. But, I think it made the direction and casting seem weaker. Willie Fung's role as the giggling Malaysian cook, Hoy, is goofy. The rest of the supporting cast are mostly native workers.

Some others have noted that the set was recycled from another film or two. It doesn't appear to have weathered very well. Pun aside, most of the settings for this movie had the feel of being on stage. I am in a different frame of mind when watching a play on stage, than I have when watching a movie. With a play, I know it's constrained and confined, so I delve more into the plot. With movies, I imagine that we're looking at a scene set in a house surrounded by lawns and woods or city, or in the outdoors that runs on and on. So I know that the characters could suddenly move outside or take off in a car. It has a sense of openness and looking down on real life from an eagle's vantage point.

The production quality of the DVD I watched is quite poor. Apparently Victor Fleming directed this film, but he's not credited for it. I wouldn't think he would care that much, because this is far inferior to most of his work. I give "Red Dust" six stars for the sizzle and Jean Harlow's acting. She is a hooker with a good heart who falls for Dennis. The soap opera ending was almost laughable. Although, Gable came close to convincing one that he had repented and didn't want to ruin the nice kid, Gary's marriage. This is an early look at Gable in the days before he grew a mustache.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Very worthwhile comedy with details

Author: dizozza from New York, NY
23 March 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It is problematic to identify with a reprehensible leading man, and that's the worthwhile opportunity this movie affords. Clark Gable plays an interesting character, an able and capable master of an unsupervised and inhospitable domain. I used to think Mr. Gable was a one-tone actor. He's far more multi-layered when teamed with Jean Harlow, and she's too smart and articulate for words. The three person dynamic of her always near Gable and Mary Astor is charming and even funnier since Gable takes it as a given. The sound recording technique still seems new in this movie so I miss some of the casually spoken dialog, but whenever I catch more of it, it is always a riot. The atmosphere is detailed and perfect. There is so much to see.

The movie looks like it's leading toward tragedy; what a pleasure to arrive at a comedy payoff...

Mary Astor is quite beautiful too, and in thinking back I suggest she's entitled to some sympathy and justification, since she succumbs to a man shifting his weight in an isolated position of a power. Anyway, let her and her husband (Gene Raymond) live the hypocrisies of civilized society...

Bring those rubber trees to Fordlandia!

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Harlow and Gable.... MGM's Best Pairing Yet!

Author: blondevixen1937 from United States
30 June 2005

My second Gable film that I ever saw, I was flabbergasted by how racy this film was. Doesn't it make it even more lovable? Clark Gable stars as Dennis "Denny" Carson, who happens to be in charge of a rubber plantation in Indonesia. One of his partners returns on a boat with lovable Vantine (played by the ravishing Jean Harlow) and things merely heat up from there. Metro made a fantastic pairing of young Gable and very-blonde Harlow, for she knew how to beat him at his own game. This movie is very famous in its own right: Paul Bern, Harlow's then husband, committed suicide during filming and it made the most money in 1932, a million dollars. Not bad for the Depression. A great film, so make sure to watch for it on Turner Classic Movies!

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Fine melodramatic example of an all-star 30's movie

Author: nickandrew from PA
2 September 2000

Gable and Harlow are at their very best here--he is an Indochina Rubber Plantation worker, she's his floozy girlfriend, and Astor is the married woman who complicates things by falling in love with him. Corny it may be, but marked with memorable performances that makes it classic Hollywood entertainment. Remade by Gable in 1953 as Mogambo.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

The plot is just a framework for some great precode moments

Author: calvinnme from United States
14 November 2010

The setting is the tropics of Indochina, a rubber plantation to be specific. Dennis Carson (Clark Gable) is the owner of the rubber plantation, beset by the constant troubles - both human and natural - of running such a farm in a primitive place. Constantly surrounded by men, one day Dennis finds he has double trouble on his hands. First the prostitute Vantine (Jean Harlow) is foisted upon him because she is giving the law a wide berth due to her profession, and this looks like a nice secluded spot to lay low. Vantine actually falls for Dennis - she playfully calls him Fred - however, Dennis just thinks he is another john and that it's all in a day's work to Vantine.

To add to his troubles, Dennis' new surveyor brings his wife, Barbara, along (Mary Astor), and the only place fit for a woman to live is in Dennis' home. Dennis sends the surveyor on a long stay in the jungle "to increase production", but he really just wants some alone time with Barbara, and Barbara returns the sentiment. Before her husband returns from the jungle Dennis and Barbara have fallen in love, but do they have the heart to tell her young husband? Watch and find out.

There really is not much of a plot in this film other than to give a steamy lusty setting to a steamy lusty tale. This is a precode film, but if you analyze it frame by frame it is completely tame by today's standards. Even given the freedom of the precode era there were limits as to what could be shown, and thus almost everything is insinuated and it is up to the viewer to mentally project what happens. To me, this makes this film very erotic versus the biology lessons of today's films that show everything. Of course you do have some great visual cues, mainly Harlow's on-the-level prostitute bouncing about Dennis' home scantily clad and of course there's Harlow's famous bath in a rain barrel scene. Mary Astor's prim and proper Babs is a great contrast to Harlow's character as she gets swept up in events bigger than herself - her affair with Dennis - yet still seems to act like she thinks she's better than Vantine. Vantine's catty remarks, as she is hurt by Dennis' rejection of her, are classic Harlow all the way.

This is one of my favorite precode films, and I heartily recommend it to anybody who enjoys films from the precode era.

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6 out of 11 people found the following review useful:


Author: tedg ( from Virginia Beach
11 January 2005

*** This review may contain 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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red dust

Author: josephmcgrath-62358
7 August 2016

what a great movie. I just watched it on TCM. jean Harlow,and Clark gable were a stupendous combo. both of their character portrayals were right up their ally. both had a crusty edge to them. gene Raymond continued to be a actor I am impressed with every time I see him, in these older movies. he was also very good in a later movie Mr. &mrs. smith with Robert Montgomery,and Carole Lombard. he plays a great straight guy character,and very unassuming,almost naive. Mary Astor was great as the unfaithful wife, with more polish than the character Harlow played, but not as happy go lucky,and not street wise. Mary Astor was beautiful, and a great actor. she adapted well as the years advanced in Hollywood. her rolls were always perfect, with her advancement. she was a talented and very sophisticated lady in real life,and a accomplished author as well. her roll in Maltese falcon, and little women showed her diversity,as well as a movie that the title escapes me with Bette Davis, George Brent. I have enjoyed the tribute to Harlow.

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Rubber in French Indochina

Author: gavin6942 from United States
11 July 2016

The owner of a rubber plantation (Clark Gable) becomes involved with the new wife (Mary Astor) of one of his employees (Gene Raymond).

The movie was remade by director John Ford in 1953 as "Mogambo", this time set in Africa rather than Indochina and shot on location in color, with Ava Gardner in the Harlow role and Grace Kelly playing Astor's part. Clark Gable returned, twenty-one years later, to play the same character. Ford used African tribal music as the film's score.

I like the idea of a film set in French Indochina, especially one made in the 1930s. Now, all anyone associated with the region is the Vietnam War (both the French and later American parts), and it is interesting to see it from another angle -- although, in a sense, it is sort of the same angle. This is very much a film about Western colonialism, even if that was not the original intent.

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Sexy and Slippery When Wet

Author: LeonLouisRicci from United States
7 April 2014

A Product of its Time in Hollywood, this is a Stunning Star Pairing that was Indicative of a Clark Gable and Jean Harlow Personification of Their On Screen Personalities. Gable the Man's Man and Harlow the Free Spirited "inner woman" with the Libido on Full Display.

The Film is Famous for its Pre-Code Sexuality Literally Dripping off the Screen. The Movie's Backdrop of the Jungle Drenched in Torrential Rain and Exuding Primal Instincts. The Banter is Double Talk and Sarcastic and Mary Astor's Naive Newly Wed Vulnerability is Laid Open for the Predatorial and Unrestrained Promiscuous Gable to take Advantage.

This is Basic and Raw Stuff. The Pulp Fiction of Romance and Rough Housing among the Willing and before it was Taboo on Screen to Shine a Bedroom Light on such things. The Movie is Entertaining and it has been Pointed Out that it Contains much Racism. It does so with Uncomfortable Realism that just like the Sex was and is a part of Life that in an Historical Context, is better Explored than Expunged

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Lust and Clothing in Southeast Asia

Author: wes-connors from Los Angeles
11 April 2014

In Southeast Asia, rugged plantation owner Clark Gable (as Dennis "Denny" Carson) is annoyed to discover an overweight drunk in his rustic jungle home. He tosses the bum in a bed and discovers platinum blonde prostitute Jean Harlow (as Vantine Jefferson) laying there in the sheets. The two are mutually attracted and begin copulating when the camera drifts out of range. Shipwrecked and stranded, Ms. Harlow starts to imagine a commitment, but Mr. Gable states, "I'm not a one woman man." Gable next sets his sights on ladylike but lusty Mary Astor (as Barbara Willis), who arrives with her ailing husband Gene Raymond (as Gary Willis) for hunting and surveying. He is impressed with Gable's hunting prowess while she checks out her host's animal magnetism...

"Red Dust" provided film-goers with the irresistible prospect of seeing Gable and Harlow saunter around half-naked (something acknowledged in the film's script). They still have the attraction, while Ms. Astor manages to hold most of her own during her time on screen. Stalwart character actors Tully Marshall and Donald Crisp are also nice to see – fully clothed. But giving them all competition for getting attention is Chinese housekeeper Willie Fung (as Hoy); originally good for a few chuckles, his character is almost jaw-dropping today, buck teeth and all. Also interesting is that Gable was still taking off his shirt and chasing women as "Red Dust" became "Mogambo" (1953) over 20 years later. Don't imagine Harlow and Astor would be asked to reprise their roles.

****** Red Dust (10/22/32) Victor Fleming ~ Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Mary Astor, Gene Raymond

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