Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Movies I've Missed (Until Now): Mogambo

I’m not sure how I managed to miss seeing MOGAMBO, because it played on TV all the time when I was a kid. However, I hadn’t seen it until now. Actually, now that I think about it, I was never really much of a Clark Gable fan until I saw him in THE MISFITS in the early Seventies. That won me over, and I’ve enjoyed most of his films that I’ve seen since then.

But to get back to MOGAMBO, for the undoubtedly few of you who haven’t seen it, Gable plays a white hunter in Africa who captures animals for zoos and circuses, much like John Wayne’s character in HATARI!, which came out a few years later. His life is disrupted by the arrival of a brassy, wisecracking American showgirl played by Ava Gardner, who was supposed to go along on a safari with a maharajah. The safari was cancelled, but she didn’t know that, and now she’s stuck at Gable’s hunting camp for a while. An English couple show up later. The husband’s an anthropologist who wants to study gorillas; the wife is Grace Kelly. A romantic triangle soon develops between Gable, Gardner, and Kelly.

That’s just about the entire plot, and therein lies the problem with MOGAMBO. Not much happens, and there are some really slow stretches, which surprised me since it was directed by John Ford and his films usually perk along at a pretty good pace. The photography is great, the scenery is beautiful, and the acting is okay for the most part. I was never much of an Ava Gardner fan, either, but she’s really good in this movie.

I wanted to like this one more than I did, but I'm glad I saw it anyway. It’s certainly not a bad film, there’s just not much to it. I guess when it comes to jungle movies, watching all those Tarzan movies as a kid ruined me.


RJR said...

This is my favorite Gable movie. I MUCH prefer Ava gardner to the mousy Grace Kelly.


beb said...

Isn't "Mogambo" the safety word for Stampy the elephant in the Simpsons episode where Marge got huge....mogambos?

David Cranmer said...

I'm with RJR. Ava over Grace. There is no contest.

Bill Crider said...

You're a whippersnapper, James. I saw this one in the theater. It's a remake of RED DUST, which I also saw in the theater. Not, I must admit, on its original release.

Rittster said...


As Bill alluded to, RED DUST is the one to see. Ava Gardner, as sexy as she is, is no Jean Harlow in the hardboiled/wisecracking-but-sexy dame department. I heartily recommened it. Mogambo is one of the few remakes I can think of (though I'm sure there're more), where the same leading man is used twenty years later, whereas the rest of the cast are newbies to the story.

RED DUST is also a "Pre-Code" movie, so there are some slightly risque aspects that to it that you didn't see in movies after the production code gauntlet was thrown down in '34.

Gable is an interesting actor; I'd almost call him strange, but those comments might fit better in a differnet post.

Concluding thought about RED DUST: Jean is definitely the queen of that jungle.

James Reasoner said...

I haven't seen RED DUST, either, and Netflix doesn't have it, but I can probably come up with a copy elsewhere.

Richard R. said...

What's the music ion the film like? Seems to me I've heard a theme and perhaps also a song from the soundtrack.

James Reasoner said...

We just watched the movie earlier this week and I have no memory of the music at all, so it must not have made much of an impression on me.