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"Mogambo" is a remake of "Red Dust" (1932) and is not as good, nor as
but it's still not bad at all. Poor Clark Gable must choose between Ava
Gardner and Grace Kelly. With both actresses at the height of their
this is a tough call - but I would have taken Ava any day. She is
in this film - sultry, sexy and warm - very different to the flighty sex
kitten that Jean Harlow played so brilliantly in "Red Dust". And Ava is
photographed lovingly, in gorgeous colour, by Robert Surtees and Freddie
Young. She deserved her Oscar nomination.
Kelly is good too as the rather prissy wife of a very English scientist. But she's too nice - Ava is much more real. Gable was a bit old for the role here - after all it was 21 years after he first played it in "Red Dust" - but his performance is strong.
Great African scenery and animals too - "Mogambo" got out of the studio that confined "Red Dust". Who could forget Ava trying to feed a very hungry baby elephant and a baby rhino at the same time? The gorilla sequence was a little weak - in that the film stock used to film the gorillas was completely different to that used to film the actors - and the actors were obviously in a studio. But most of the work is on location and stunningly shot.
You'll have fun with this one.
PS In the canoe scene are they really talking about female circumcision?
I would like to share with those of you who might be interested to know
that my Father Mr Abiodun Oke Hughes was part of the tribal cast in
I remember growing up with that in mind and though I did a search for the cast tribe here on this site, unfortunately there wasn't one available to me.
So I wanted to do this, so all concerned would know how much we all still have the fondest memories of all his wondrous adventures while he was growing up.
Dad was only just in his 30's when this film was made and when I captured that 5 second shot of him out in the jungle, though it's only for a few seconds it still makes me proud to see it.
It still amazes me to know that my Dad worked along side the most unforgettable stars.
I guess I'm very proud to know the things I do about him. So I'd like to add my Father's memory for those of you out there, not only for my Family but also for my Dad. (may he rest in peace) So here's to you Daddy.
Abiodun Oke Hughes (19-12 to 19-86) We all love and Miss you
This is a strange, but good picture coming from John Ford. It's not
about the usual themes he normally tackles, it lacks the usual
supporting cast from a Ford film. Yet it is a good piece of movie
In a biography of John Ford by his grandson he said that Gable and Ford were friends for years, not particularly close, but friends nonetheless. Whenever they were together Ford and Gable talked about working together. Finally Gable got MGM to get Ford for his next film and it was Mogambo.
I like Mogambo because it was the start of a trend in Hollywood to show some realism when dealing with Africa. To this day there are people in the United States whose knowledge about things African were gained from Tarzan movies. African Queen, King Solomon's Mines, and Mogambo were all shot on location and all show the native Africans in reality. I was a kid at this time and my first bit of education about Africa came from Ramar of the Jungle. This is light years better.
Gable was criticized for reprising a role he did 20 years earlier in Red Dust. The plot line stays the same, but in Red Dust, Gable is the hard-nosed manager of a rubber plantation in Malaya. Gable as Vic Marswell here is a world weary and cynical game hunter and safari guide. Both portrayals are very good and very different.
By all accounts it was not a happy set. The usual problems with location in Africa presented themselves. In addition Frank Sinatra was on the set. He was waiting on word whether he would get the part he sought in From Here To Eternity. At the time he was married to Ava Gardner and there's was one of the most tempestuous marriages in Hollywood history. He was jealous of Gable as he was of all Gardner's leading men. To be just Ava kind of encouraged the jealous. When Harry Cohn gave him the word about From Here To Eternity he left with the gratitude of Ford, Gable, Gardner and everyone else, he'd become a royal pain in the neck.
Ava Gardner was one of the most beautiful women God ever created and a lot of times she could get by with that. But when called on to act she could. As Eloise "honeybear" Kelly she's as cynical in her own way as Gable was. They were a perfect fit. This was the last of three films she and Gable made.
I don't think Grace Kelly is shown to best advantage here. Her British accent was a bit affected. I'm not sure why MGM just didn't cast a British actress like Deborah Kerr in the part. Of course she also was involved with From Here To Eternity if I remember.
Mogambo because of the location shooting and much bigger budget is better than its predecessor Red Dust. For all the unhappiness on the set, the stars and its director did some good work.
'Mogambo' is not one of the greatest of John Ford's films, but it is still a solid piece of work. Clark Gable is at his manliest, and Grace Kelly is cast perfectly (though her performance is not so perfect). However, Ava Gardner steals the show. Scenes without her seem dead. Scenes with her are charged with sexy movement and funny double-talk. Of course, Ford himself makes great use of the African landscape, applying his brilliant American West photography to the jungles and rivers of Africa. A good piece of entertainment and recommended for John Ford fans.
Some stunning Technicolor photography of African footage and beautiful
AVA GARDNER are the sole reasons for watching John Ford's MOGAMBO, a
remake of "Red Dust" that starred Jean Harlow twenty years before this
Harlow's co-star, CLARK GABLE, is back reprising his role as the great white hunter (what happened to STEWART GRANGER???), but Gable has mellowed quite a bit and looks a bit too tired to be the love interest of both AVA GARDNER and GRACE KELLY--which is what the plot really boils down to. However, he is more than able to tame both of them.
GRACE KELLY still has the affected way of reciting her lines in a prim and princess-like way and is the less interesting of the two females. AVA GARDNER, on the other hand, livens up the story with her sarcastic one-liners and her ability to size up any situation and call a spade a spade. She's honest, frank and completely charming in her own way and walks off with every scene she's in, fully deserving her sole Oscar nomination.
But if you're looking for a real good story, MOGAMBO is not it. It has all the realism of a picture postcard despite the fact that much of it was filmed in colorful Africa. But the use of stock footage is also apparent as are shots of Gable and others before a process screen.
Fans of the stars should enjoy this one, but be warned--it's not without some serious flaws, mostly due to a weak script.
This fifties remake of Red Dust' casts Clark Gable again as the man trapped
by the attention of two very different women. Instead of Mary Astor we have
Grace Kelly as the repressed rich girl, while Jean Harlow's earthy character
is portrayed by sensual Ava Gardner, a predatory animal in the hot jungle.
The fourth player in the quartet (playing Kelly's husband) is Donald
Aside from re-setting the action, changing the name of Gable's character, and giving the movie a Technicolor treatment, Mogambo doesn't update the 30s classic that much. Gable is still portrayed as irresistible to women as he was when twenty years younger, and the plot still simmers in the way it did before.
Naturally all the stars went on to other interesting things after this Gable left MGM to spend his last few years as a lucrative freelance; Kelly had a couple more major roles before marrying into Monaco royalty; and Gardner moved into more mature sexpot roles (such as her similar role opposite Richard Burton in The Night of the Iguana' a decade later). Sinden remains best known for his television work but on film he was more than adequate with the more showy co-stars in Mogambo.
This movie is not bad at all if you have a couple of hours to spend wondering how the various twists and turns will unfold.
I think Mogambo may be John Ford's best film technically. The cinematography
is simply sumptuous. The colors and the compositions are some of the most
beautiful you'll ever see in a film. Too bad it's not in Cinemascope. I
would have loved to see those African landscapes in widescreen. The sound is
equally deserving of praise. Rare for a classical Hollywood film, Mogambo
contains absolutely no extra-diagetic music, i.e., a musical score. The only
music comes from a player piano, or African tribes' singing. That singing is
just amazing. Most of the background sounds, however, come from African
beasts and insects. It provides a threatening mood to the entire film. This
experiment pays off wonderfully.
Unfortunately, the narrative aspects of the film are lacking. The story, about an adventurer (Clark Gable) who takes a married couple on a safari to study gorillas, is passable. Actually, the meat of the story lies in the budding relationship between Gable and the wife, played by Grace Kelly (perhaps her role in Rear Window, which came out a year later, was inspired by this film). Ava Gardener plays a second love interest, a society girl from NYC, brazen and witty. The problems don't really arise from the plot, but from the characters. They are two-dimensional. Ava Gardener's role is the best, but the script begins to keep her away from the other relationship, which is treated more romantically. Gable's role is too cliche. It's paper thin, and I just never cared much what happened to him. But I think the real problem is with Kelly and her role. Her character changes in wildly unbelievable ways. It's almost as if she falls in love with Gable because, well, that's what women do when Clark Gable's in a movie! It doesn't matter that she's the second one to do so in the first half hour of the film.
The film also fails because of the vast amounts of stock footage used to show the wildlife of Africa. Often, this is acceptable. It's obvious that that footage was taken at some other time and with some other type of film than the main footage, but I can suspend my imagination up to a point. However, one particular sequence involving gorillas is rather awful. The party has a face-off with a group of them, and there is a lot of cross-cutting to create suspense. It never works. Especially silly are the shots of Gable standing in front of back-projected stock footage of a bull gorilla charging. I suppose these kinds of shots were impossible to fake anywhere near as well as we can do now. But I still find fault in it. It snapped my suspension bridge.
I love Mogambo, the cinematography is breathtaking, filmed in luscious technicolor and some of the characters are equally as colorful. The cast is headed by Clark Gable, who plays tough trapper Victor Marswell. Joining him is Ava Gardner, on fantastic form as fun-loving Eloise Kelly and her rival for Marswell's affections is Grace Kelly as Linda Nordley, a repressed anthropologist's wife. The banter between Gardner and Gable is superb and there is a chance to see a good performance from Kelly before she became known as Hitchcock's glamorous leading lady. Highly recommended!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
John Ford is usually considered the typical American director at the
peak of ability. All his best films remain compelling to this day,
although it is the westerns like THE SEARCHERS and MY DARLING
CLEMENTINE that are best remembered. But he did a number of films in
the last full decade of his work, with various stars. Besides Wayne and
James Steward, Ford did films with James Cagney, Clark Gable, Ava
Gardner, Grace Kelly, Tyrone Power, Lee Marvin, Richard Widmark,
William Powell, Jack Lemmon, William Holden, Spencer Tracy, Basil
Rathbone, and Edward G. Robinson to name just a few. Some of these
stars (Robinson and Tracy) worked with him in earlier films). But he
was determined to work with Gable, Cagney, Power, and pleased to work
with Marvin and Widmark (both of whom made two films with him).
Not all of these actors had pleasant times with Ford. He could be a tyrant and vicious with performers (Maureen O'Hara had a bad time with him on THE QUIET MAN - possibly her best film). His antics on MR. ROBERTS led to him being sacked and replaced by Mervyn Leroy. He had wanted to work with Gable for several decades, but Ford worked usually with 20th Century Fox or Republic (and occasionally for RKO and Warners) and rarely for MGM. It was not until 1953 that he and Gable finally got a chance to work together. It was a remake of RED DUST, the film classic that Gable made in 1932 with Jean Harlow and Mary Astor. And, judging from what we know from Ava Gardner's memoirs, it was not a fully happy occasion.
The screenplay was changed in many ways. RED DUST was set on a rubber plantation in Malaysia. Gable, twenty one years before, looked like the young, vigorous manager of such a plantation. Now, grayer and slightly grizzled, Gable was a safari leader and animal trapper (for zoos and circuses) in Africa. Gone was that interesting rubber plantation. Also the two women who are fighting for him are not as uneven as Harlow and Mary Astor were in the first film. Harlow was quite obviously a prostitute. While Ava Gardner's Honey Kelly was a good-time girl, she had a history suggesting not so much bordellos but trying to forget a tragic World War II romance. Astor's husband was Gene Raymond, who was trying to work at the plantation as an engineer. Grace Kelly was playing the upper crust wife of scientist Donald Sinden, who was trying to test a theory about gorillas.
The presence of so many animals in this version led to some sweet moments (or apparently sweet - Gardner actually did not like working with the animals) especially when she is with the baby elephant. Also there is a sequence where a tribe turns on the local game warden (he's dying when he's talking to Gable, and warning him to leave as quickly as possible), and Gable and the others flee just in time. One wishes more had been made of that sequence, but it was just tangential to the original plot of the story. The use of color film stock is rewarded in this version because of the scenery that is being used.
Besides the story's love triangle (or rhomboid - must not forget Sinden and Raymond before that), other characters are repeated. The drunken blabbermouth Donald Crisp is replaced by Eric Pohlmann. The wise old Tully Marshall is now replaced by Philip Stainton. Only the addition of an Irish priest (Dennis O'Dea) is different from the first film.
But the snap of the earlier, clever dialog (pushed really well by Jean Harlow's delivery) is missing. It is a good remake, but the original is still better as a film.
In all earnestness, can you imagine a more enjoyable way of spending two
hours than journeying through the jungles of Africa with Clark Gable, Ava
Gardner and Grace Kelly, in a film directed by the legendary John Ford?
Neither can I, and `Mogambo' does not disappoint.
It is a remake of `Red Dust,' a film made by Gable over twenty years earlier, and here (remarkably enough) Clark reprises his role from the first film, with a few small changes. This time around he plays Victor Marswell, a rugged big game hunter and safari leader. Into his African camp comes Gardner, a wisecracking American chorus girl stranded in the jungle and none too happy about it. She and Gable have a brief affair, but the arrival of a British anthropologist and his sheltered wife (Kelly) quickly puts an end to it. Gable agrees to lead the anthropologist on an expedition into gorilla country, and along the way he falls deeply in love with Kelly, and she with him. Gardner, feeling rejected by Gable, first tries to make his life miserable with constant innuendos, but later admits defeat and becomes his ally. In the midst of the gorilla hunt, Gable and Kelly try to find a way to explain their situation to her husband.
Their main problem is that the husband is just too likable. He is a decent, good-humored man who loves Kelly dearly and is filled with admiration for Gable, so neither wishes to hurt him. Meanwhile, developments occur in the Gardner character she once loved and lost, and is now on the lookout for another man, setting her sights on the macho Gable. She, too, is impossible to dislike, with her sharp wit and ability to size up every situation. She knows where she stands.
This is one of the few remakes in Hollywood history to equal, and in my opinion surpass, its predecessor. Of course, this film is not constrained by indoor sets as was the previous one, but there is much more to it than that. `Red Dust' was directed by Victor Fleming, certainly a competent filmmaker, but Ford was a master. He cleverly decided not to use a musical score, but instead to rely on jungle sounds and tribal chants for the soundtrack. Gable is more confident here than before, replacing his earlier smugness with a more mature and hard-bitten performance. Kelly, on the brink of achieving stardom, is rightly prim and proper but still produces a strong, rich characterization.
However, the film belongs to Gardner, who admittedly has all the best lines but makes even the mundane ones sound appealing. She lights up every scene she is in, and unfortunately those she is not in are weaker by comparison. Her performance is at once radiant, robust, perceptive and exuberant, and yet somewhat sad. She really gets under the skin of her character and gives arguably the finest performance of her career.
The bottom line is that this movie is downright fun. Everyone involved does a top-notch job, and not once does the story drag. It is beautifully photographed in Technicolor, and the animal sequences are exciting and well paced. It's a joy to watch from start to finish, and is highly recommended to all those who love movies. Enough said.
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