“Star Of The Month (February 2021)” Featuring Clark Gable in… Mogambo (1953)

We’re back again for another film featuring actor Clark Gable as we continue to celebrate him as the Star Of The Month for February 2021!  This time, it’s the classic 1953 movie Mogambo, also starring Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly!

(Note: for those who may have noticed, I originally planned to review Clark Gable’s 1936 film San Francisco today, but then that movie was announced as a new February 2021 Blu-ray release. So I decided to delay that review until I’ve had a chance to see that new disc. Hope you still enjoy this one!)

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pink Panzer (1965)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 5 minutes, 50 seconds)

The Pink Panther and his neighbor are slowly being turned against each other by the narrator. The action builds up as the “narrator” eggs the two on, until all-out war erupts. This cartoon is both an entertaining one, while also being disturbing about how easily small resentments can build up over time between those who seem to be at peace with each other. Paul Frees voices both the neighbor and the “narrator” (and does a really good job, particularly with the “narrator” whose reveal at the end of the cartoon certainly makes sense). Certainly some fun to be had with this one.

And Now For The Main Feature…

When safari guide and hunter Victor Marswell (Clark Gable) fails to catch a black leopard, he returns to his cabin, only to find that it’s been occupied by Eloise “Honey Bear” Kelly (Ava Gardner).  Apparently, she was invited to join a maharajah there, but he had left before she arrived. Now she is stranded there for about a week until a boat can come to take her away.  She’s not happy about it, but she tries to work around it.  She quickly becomes friendly with Victor’s friends and co-workers John Brown-Pryce (Philip Stainton) and Leon Boltchak (Eric Pohlmann), and a relationship starts to develop between her and Victor.  However, when the week is up and the boat arrives, Victor makes her pack (which hurts her feelings).  Arriving on that boat is anthropologist Donald Nordley (Donald Sinden) and his wife Linda (Grace Kelly).  While Victor knew they were coming, he is less than thrilled when Donald announces his intention to go up to the gorilla country, so he refuses to take them.  However, their argument is short-lived when Donald starts getting sick from a tsetse fly vaccination, and Victor has to help take care of him.  While that’s happening, Eloise returns, as the boat had run aground, so she is stuck with Victor and his crew again while the boat’s skipper waits for parts to repair it.  Eloise starts to notice hints of attraction developing between Victor and Linda Nordley, and starts trying to break it up.  After Donald recovers, Victor decides to take them up into gorilla country after all, and they plan to bring Eloise along so that she can get a ride back to civilization through the District Commissioner.  They make their way to a mission run by Father Josef (Denis O’Dea), where Victor has to take part in a “ceremony of courage” so that they can get some men and canoes to help get them further down the river.  When they get to the Deputy Commissioner in the territory of the Samburu tribe, they find him mortally wounded, and the natives themselves are threatening everybody.  Narrowly managing to get themselves out, the whole party continues on down the river.  Throughout the trip, Victor and Linda have really started falling for each other, a fact that everyone else has noticed (well, everyone except Donald).  Once they reach gorilla country, Victor determines to tell Donald, but finds himself unable to.  But, will Donald still find out, one way or another?  Will Victor and Linda be a couple, or will he come back to Eloise?

Mogambo was the second film version of the 1928 Wilson Collison play Red Dust.  The previous film version was the 1932 film Red Dust, which starred Jean Harlow, Mary Astor, and, in a career-making role, Clark Gable.  In 1950, MGM had made a hit with audiences with the film King Solomon’s Mines, which had been shot on location in Africa.  Wanting another property they could do there, they took the suggestion of King Solomon’s Mines star Stewart Granger, and decided to remake Red Dust.  However, they decided to cast Clark Gable in the lead (instead of Stewart) in an attempt to help revive Gable’s career (which had been going downhill at that time).  Director John Ford hadn’t seen the original film, but the script and the opportunity to film in Africa appealed to him.   While they had to tame down a lot of the more sexual elements of the original pre-Code film, Mogambo still managed to be a hit for all involved.

So far, I haven’t seen Red Dust (although it is one I hope to see at some point), so I can only comment on Mogambo at this time.  I can definitely say that Clark Gable is the main reason that I have seen this film.  As a somewhat older man, he brings some maturity and experience to his big game hunter.  Clark brings enough machismo to the role that it’s still easy to see that both women would be interested in him.  He alone manages to make this movie worth seeing.

The movie itself is not without its flaws, however.  The pacing can be slow, and it’s not that action-packed.  If you’re going purely by the theatrical poster, it’s a little deceptive, as it almost makes you think that Clark going against the gorillas is a big thing, whereas it is almost nothing in the movie (and the film’s editing makes it seem fairly obvious that neither he nor the gorillas were ever together).  You can also throw in a few minor subplots that appear and then disappear just as easily, particularly that of the mortally wounded District Commissioner, whom they can be seen carrying away from his home, but then he isn’t mentioned again on any further steps of the trip.  Still, these are minor things, and they don’t take away a lot from the movie.  If you can live with them, it’s certainly a movie I would recommend!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Home Video.

Film Length: 1 hour, 56 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

San Francisco (1936)Clark GableThe Tall Men (1955)

Show Boat (1951) – Ava Gardner

Grace Kelly – High Society (1956)

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