“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)

Original Vs. Remake: The Philadelphia Story (1940) vs. High Society (1956)

And in this edition of “Original Vs. Remake,” we take a look at The Philadelphia Story (1940) (PS) and High Society (1956) (HS).

The plots are very similar, so I’ll just try to go with the common points of the story. Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn, PS or Grace Kelly, HS) is getting married again. Her ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant, PS or Bing Crosby, HS) is back in town, hoping to get her to come back to him. Tracy also has to contend with a writer, Mike Connor (James Stewart, PS or Frank Sinatra, HS) and a photographer, Liz Imbrie (Ruth Hussey, PS or Celeste Holm, HS), who are there from SPY magazine to cover her wedding. Tracy feels pressure from her father and Dexter, who are trying to remind her that nobody is infallible, including her, which increasingly confuses her, and leads her to start drinking too much champagne, almost getting her into an affair with Mike Connor.

Not really much to say here on the similarities, since High Society is a remake, and does make use of a good fraction of dialogue from The Philadelphia Story, so we’ll just dig into the differences. Obviously, one big difference is the fact that PS is a comedy/drama, whereas HS is a musical. The setting also changes, with it being Philadelphia in PS, whereas it is in Newport, Rhode Island (which may have been because the film was planned as a combination of two films projects, one was a remake of PS, and the other was planned on the Newport Jazz Festival).

The actors’ portrayals are also different. With Cary Grant, I’m left with the feeling that he is bitter over the divorce, which is why his words feel like they have a little more venom, while Bing Crosby’s Dexter is not quite so bitter, and almost seems to have come to terms with the idea of her remarrying (although he obviously wishes it could be him). With Katharine Hepburn, I can’t help but feel like her Tracy Lord has always been a bit of a snob, looking down on other’s faults, while Grace Kelly’s Tracy seems like she wasn’t always so bad (as shown through her flashback when she is reminded of Dexter’s ship the “True Love”), mainly changing as the result of when her father cheated on her mother. And as to the two reporters from SPY magazine, James Stewart and Ruth Hussey’s characters seem more like they wish they could do what they want, but their necessity for money dictates that they have to work for SPY, while Frank Sinatra and Celeste Holm’s characters are doing this as a normal job.

As to my own opinion as to which movie I consider the better movie? That would be High Society. I do enjoy both movies very much, but I usually prefer musicals and I like Bing Crosby as an actor. My opinion of The Philadelphia Story has definitely improved (and being able to see it restored on Blu-ray helps a little), but that opening scene still bothers me. I understand how it was done partly for audiences of the time who didn’t like Katharine Hepburn and wanted to see her knocked down, but it still bothers me, since I still don’t have that frame of mind. If not for that scene, I do think it would be a lot closer for me, but I still prefer High Society. However, both movies are wonderful, and I would certainly recommend watching either of them and making up your own mind!

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

My Rating: 9/10

High Society (1956)

My Rating: 10/10

The Winner (in my opinion): High Society

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… High Society (1956)

And here we are, for the movie that finally paired up longtime rival crooners Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, High Society, the 1956 musical remake of The Philadelphia Story.  The movie also stars Grace Kelly and Louis Armstrong (and his band).

C. K. Dexter Haven (Bing Crosby) is back in town for the Newport jazz festival, and is putting up Louis Armstrong and his band at his mansion.  Of course, the next day is Dexter’s ex-wife’s wedding!  Tracy Lord (Grace Kelly) resents Dexter’s presence, but also has to deal with the presence of a reporter (Frank Sinatra) and a photographer (Celeste Holm) who have been sent from SPY magazine to cover her wedding.  And all the while, everybody is continuously questioning how hard she has been on everybody, particularly her father and Dexter, which leaves her very confused.

Since I am strictly talking about High Society here (and not comparing it directly to The Philadelphia Story, which I will do in another post), let’s get into it!  Part of the movie’s allure is pairing up Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.  Their big song together is “Well Did You Evah,” a song not written for this movie, but apparently pulled from another Cole Porter show when it was determined they needed a song for Bing and Frank to sing together.  Their pairing is part of what makes this movie fun.  They would work together again, in a few TV specials, with Frank making a cameo in The Road To Hong Kong, and with Bing joining Frank in the Rat Pack movie Robin And The 7 Hoods.

Equally fun in this movie is Louis Armstrong and his band.  They introduce the movie with the song “High Society,” which serves as a prologue of sorts, and Louis continues to observe and comment on the goings on of the story throughout the rest of the movie, and helping to provide mood music for several songs.  And of course, we also have Bing joining him for the song “Now You Has Jazz,” with the two “explaining” jazz!

Of course, with both Bing and Frank in the same movie, we have them both crooning to Grace Kelly!  Bing romances her with the song “True Love,” which managed to be the movie’s big hit (and since Grace Kelly sang part of it with him, she became one of the few, if not the only, member of sitting royalty to receive a platinum record, since she married the prince of Monaco).  And of course, Frank croons “You’re Sensational” to her, as well!

If you can’t tell, this is a movie I enjoy very much. I enjoy watching all the stars together, and the music, provided by Cole Porter, just helps make the movie that much better! So this is a movie I would recommend very much! This movie is available on DVD from Warner Home Video.

Film Length: 1 hour, 52 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Anything Goes (1956)Bing CrosbyAlias Jesse James (1959)

The Tender Trap (1955)Frank SinatraPal Joey (1957)

Athena (1954) – Louis Calhern

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!