Mogambo


1h 55m 1953
Mogambo

Brief Synopsis

In this remake of Red Dust, an African hunter is torn between a lusty showgirl and a married woman.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Drama
Adventure
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Oct 9, 1953
Premiere Information
World premiere in San Francisco, CA: 23 Sep 1953; New York opening: 1 Oct 1953; Los Angeles opening: 8 Oct 1953
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
Elstree, England, Great Britain; London, England, Great Britain; Nairobi, Kenya, Africa; Nairobi, Kenya, Africa; Zaire, Africa; Uganda, Africa; Tanzania, Africa; French West Africa, Africa; French Equatorial Africa, Africa
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Red Dust by Wilson Collison (New York, 2 Jan 1928).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 55m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Film Length
10,422ft (13 reels)

Synopsis

After a failed attempt to capture a dangerous black leopard, safari guide and big game hunter Victor Marswell returns to his African ranch in a foul temper, only to discover that an attractive young woman has made herself at home there. The unexpected visitor, Eloise Y. "Honeybear" Kelly, tells Victor that she traveled from New York at the request of her suitor, a maharajah who has since departed for India and left her stranded. Eloise, a former showgirl, is furious when she learns she will have to wait for the following week's boat to leave Africa, but tries to make herself at home in her new surroundings. She gradually wins Victor over with her warmth, and a romance develops. Eloise also endears herself to Victor's aides, Leon Boltchak and John Brown-Pryce, who is known as Brownie. At the end of the week, Eloise is hurt when Victor abruptly informs her that the boat has arrived and orders her to pack. After bidding Eloise an awkward goodbye, Victor greets British anthropologist Donald Nordley and his beautiful wife Linda, who have come to stay at the ranch. Victor is angry to learn that Donald plans to make the difficult journey up the river to gorilla country, and refuses to accompany him personally. When Donald becomes ill in reaction to a tsetse fly vaccination, Victor ministers to him, but his callous attitude offends Linda, and she strikes him. Late that night, Donald's condition improves, and Linda apologizes to Victor for her rash behavior. Eloise then shows up with the drunken skipper, who reports that the steamer had engine trouble and will take about four weeks to repair. The following morning, Eloise introduces herself to Linda, and embarrasses the prim Englishwoman with a candid account of her romantic escapades. Linda goes for a walk in the jungle and Victor sets out after her, catching up with her just in time to save her from the black leopard. On their way back to the camp, Victor and Linda are caught in a fierce wind storm, and as Victor carries her the final distance, an uneasy attraction begins to surface between them. That night, Eloise, who had witnessed a charged moment between Victor and Linda, aims barbs at them throughout dinner, and Victor suddenly announces that he will accompany the Nordleys to gorilla country. Brownie suggests that Eloise join the safari party and catch a flight to Cairo when they reach the Kena station in the Samburu territory. The group departs, and relations are strained between Linda and Eloise, who has fallen in love with Victor. The party stops at a mission run by Father Josef, who agrees to supply canoes and men for the expedition after Victor takes part in a dangerous "ceremony of courage." Eloise takes confession with Father Josef, then apologizes to Linda, who haughtily rejects her offer of friendship. The journey continues, and when they reach Samburu territory, they find the station master badly wounded, a casualty of a native uprising that began the previous night. Escorting the injured man out, the safari party escapes the menacing natives. Later, Eloise tells Brownie that she was briefly married, but her husband was killed in the war. Meanwhile, Victor and Linda are taking a walk when they fall into a passionate embrace. Linda is extremely agitated when she returns to her tent late at night, and rejects Donald's advances. When the party reaches gorilla country, Victor, who has fallen in love with Linda, tells her that he will inform Donald of their affair the following day. While the men are preparing to trap a baby gorilla, Donald tells Victor that he fears the trip has been difficult for Linda, adding that she forgot their wedding anniversary the other night. As Donald speaks of his love for his wife, Victor realizes he cannot tell him the truth and stalks back to the camp in anger. That evening, at the observation post, Boltchak makes insinuating comments to Donald about Victor and Linda, and Donald leaves the post in a rage. Back at the camp, Eloise finds Victor drinking in his tent and deduces that he "went noble" in his encounter with Donald. Eloise is drinking with Victor and sitting on his lap when Linda comes into his tent. Seeing a way to end things with Linda, Victor plays up his caddish nature, and Linda becomes hysterical and shoots Victor in the arm. Just then, Donald returns to camp and rushes into the tent. Improvising quickly, Eloise tells him that Victor had been making a pass at Linda when she shot him. The Nordleys depart the next morning, and Victor asks Eloise to marry him.

Photo Collections

Mogambo - Pressbook
Here is the campaign book (pressbook) for MGM's Mogambo (1953), starring Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, and Grace Kelly, and directed by John Ford. Pressbooks were sent to exhibitors and theater owners to aid them in publicizing the film's run in their theater.
Mogombo - Behind-the-Scenes Photos - John Ford
Here are several behind-the-scenes photos of John Ford directing the MGM adventure film Mogambo (1953), starring Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, and Grace Kelly.

Videos

Movie Clip

Mogambo (1953) - Let Me Jump To My Own Conclusions! A good deal less bawdy than the equivalent Jean Harlow scene with the same leading man in the original (pre-Code) Red Dust, still alluring "Honey Bear" (Ava Gardner) in the shower meets angered safari guide Marswell (Clark Gable) early in John Ford's re-make, Mogambo, 1953.
Mogambo (1953) - The Remark Of A Cynical Man Aristocratic Linda (Grace Kelly), whose husband is laid-up with a jungle illness, gets in trouble on an unauthorized walkabout, rescued by their crusty host Marswell (Clark Gable) from a panther, then stormy events, Honey (Ava Gardner) observing their heated parting, in John Ford's Mogambo, 1953.
Mogambo (1953) - We Have Three Antidotes For Everything Tough African safari-business guy Marswell (Clark Gable) isn’t quite as solicitous as new arrival Linda (Grace Kelly) would like, when her husband (Donald Sinden) succumbs to the effects of a pre-jungle vaccination, in Mogambo, 1953, John Ford’s re-make of Red Dust, 1932.
Mogambo (1953) - 99 Year Loan Pro safari guide Marswell (Clark Gable) has grown fond of stranded “Honey” Kelly (Ava Gardner), even as she’s about to leave, on the same boat that brings Grace Kelly and Donald Sinden (as Linda and Donald Nordley) for their own high-end tour, in John Ford’s Mogambo, 1953.
Mogambo (1953) - We Wore Onion Sacks Big time battle of dinner dresses, Eloise (Ava Gardner) playful, Linda (Grace Kelly) and her recuperating husband Donald (Sinden) cheery, safari guide Marswell (Clark Gable) and sidekick Brownie (Philip Stainton) playing along, in John Ford's Mogambo, 1953.

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Drama
Adventure
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Oct 9, 1953
Premiere Information
World premiere in San Francisco, CA: 23 Sep 1953; New York opening: 1 Oct 1953; Los Angeles opening: 8 Oct 1953
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
Elstree, England, Great Britain; London, England, Great Britain; Nairobi, Kenya, Africa; Nairobi, Kenya, Africa; Zaire, Africa; Uganda, Africa; Tanzania, Africa; French West Africa, Africa; French Equatorial Africa, Africa
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Red Dust by Wilson Collison (New York, 2 Jan 1928).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 55m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Film Length
10,422ft (13 reels)

Award Nominations

Best Actress

1953
Ava Gardner

Best Supporting Actress

1953
Grace Kelly

Articles

The Essentials (9/3) - MOGAMBO


SYNOPSIS

While leading a safari to study wild gorillas in Kenya, jungle hunter Victor Marswell (Clark Gable) finds himself torn between a stranded showgirl (Ava Gardner) and a paleontologist's high society wife (Grace Kelly). Complicating the situation is the constant threat of danger, whether it's a wild animal on the prowl or a destructive rainstorm. Yet, in the midst of all this, passions erupt, tempers flare and the social order of Marswell's world is temporarily disrupted.

Director: John Ford
Producer: Sam Zimbalist
Screenplay: John Lee Mahin
Based on the play Red Dust by Wilson Collison and Mahin's 1932 screen adaptation Cinematography: Robert Surtees, Freddie Young
Editing: Frank Clarke
Art Direction: Alfred Junge
Cast: Clark Gable (Victor Marswell), Ava Gardner (Eloise Y. "Honey Bear" Kelly), Grace Kelly (Linda Nordley), Donald Sinden (Donald Nordley), Philip Stainton (John Brown-Pryce), Eric Pohlmann (Leon Boltchak), Laurence Naismith (Skipper), Denis O'Dea (Father Josef), Asa Etula (Young Native Girl)
C-115m.

Why MOGAMBO is Essential

In 1952, with the encroachment of middle age and his status as "King of Hollywood" no longer undisputed, Clark Gable was in sore need of a box-office smash to reaffirm his position. He received one when he signed on for the sprawling African jungle opus Mogambo (1953), a reworking of his successful vehicle of two decades prior, Red Dust (1932).

MGM, which had scored a box-office hit with King Solomon's Mines (1950), was eager to get another jungle adventure on the slate. Director John Ford didn't have the benefit of ever seeing what Victor Fleming had done with Red Dust, but was intrigued with the prospect of working in Africa. The director would make the most out of the location filming in Kenya, Tanganyika, and Uganda, rendering vistas as striking as any he created of the American West. Scenarist John Lee Mahin, who had initially adapted Wilson Collison's Broadway play for the screen, was called upon again, and the action was shifted from an Indo-Chinese rubber plantation to a Kenyan safari camp. Though the trappings changed, the story essentially remained intact, with Ava Gardner, reprising the role first created by Jean Harlow, and Grace Kelly in the original Mary Astor part.

Gable and Ford had never worked together before but seemed like a good match with their similar macho temperaments. While the two did enjoy off-hours big-game hunting at the Nairobi location, their working relationship was tense. Ford had a reputation as a taskmaster and he grew increasingly impatient with the retakes necessitated by Gable's bouts with palsy. After Gable requested a retake of a complex scene with Gardner, Ford stormed off the set. In Warren G. Harris' Clark Gable (Harmony Books), producer Sam Zimbalist's advice to his furious star was recounted: "Ford's a tyrant. Do what John Wayne always does with him. When you get in there, you just say, 'Yes, coach,' and everything will be okay." Egos were sufficiently salved to get through the production civilly, but Gable and Ford would never collaborate again.

Ava Gardner turned out to be a much greater beneficiary of Ford's instruction on Mogambo. Her work as Honey Bear Kelly is marked by an ease, even a playfulness, that would seldom if ever surface in her following projects. It's all the more remarkable considering that the production came in the course of her turbulent marriage to Frank Sinatra, who had accompanied her to the shoot. The cast and crew wound up with their own floor show of the couple's spats and make-ups; Sinatra took a hiatus to return to America to test for From Here to Eternity (1953), and his success made for eased tensions upon his return.

Mogambo also marked a career boost for Grace Kelly. The MGM brass, who were unimpressed with her work in High Noon (1952), wanted Deborah Kerr for the role; Ford remained insistent and declared, as quoted in Tag Gallagher's John Ford: The Man and His Films (University of California Press): "[T]his dame has breeding, quality, class. I want to make a test of her -- in color -- I'll bet she'll knock us on our ass." Kelly delivered, of course, demonstrating for the first time the sexuality brimming beneath the cool surface that Hitchcock would bring out in films such as To Catch a Thief (1955).

While Gable's manly allure was a key ingredient in the love triangle just as it was in Red Dust, the sexuality is definitely played down in Mogambo. It's obvious that MGM wanted the movie to be more family-friendly fare. Harlow's B-girl gave way to Gardner's playgirl, and Gable's dalliance with Kelly is actually relatively chaste in comparison to his liaison with Astor in the original. No one involved had any quibble with the bottom line. Mogambo's $5 million domestic gross was the best first-year return that any of Ford's films ever enjoyed; Gardner and Kelly received Oscar® nominations for their efforts; and Gable's career enjoyed a resurgence that would sustain the actor until his death.

by Jay Steinberg
The Essentials (9/3) - Mogambo

The Essentials (9/3) - MOGAMBO

SYNOPSIS While leading a safari to study wild gorillas in Kenya, jungle hunter Victor Marswell (Clark Gable) finds himself torn between a stranded showgirl (Ava Gardner) and a paleontologist's high society wife (Grace Kelly). Complicating the situation is the constant threat of danger, whether it's a wild animal on the prowl or a destructive rainstorm. Yet, in the midst of all this, passions erupt, tempers flare and the social order of Marswell's world is temporarily disrupted. Director: John Ford Producer: Sam Zimbalist Screenplay: John Lee Mahin Based on the play Red Dust by Wilson Collison and Mahin's 1932 screen adaptation Cinematography: Robert Surtees, Freddie Young Editing: Frank Clarke Art Direction: Alfred Junge Cast: Clark Gable (Victor Marswell), Ava Gardner (Eloise Y. "Honey Bear" Kelly), Grace Kelly (Linda Nordley), Donald Sinden (Donald Nordley), Philip Stainton (John Brown-Pryce), Eric Pohlmann (Leon Boltchak), Laurence Naismith (Skipper), Denis O'Dea (Father Josef), Asa Etula (Young Native Girl) C-115m. Why MOGAMBO is Essential In 1952, with the encroachment of middle age and his status as "King of Hollywood" no longer undisputed, Clark Gable was in sore need of a box-office smash to reaffirm his position. He received one when he signed on for the sprawling African jungle opus Mogambo (1953), a reworking of his successful vehicle of two decades prior, Red Dust (1932). MGM, which had scored a box-office hit with King Solomon's Mines (1950), was eager to get another jungle adventure on the slate. Director John Ford didn't have the benefit of ever seeing what Victor Fleming had done with Red Dust, but was intrigued with the prospect of working in Africa. The director would make the most out of the location filming in Kenya, Tanganyika, and Uganda, rendering vistas as striking as any he created of the American West. Scenarist John Lee Mahin, who had initially adapted Wilson Collison's Broadway play for the screen, was called upon again, and the action was shifted from an Indo-Chinese rubber plantation to a Kenyan safari camp. Though the trappings changed, the story essentially remained intact, with Ava Gardner, reprising the role first created by Jean Harlow, and Grace Kelly in the original Mary Astor part. Gable and Ford had never worked together before but seemed like a good match with their similar macho temperaments. While the two did enjoy off-hours big-game hunting at the Nairobi location, their working relationship was tense. Ford had a reputation as a taskmaster and he grew increasingly impatient with the retakes necessitated by Gable's bouts with palsy. After Gable requested a retake of a complex scene with Gardner, Ford stormed off the set. In Warren G. Harris' Clark Gable (Harmony Books), producer Sam Zimbalist's advice to his furious star was recounted: "Ford's a tyrant. Do what John Wayne always does with him. When you get in there, you just say, 'Yes, coach,' and everything will be okay." Egos were sufficiently salved to get through the production civilly, but Gable and Ford would never collaborate again. Ava Gardner turned out to be a much greater beneficiary of Ford's instruction on Mogambo. Her work as Honey Bear Kelly is marked by an ease, even a playfulness, that would seldom if ever surface in her following projects. It's all the more remarkable considering that the production came in the course of her turbulent marriage to Frank Sinatra, who had accompanied her to the shoot. The cast and crew wound up with their own floor show of the couple's spats and make-ups; Sinatra took a hiatus to return to America to test for From Here to Eternity (1953), and his success made for eased tensions upon his return. Mogambo also marked a career boost for Grace Kelly. The MGM brass, who were unimpressed with her work in High Noon (1952), wanted Deborah Kerr for the role; Ford remained insistent and declared, as quoted in Tag Gallagher's John Ford: The Man and His Films (University of California Press): "[T]his dame has breeding, quality, class. I want to make a test of her -- in color -- I'll bet she'll knock us on our ass." Kelly delivered, of course, demonstrating for the first time the sexuality brimming beneath the cool surface that Hitchcock would bring out in films such as To Catch a Thief (1955). While Gable's manly allure was a key ingredient in the love triangle just as it was in Red Dust, the sexuality is definitely played down in Mogambo. It's obvious that MGM wanted the movie to be more family-friendly fare. Harlow's B-girl gave way to Gardner's playgirl, and Gable's dalliance with Kelly is actually relatively chaste in comparison to his liaison with Astor in the original. No one involved had any quibble with the bottom line. Mogambo's $5 million domestic gross was the best first-year return that any of Ford's films ever enjoyed; Gardner and Kelly received Oscar® nominations for their efforts; and Gable's career enjoyed a resurgence that would sustain the actor until his death. by Jay Steinberg

Pop Culture (9/3) - MOGAMBO


Pop Culture 101 - MOGAMBO

Mogambo was one of the first Hollywood features released without a musical soundtrack. Instead, director John Ford ordered the soundtrack filled with animal and bird sounds and native shouts that punctuated the action and set the mood. Earlier, Richard Fleischer had scored his film noir The Narrow Margin (1952) entirely to train sounds, but that film was considered a B-picture. The use of natural sound instead of a musical score would later be utilized by Robert Wise on Executive Suite (1954).

Some critics have suggested that Mogambo gave director Howard Hawks the idea for his own African safari adventure, Hatari! (1962).

by Frank Miller

Pop Culture (9/3) - MOGAMBO

Pop Culture 101 - MOGAMBO Mogambo was one of the first Hollywood features released without a musical soundtrack. Instead, director John Ford ordered the soundtrack filled with animal and bird sounds and native shouts that punctuated the action and set the mood. Earlier, Richard Fleischer had scored his film noir The Narrow Margin (1952) entirely to train sounds, but that film was considered a B-picture. The use of natural sound instead of a musical score would later be utilized by Robert Wise on Executive Suite (1954). Some critics have suggested that Mogambo gave director Howard Hawks the idea for his own African safari adventure, Hatari! (1962). by Frank Miller

Trivia (9/3) - MOGAMBO


Trivia and Other Fun Stuff on MOGAMBO

Gable regained his box-office luster with Mogambo (1953) after three years of diminishing returns. It also re-established him as a romantic lead despite the fact that he was in his 50s. The film's success put him in position to create his own production company. Ironically, studio executives had been considering dropping his contract until Mogambo and his next film, Betrayed (1954), scored at the box office. Instead, it was Gable who dumped them.

Mogambo was only Clark Gable's third film in color. The first two were Gone with the Wind (1939) and Across the Wide Missouri (1951).

The film's title is Swahili for "big gorilla," though MGM publicists claimed it meant "passion."

Biographers have suggested that director John Ford originally planned to cast his brother Francis Ford as Captain John. When he died a few months before production began, Ford cast Laurence Naismith instead. Mogambo was one of the few film's Ford made in which he did not fill several roles with the group of actors who followed him from film to film. The only member of the "John Ford Stock Company" in the picture was Denis O'Dea, who played the priest.

To guarantee that his cast have believable tans, Ford ordered them all to spend two weeks in the sun. That proved to be too long, and the crew had to use makeup to lighten their skin.

The first day of shooting was disrupted by a large baboon that kept getting into camera range to watch Gable and Ava Gardner film a love scene.

When the casting director told Ford that British actor Donald Sinden, cast as Grace Kelly's husband, was very serious about his work, Ford promised, "We'll soon knock the hell out of that" (Quoted in Scott Eyman, Print the Legend). Throughout the shoot he picked on the English actor, blaming him personally for all the problems of the Irish people.

After each day's location shooting, Gardner bathed in a canvas tub set up and filled by the native boy assigned to her. When the British colonial government complained about her appearing naked before the natives while bathing, she laughed, threw off her clothes and paraded naked through the camp.

During the location shoot, Gardner and Sinatra celebrated their first wedding anniversary. As a gift, he presented her with a ring, but since he was broke at the time, she also got the bill for it later.

When the film was released in Spain, the censors there found the adulterous relationship between Gable and Kelly too shocking, so in the dubbing Kelly and her on-screen husband became brother and sister - involved in an incestuous relationship!!

by Frank Miller

Famous Quotes from MOGAMBO

"That playgirl stuff, Brownie. I've seen 'em in London, Paris, Rome. They start life in a New York nightclub and end up covering the world like a paint advertisement. Not an honest feeling from her kneecap to her neck." -- Clark Gable, as Victor Marswell, assessing Ava Gardner, as Eloise Kelly, to Philip Stainton, as John Brown-Pryce

"Look, Buster, don't you get over-stimulated with me!" -- Gardner, as Eloise Kelly

"Everything snarls around this joint!" - Gardner, as Eloise

"You and nobody else is going to wring me out and hang me up to dry again." -- Gardner

"Remember, I came here to be your friend. For your sake. And I'm keeping the offer open.... It'll be rugged, but I'll keep it open." -- Gardner, offering her friendship to Grace Kelly, as Linda Nordley

"This is no Sir Galahad who loves from afar. This is a two-legged boa constrictor." -- Gardner, trying to warn Kelly, as Linda Nordley, about Gable, as Victor Marswell

"I make my contribution to this mixed-up community they call the world." -- Gable, as Victor

"The only lions I ever want to see again are in front of the public library." -- Gardner

Compiled by Frank Miller

Trivia (9/3) - MOGAMBO

Trivia and Other Fun Stuff on MOGAMBO Gable regained his box-office luster with Mogambo (1953) after three years of diminishing returns. It also re-established him as a romantic lead despite the fact that he was in his 50s. The film's success put him in position to create his own production company. Ironically, studio executives had been considering dropping his contract until Mogambo and his next film, Betrayed (1954), scored at the box office. Instead, it was Gable who dumped them. Mogambo was only Clark Gable's third film in color. The first two were Gone with the Wind (1939) and Across the Wide Missouri (1951). The film's title is Swahili for "big gorilla," though MGM publicists claimed it meant "passion." Biographers have suggested that director John Ford originally planned to cast his brother Francis Ford as Captain John. When he died a few months before production began, Ford cast Laurence Naismith instead. Mogambo was one of the few film's Ford made in which he did not fill several roles with the group of actors who followed him from film to film. The only member of the "John Ford Stock Company" in the picture was Denis O'Dea, who played the priest. To guarantee that his cast have believable tans, Ford ordered them all to spend two weeks in the sun. That proved to be too long, and the crew had to use makeup to lighten their skin. The first day of shooting was disrupted by a large baboon that kept getting into camera range to watch Gable and Ava Gardner film a love scene. When the casting director told Ford that British actor Donald Sinden, cast as Grace Kelly's husband, was very serious about his work, Ford promised, "We'll soon knock the hell out of that" (Quoted in Scott Eyman, Print the Legend). Throughout the shoot he picked on the English actor, blaming him personally for all the problems of the Irish people. After each day's location shooting, Gardner bathed in a canvas tub set up and filled by the native boy assigned to her. When the British colonial government complained about her appearing naked before the natives while bathing, she laughed, threw off her clothes and paraded naked through the camp. During the location shoot, Gardner and Sinatra celebrated their first wedding anniversary. As a gift, he presented her with a ring, but since he was broke at the time, she also got the bill for it later. When the film was released in Spain, the censors there found the adulterous relationship between Gable and Kelly too shocking, so in the dubbing Kelly and her on-screen husband became brother and sister - involved in an incestuous relationship!! by Frank Miller Famous Quotes from MOGAMBO "That playgirl stuff, Brownie. I've seen 'em in London, Paris, Rome. They start life in a New York nightclub and end up covering the world like a paint advertisement. Not an honest feeling from her kneecap to her neck." -- Clark Gable, as Victor Marswell, assessing Ava Gardner, as Eloise Kelly, to Philip Stainton, as John Brown-Pryce "Look, Buster, don't you get over-stimulated with me!" -- Gardner, as Eloise Kelly "Everything snarls around this joint!" - Gardner, as Eloise "You and nobody else is going to wring me out and hang me up to dry again." -- Gardner "Remember, I came here to be your friend. For your sake. And I'm keeping the offer open.... It'll be rugged, but I'll keep it open." -- Gardner, offering her friendship to Grace Kelly, as Linda Nordley "This is no Sir Galahad who loves from afar. This is a two-legged boa constrictor." -- Gardner, trying to warn Kelly, as Linda Nordley, about Gable, as Victor Marswell "I make my contribution to this mixed-up community they call the world." -- Gable, as Victor "The only lions I ever want to see again are in front of the public library." -- Gardner Compiled by Frank Miller

The Big Idea (9/3) - MOGAMBO


The Big Idea Behind MOGAMBO

Mogambo (1953) was based on Red Dust, a steamy 1928 play by Wilson Collison, best known for such popular farces as Up in Mabel's Room and Getting Gertie's Garter. Although it flopped on Broadway, the story was picked up by MGM as a potential property. But even in the days before strict Hollywood self-censorship, nobody could figure out how to make a film out of its overtly sexual story - a tough plantation boss in Indochina torn between a streetwalker and a married woman. One treatment, prepared as a vehicle for Greta Garbo, turned the leading lady into a kept woman, but it still remained objectionable. After considering Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford, the studio decided to turn it into a vehicle for Jean Harlow, who had just scored a big hit with the sexy comedy-drama Red-Headed Woman (1932). In the 1932 film version of Red Dust the character, Vantine, was clearly a prostitute but with the clichéd heart of gold that made her a perfect wisecracking match for the rough-and-tumble male lead.

MGM production chief Irving G. Thalberg wanted to cast John Gilbert in the male lead, but studio head Louis B. Mayer hated Gilbert and vetoed the idea. Instead, they went with a suggestion from screenwriter John Lee Mahin that they cast his friend Clark Gable, who was just starting to score in supporting roles. Mary Astor joined the cast as the married woman and the threesome created a hit that made Gable a major box-office name and confirmed Harlow's status as a major star.

Gable had reprised his role in Red Dust once before, for a Gulf Screen Guild broadcast in 1940. For that version, Ann Sothern played the role originated by Harlow. Ironically, MGM had signed Sothern to topline the Maisie films after Harlow, for whom they had initially been developed, passed away. The same year as the radio broadcast, Sothern played in an adaptation of the story, Congo Maisie, with John Carroll in Gable's role and Rita Johnson as his married love interest.

With the success of King Solomon's Mines (1950), MGM executives were on the lookout for another property they could shoot on location in Africa. At the same time, Clark Gable was looking for opportunities to work overseas so he could take advantage of U.S. tax laws that allowed people working in other countries for 18 months or longer to write off a large portion of their income. Stewart Granger, one of the stars of King Solomon's Mines, suggested to the film's producer, Sam Zimbalist, remaking Red Dust with an African setting. Granger wanted the leading role for himself, but when Zimbalist proposed the picture, studio executives thought it would be the perfect vehicle for reviving Gable's sagging career. As an excuse for passing Granger over, Zimbalist told him the location shoot would jeopardize the actor's marriage to actress Jean Simmons.

Mahin was still active in Hollywood and had maintained a good relationship with MGM over the years, so he was the logical choice to adapt his own screenplay. In changing the location from Indochina to Kenya, he also transformed Gable's character from a rubber plantation manager to a big game hunter. He also cleaned up the steamy original, dropping most of the sexual banter between the Gable and Harlow characters in favor of witty insults exchanged by the two women contending for his love.

Director John Ford had never seen the original Red Dust, but he liked the script for Mogambo and was intrigued by the opportunity to shoot on location in Africa.

The studio's first choice to co-star as showgirl Eloise "Honey Bear" Kelly was Lana Turner, a frequent Gable co-star. When Turner became ill, some say from a beating at the hands of lover Fernando Lamas, Dore Schary had to replace her with Ava Gardner.

Ford had to fight the MGM hierarchy to cast Grace Kelly. Executives there had been unimpressed with her work in High Noon (1952) and a black and white screen test she had done for 20th Century-Fox. They proposed contract stars Deborah Kerr and Greer Garson instead. Ford insisted that Kelly be tested in Technicolor and predicted that "she'll knock us on our ass" (quoted in Tag Gallagher, John Ford: The Man and His Films). After he saw the test, studio head Dore Schary signed her to a long-term contract.

by Frank Miller

The Big Idea (9/3) - MOGAMBO

The Big Idea Behind MOGAMBO Mogambo (1953) was based on Red Dust, a steamy 1928 play by Wilson Collison, best known for such popular farces as Up in Mabel's Room and Getting Gertie's Garter. Although it flopped on Broadway, the story was picked up by MGM as a potential property. But even in the days before strict Hollywood self-censorship, nobody could figure out how to make a film out of its overtly sexual story - a tough plantation boss in Indochina torn between a streetwalker and a married woman. One treatment, prepared as a vehicle for Greta Garbo, turned the leading lady into a kept woman, but it still remained objectionable. After considering Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford, the studio decided to turn it into a vehicle for Jean Harlow, who had just scored a big hit with the sexy comedy-drama Red-Headed Woman (1932). In the 1932 film version of Red Dust the character, Vantine, was clearly a prostitute but with the clichéd heart of gold that made her a perfect wisecracking match for the rough-and-tumble male lead. MGM production chief Irving G. Thalberg wanted to cast John Gilbert in the male lead, but studio head Louis B. Mayer hated Gilbert and vetoed the idea. Instead, they went with a suggestion from screenwriter John Lee Mahin that they cast his friend Clark Gable, who was just starting to score in supporting roles. Mary Astor joined the cast as the married woman and the threesome created a hit that made Gable a major box-office name and confirmed Harlow's status as a major star. Gable had reprised his role in Red Dust once before, for a Gulf Screen Guild broadcast in 1940. For that version, Ann Sothern played the role originated by Harlow. Ironically, MGM had signed Sothern to topline the Maisie films after Harlow, for whom they had initially been developed, passed away. The same year as the radio broadcast, Sothern played in an adaptation of the story, Congo Maisie, with John Carroll in Gable's role and Rita Johnson as his married love interest. With the success of King Solomon's Mines (1950), MGM executives were on the lookout for another property they could shoot on location in Africa. At the same time, Clark Gable was looking for opportunities to work overseas so he could take advantage of U.S. tax laws that allowed people working in other countries for 18 months or longer to write off a large portion of their income. Stewart Granger, one of the stars of King Solomon's Mines, suggested to the film's producer, Sam Zimbalist, remaking Red Dust with an African setting. Granger wanted the leading role for himself, but when Zimbalist proposed the picture, studio executives thought it would be the perfect vehicle for reviving Gable's sagging career. As an excuse for passing Granger over, Zimbalist told him the location shoot would jeopardize the actor's marriage to actress Jean Simmons. Mahin was still active in Hollywood and had maintained a good relationship with MGM over the years, so he was the logical choice to adapt his own screenplay. In changing the location from Indochina to Kenya, he also transformed Gable's character from a rubber plantation manager to a big game hunter. He also cleaned up the steamy original, dropping most of the sexual banter between the Gable and Harlow characters in favor of witty insults exchanged by the two women contending for his love. Director John Ford had never seen the original Red Dust, but he liked the script for Mogambo and was intrigued by the opportunity to shoot on location in Africa. The studio's first choice to co-star as showgirl Eloise "Honey Bear" Kelly was Lana Turner, a frequent Gable co-star. When Turner became ill, some say from a beating at the hands of lover Fernando Lamas, Dore Schary had to replace her with Ava Gardner. Ford had to fight the MGM hierarchy to cast Grace Kelly. Executives there had been unimpressed with her work in High Noon (1952) and a black and white screen test she had done for 20th Century-Fox. They proposed contract stars Deborah Kerr and Greer Garson instead. Ford insisted that Kelly be tested in Technicolor and predicted that "she'll knock us on our ass" (quoted in Tag Gallagher, John Ford: The Man and His Films). After he saw the test, studio head Dore Schary signed her to a long-term contract. by Frank Miller

Behind the Camera (9/3) - MOGAMBO


Behind the Camera on MOGAMBO

Director John Ford and producer Sam Zimbalist arrived in Africa two months before principal photography began to prepare for the shoot. They also dispatched a second unit crew to French Equatorial Africa to shoot footage of wild gorillas to be cut into scenes with the stars. This seamless editing trick was never announced to the press, for fear it would undermine the authenticity of the production. The second unit crew was led by famed stuntman Yakima Canutt, who had stood in for Clark Gable on Gone with the Wind (1939).

To get to the film's African locations, Gable was forced to fly for the first time since the death of his wife Carole Lombard in a plane crash. The flight hit a storm with rock-sized hailstones and had to make a forced landing in the jungle. That near-disaster actually reawakened his interest in flying.

For the location filming, MGM assembled one of the largest safaris in modern times. There was a staff of over 500, including eight "white hunters." The shoot required 13 dining tents, a traveling movie theater, an entertainment tent with pool tables, a hospital with its own X-ray machine, luxurious private tents for the stars and even a jail. The crew created an 1800-yard airstrip in the jungle so they could fly in mail, food and medical supplies from Nairobi and fly out each day's rushes. The camp was first set up in Tanganyika, then reassembled in Uganda.

The safari left Nairobi on November 1, 1952, traveling 1,000 miles over the next eight days to get to a location along the Kagera River in Tanganyika. Other scenes were shot in Kenya, Uganda and French Equatorial Africa.

Ava Gardner arrived in Africa for location shooting with current husband Frank Sinatra in tow. Their marriage was on the rocks at the time following a huge bust-up during a house party at which Lana Turner was a guest. Some reports claim Sinatra found the two women in bed together. More likely, he caught them giggling over the sexual prowess of musician Artie Shaw, to whom both women had been married (Sinatra was jealous of all of his wife's previous romances). At first he canceled his plans to accompany her to Africa. When Gardner changed her phone number, he proposed a reconciliation in Earl Wilson's gossip column. They spent most of their time on location fighting and making up, both at top volume.

Gardner had barely met Ford before filming started. On location, she was upset that he didn't treat her as a star and wasn't giving her much direction. Finally, she turned away from him in anger while shooting a scene. He pulled her aside and told her "You're damned good. Just take it easy." (Quoted in Charles Higham, Ava). From then on, they got along fine.

During the filming, Sinatra had caught word of Columbia Pictures' plans to film From Here to Eternity (1953) and launched a campaign to win the plum supporting role of Maggio. He got Gardner to call studio head Harry Cohn, a friend of hers, and intercede for him. He was in Africa when Cohn demanded a screen test. Gable loaned him the money to return to the states. Sinatra won the role -- which would win him an Oscar® and trigger one of the biggest comebacks in film history -- and returned to the location for a much happier visit with his wife.

Gardner was pregnant at the start of filming, and as her pregnancy progressed she began to suffer greatly from the heat. Finally, she took a break in England, where she wound up in the hospital. Publicity flacks, who had not released news of her pregnancy, said she was suffering from anemia. A few years later she would say that she had suffered a miscarriage, but in private she told the wife of cinematographer Robert Surtees that she had had an abortion. At that point in her relationship with Sinatra, she hated him so much she did not want to bear his child.

Gable got sick on the Mogambo location. A gum infection forced him to return to Los Angeles, mainly because he insisted on seeing his own dentist.

When he returned to the set, Sinatra brought with him spaghetti, tomato sauce and other Italian foods. He and Gardner prepared a massive feast for the entire company. Years later, Ford would say the dinner was the condition he set for allowing Sinatra to come along on the shoot.

During much of the Kenya shoot, Ford and the stars stayed in hotels in Nairobi and flew to and from the location.

Always an avid sportsman, Gable spent breaks in filming hunting in the wild. He was delighted to learn that co-star Grace Kelly enjoyed hunting, too. As they went off together, the two developed a romance. Kelly started calling him "ba," the Swahili word for "father," which was close to "Pa," Lombard's nickname for him. Kelly would later admit to going skinny-dipping with him. Donald Sinden, who played Kelly's husband in the movie, later told interviewers he had caught Gable and Kelly in bed together.

Hundreds of native tribesmen were flown in to appear in the film, including some from tribes that were traditional enemies. The entourage included 68 members of the Wagenia tribe, hired to film a boat trip through the rapids. When they decided their gods were not present on the river, producer Sam Zimbalist flew in three chiefs from Leopoldville to bless the sequence.

During filming in Kenya, MGM hired armed guards to protect the cast and crew in the event of an attack by Mau Mau terrorists. It was rumored that the studio made a secret payment of $50,000 to Mau Mau leader Jomo Kenyatta to protect the cast and crew. Nonetheless, all involved in the filming were issued weapons with which to protect themselves.

While Gardner was shooting a scene with a baby elephant, the creature pushed her into a mud pool. She screamed for help, but Ford motioned the crew to keep quiet and keep on filming. The scene proved to be one of the funniest in the movie.

To shoot the rhinoceros attack on Gable and Gardner's car, hunter Frank "Bunny" Allen drove the camera car so he could keep an eye on the animal. When two other rhinos appeared from the bush and charged the camera car, Allen and cinematographer Robert Surtees were sent flying 100 feet -- in the jeep. Allen finally had to kill two of the animals.

Animals weren't the greatest danger on the set, however. That honor belonged to the various vehicles required for filming in the rough terrain. Assistant director John Hancock was killed when his jeep crashed.

Some episodes in the film were based on events that happened during the shoot. Just as in the movie, a leopard actually wandered into Gardner's tent one night. She also took a stab at cooking for the entire crew, just as her character does on screen.

Years of heavy drinking had left Gable with a case of the shakes. Ford, who suffered from the same problem, was sympathetic and tried to shoot around Gable's bouts of palsy. When the schedule got tight, however, he refused to re-take a scene between Gable and Gardner. This led to a rift between the two. Though they were able to finish filming without any more problems, Gable would never work with the director again.

Christmas fell during the shooting schedule. At the company's celebration, Sinatra and the natives sang Christmas songs, and Ford read "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." Among Sinatra's presents to Gardner was a shower unit he set up with one of the production's carpenters.

After they finished location shooting in Africa on January 28, 1954, the cast and crew took a brief vacation, then assembled in England to shoot the film's interiors.

With the company moved to London, Freddie Young took over as cinematographer. He would later win Oscars® for such David Lean films as Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965).

During the London shoot, Gable took a room in an out-of-the-way hotel so he and Kelly could continue their relationship discreetly. Unfortunately, this was also when the affair ended. Kelly's mother came to stay with her in London, and her apparent approval of the relationship and hopes that the two would marry scared Gable off. He stopped returning Kelly's phone calls and avoided her on the set. When the distraught actress went to Gardner for advice, her co-star counseled "He likes to conquer, and when he's done, he's through with them, and he leaves them" (quoted in Warren G. Harris, Clark Gable).

Taglines used to sell the film include "Flaming love found in the savage heart of the jungle!" and "The battle of the sexes! The battle of the gorillas!"

by Frank Miller

Behind the Camera (9/3) - MOGAMBO

Behind the Camera on MOGAMBO Director John Ford and producer Sam Zimbalist arrived in Africa two months before principal photography began to prepare for the shoot. They also dispatched a second unit crew to French Equatorial Africa to shoot footage of wild gorillas to be cut into scenes with the stars. This seamless editing trick was never announced to the press, for fear it would undermine the authenticity of the production. The second unit crew was led by famed stuntman Yakima Canutt, who had stood in for Clark Gable on Gone with the Wind (1939). To get to the film's African locations, Gable was forced to fly for the first time since the death of his wife Carole Lombard in a plane crash. The flight hit a storm with rock-sized hailstones and had to make a forced landing in the jungle. That near-disaster actually reawakened his interest in flying. For the location filming, MGM assembled one of the largest safaris in modern times. There was a staff of over 500, including eight "white hunters." The shoot required 13 dining tents, a traveling movie theater, an entertainment tent with pool tables, a hospital with its own X-ray machine, luxurious private tents for the stars and even a jail. The crew created an 1800-yard airstrip in the jungle so they could fly in mail, food and medical supplies from Nairobi and fly out each day's rushes. The camp was first set up in Tanganyika, then reassembled in Uganda. The safari left Nairobi on November 1, 1952, traveling 1,000 miles over the next eight days to get to a location along the Kagera River in Tanganyika. Other scenes were shot in Kenya, Uganda and French Equatorial Africa. Ava Gardner arrived in Africa for location shooting with current husband Frank Sinatra in tow. Their marriage was on the rocks at the time following a huge bust-up during a house party at which Lana Turner was a guest. Some reports claim Sinatra found the two women in bed together. More likely, he caught them giggling over the sexual prowess of musician Artie Shaw, to whom both women had been married (Sinatra was jealous of all of his wife's previous romances). At first he canceled his plans to accompany her to Africa. When Gardner changed her phone number, he proposed a reconciliation in Earl Wilson's gossip column. They spent most of their time on location fighting and making up, both at top volume. Gardner had barely met Ford before filming started. On location, she was upset that he didn't treat her as a star and wasn't giving her much direction. Finally, she turned away from him in anger while shooting a scene. He pulled her aside and told her "You're damned good. Just take it easy." (Quoted in Charles Higham, Ava). From then on, they got along fine. During the filming, Sinatra had caught word of Columbia Pictures' plans to film From Here to Eternity (1953) and launched a campaign to win the plum supporting role of Maggio. He got Gardner to call studio head Harry Cohn, a friend of hers, and intercede for him. He was in Africa when Cohn demanded a screen test. Gable loaned him the money to return to the states. Sinatra won the role -- which would win him an Oscar® and trigger one of the biggest comebacks in film history -- and returned to the location for a much happier visit with his wife. Gardner was pregnant at the start of filming, and as her pregnancy progressed she began to suffer greatly from the heat. Finally, she took a break in England, where she wound up in the hospital. Publicity flacks, who had not released news of her pregnancy, said she was suffering from anemia. A few years later she would say that she had suffered a miscarriage, but in private she told the wife of cinematographer Robert Surtees that she had had an abortion. At that point in her relationship with Sinatra, she hated him so much she did not want to bear his child. Gable got sick on the Mogambo location. A gum infection forced him to return to Los Angeles, mainly because he insisted on seeing his own dentist. When he returned to the set, Sinatra brought with him spaghetti, tomato sauce and other Italian foods. He and Gardner prepared a massive feast for the entire company. Years later, Ford would say the dinner was the condition he set for allowing Sinatra to come along on the shoot. During much of the Kenya shoot, Ford and the stars stayed in hotels in Nairobi and flew to and from the location. Always an avid sportsman, Gable spent breaks in filming hunting in the wild. He was delighted to learn that co-star Grace Kelly enjoyed hunting, too. As they went off together, the two developed a romance. Kelly started calling him "ba," the Swahili word for "father," which was close to "Pa," Lombard's nickname for him. Kelly would later admit to going skinny-dipping with him. Donald Sinden, who played Kelly's husband in the movie, later told interviewers he had caught Gable and Kelly in bed together. Hundreds of native tribesmen were flown in to appear in the film, including some from tribes that were traditional enemies. The entourage included 68 members of the Wagenia tribe, hired to film a boat trip through the rapids. When they decided their gods were not present on the river, producer Sam Zimbalist flew in three chiefs from Leopoldville to bless the sequence. During filming in Kenya, MGM hired armed guards to protect the cast and crew in the event of an attack by Mau Mau terrorists. It was rumored that the studio made a secret payment of $50,000 to Mau Mau leader Jomo Kenyatta to protect the cast and crew. Nonetheless, all involved in the filming were issued weapons with which to protect themselves. While Gardner was shooting a scene with a baby elephant, the creature pushed her into a mud pool. She screamed for help, but Ford motioned the crew to keep quiet and keep on filming. The scene proved to be one of the funniest in the movie. To shoot the rhinoceros attack on Gable and Gardner's car, hunter Frank "Bunny" Allen drove the camera car so he could keep an eye on the animal. When two other rhinos appeared from the bush and charged the camera car, Allen and cinematographer Robert Surtees were sent flying 100 feet -- in the jeep. Allen finally had to kill two of the animals. Animals weren't the greatest danger on the set, however. That honor belonged to the various vehicles required for filming in the rough terrain. Assistant director John Hancock was killed when his jeep crashed. Some episodes in the film were based on events that happened during the shoot. Just as in the movie, a leopard actually wandered into Gardner's tent one night. She also took a stab at cooking for the entire crew, just as her character does on screen. Years of heavy drinking had left Gable with a case of the shakes. Ford, who suffered from the same problem, was sympathetic and tried to shoot around Gable's bouts of palsy. When the schedule got tight, however, he refused to re-take a scene between Gable and Gardner. This led to a rift between the two. Though they were able to finish filming without any more problems, Gable would never work with the director again. Christmas fell during the shooting schedule. At the company's celebration, Sinatra and the natives sang Christmas songs, and Ford read "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." Among Sinatra's presents to Gardner was a shower unit he set up with one of the production's carpenters. After they finished location shooting in Africa on January 28, 1954, the cast and crew took a brief vacation, then assembled in England to shoot the film's interiors. With the company moved to London, Freddie Young took over as cinematographer. He would later win Oscars® for such David Lean films as Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965). During the London shoot, Gable took a room in an out-of-the-way hotel so he and Kelly could continue their relationship discreetly. Unfortunately, this was also when the affair ended. Kelly's mother came to stay with her in London, and her apparent approval of the relationship and hopes that the two would marry scared Gable off. He stopped returning Kelly's phone calls and avoided her on the set. When the distraught actress went to Gardner for advice, her co-star counseled "He likes to conquer, and when he's done, he's through with them, and he leaves them" (quoted in Warren G. Harris, Clark Gable). Taglines used to sell the film include "Flaming love found in the savage heart of the jungle!" and "The battle of the sexes! The battle of the gorillas!" by Frank Miller

The Critics Corner (9/3) - MOGAMBO


The Critics' Corner on MOGAMBO

Mogambo was filmed for $3.1 million and made more than $5 million for MGM on its initial release in the U.S., making it the eighth highest-grossing film of 1953. Its worldwide grosses would come to $8.2 million. It also has the highest initial gross of any picture from director John Ford.

"Gable plays his he-man part with the bemused ease to be expected of a man who has done the same thing many times before." -- Time.

"Gable certainly doesn't have the animal magnetism he had in the earlier version, but when Gardner and Kelly bitch at each other, doing battle for him, they're vastly entertaining anyway. (Gardner has never seemed happier.) The director, John Ford, got a little carried away with African wildlife (Red Dust [1932] was faster and funnier), but this sexual melodrama never takes itself too seriously." -- Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies.

"The insolent sex talk of the original is here toned down, and the relaxed rumbustiousness of the safari love triangle is wholly in keeping with Ford's holidaying inclinations at the time. Half-hearted, half-baked, and at least half-watchable." - Paul Taylor, TimeOut Film Guide.

"...it's a socko package of entertainment, crammed with sexy two-fisted adventure...John Lee Mahin's dialog and situations are unusually zippy and adult. Ava Gardner feeding a baby rhino and elephant, and her petulant storming at a pet boa constrictor to stay out of her bed, are good touches." - Variety Movie Guide.

"Amiable, flabby remake of Red Dust, with direction scarely in evidence and the gorillas out-acting a genial cast." - Halliwell Film & Video Guide.

AWARDS & HONORS

Mogambo received two Oscar® nominations: Ava Gardner for Best Actress and Grace Kelly for Best Supporting Actress. Gardner lost to Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday (1953), while Kelly lost to Donna Reed in From Here to Eternity (1953). Kelly would win Best Actress the following year for The Country Girl (1954).

Grace Kelly won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.

Mogambo was nominated for a British Academy Award® (BAFTA) as Best Film from any Source. It lost to the French classic Forbidden Games (1952).

by Frank Miller

The Critics Corner (9/3) - MOGAMBO

The Critics' Corner on MOGAMBO Mogambo was filmed for $3.1 million and made more than $5 million for MGM on its initial release in the U.S., making it the eighth highest-grossing film of 1953. Its worldwide grosses would come to $8.2 million. It also has the highest initial gross of any picture from director John Ford. "Gable plays his he-man part with the bemused ease to be expected of a man who has done the same thing many times before." -- Time. "Gable certainly doesn't have the animal magnetism he had in the earlier version, but when Gardner and Kelly bitch at each other, doing battle for him, they're vastly entertaining anyway. (Gardner has never seemed happier.) The director, John Ford, got a little carried away with African wildlife (Red Dust [1932] was faster and funnier), but this sexual melodrama never takes itself too seriously." -- Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies. "The insolent sex talk of the original is here toned down, and the relaxed rumbustiousness of the safari love triangle is wholly in keeping with Ford's holidaying inclinations at the time. Half-hearted, half-baked, and at least half-watchable." - Paul Taylor, TimeOut Film Guide. "...it's a socko package of entertainment, crammed with sexy two-fisted adventure...John Lee Mahin's dialog and situations are unusually zippy and adult. Ava Gardner feeding a baby rhino and elephant, and her petulant storming at a pet boa constrictor to stay out of her bed, are good touches." - Variety Movie Guide. "Amiable, flabby remake of Red Dust, with direction scarely in evidence and the gorillas out-acting a genial cast." - Halliwell Film & Video Guide. AWARDS & HONORS Mogambo received two Oscar® nominations: Ava Gardner for Best Actress and Grace Kelly for Best Supporting Actress. Gardner lost to Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday (1953), while Kelly lost to Donna Reed in From Here to Eternity (1953). Kelly would win Best Actress the following year for The Country Girl (1954). Grace Kelly won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. Mogambo was nominated for a British Academy Award® (BAFTA) as Best Film from any Source. It lost to the French classic Forbidden Games (1952). by Frank Miller

Mogambo


In 1952, with the encroachment of middle age and his status as "King of Hollywood" no longer undisputed, Clark Gable was in sore need of a box-office smash to reaffirm his position. He received one when he signed on for the sprawling African jungle opus Mogambo (1953), a reworking of his successful vehicle of two decades prior, Red Dust (1932).

MGM, which had scored a box-office hit with King Solomon's Mines (1950), was eager to get another jungle adventure on the slate. Director John Ford didn't have the benefit of ever seeing what Victor Fleming had done with Red Dust, but was intrigued with the prospect of working in Africa. The director would make the most out of the location filming in Kenya, Tanganyika, and Uganda, rendering vistas as striking as any he created of the American West. Scenarist John Lee Mahin, who had initially adapted Wilson Collison's Broadway play for the screen, was called upon again, and the action was shifted from an Indochinese rubber plantation to a Kenyan safari camp.

Though the trappings changed, the story essentially remained intact. Safari guide Gable has to deal with the unexpected arrival of two women at his remote, all-male encampment: a brassy, worldly-wise cookie who seems his ideal match (Ava Gardner, reprising the role first created by Jean Harlow) and a prim young married with whom he gets swept up in forbidden attraction (Grace Kelly in the original Mary Astor part).

One would think that some uber-male bonding might have occurred between Gable and the equally macho Ford during filming, but this was not the case. While the two had initially done some of their own off-hours big-game hunting at the Nairobi location, taskmaster Ford had diminishing patience with the retakes necessitated by Gable's bouts with palsy. After Gable requested a retake of a complex scene with Gardner, Ford stormed off the set. In Warren G. Harris' Clark Gable (Harmony Books), producer Sam Zimbalist's advice to his furious star was recounted: "Ford's a tyrant. Do what John Wayne always does with him. When you get in there, you just say, 'Yes, coach,' and everything will be okay." Egos were sufficiently salved to get through the production civilly, but Gable and Ford would never collaborate again.

Ironically, it seems that leading lady Gardner turned out to be a much greater beneficiary of Ford's instruction on Mogambo. Her work as HoneyBear Kelly is marked by an ease, even a playfulness, that would seldom if ever surface in her following projects. It's all the more remarkable considering that the production came in the course of her turbulent marriage to Frank Sinatra, who had accompanied her to the shoot. The cast and crew wound up with their own floor show of the couple's spats and make-ups; Sinatra took a hiatus to return to America to test for From Here to Eternity (1953), and his success made for eased tensions upon his return.

Mogambo also marked a career boost for Grace Kelly. The MGM brass, who were unimpressed with her work in High Noon (1952), wanted Deborah Kerr for the role; Ford remained insistent and declared, as quoted in Tag Gallagher's John Ford: The Man and His Films (University of California Press): "[T]his dame has breeding, quality, class. I want to make a test of her -- in color -- I'll bet she'll knock us on our ass." Kelly delivered, of course, demonstrating for the first time the sexuality brimming beneath the cool surface that Hitchcock would exploit to good effect in films like To Catch a Thief (1955).

While Gable's manly allure was no less diminished here than in Red Dust, it seems that MGM wanted Mogambo to be more family-friendly fare. Harlow's B-girl gave way to Gardner's playgirl, and Gable's dalliance with Kelly is actually relatively chaste in comparison to that with Astor in the original. No one involved had any quibble with the bottom line. Mogambo's $5 million domestic gross was the best first-year return that any of Ford's films ever enjoyed; Gardner and Kelly received Oscar nominations for their efforts; and Gable's career enjoyed a resurgence that would sustain the actor until his death.

Producer: Sam Zimbalist
Director: John Ford
Screenplay: John Lee Mahin, based on the play by Wilson Collison
Art Direction: Alfred Junge
Cinematography: Robert Surtees, Freddie Young
Editing: Frank Clarke
Costume Design: Helen Rose
Principal Cast: Clark Gable (Victor Marswell), Ava Gardner (Eloise Y. Kelly), Grace Kelly (Linda Nordley), Donald Sinden (Donald Nordley), Eric Pohlmann (Leon Boltchak), Philip Stainton (John Brown Pryce), Laurence Naismith (Skipper).
C-117m. Closed captioning. Descriptive video.

by Jay Steinberg

Mogambo

In 1952, with the encroachment of middle age and his status as "King of Hollywood" no longer undisputed, Clark Gable was in sore need of a box-office smash to reaffirm his position. He received one when he signed on for the sprawling African jungle opus Mogambo (1953), a reworking of his successful vehicle of two decades prior, Red Dust (1932). MGM, which had scored a box-office hit with King Solomon's Mines (1950), was eager to get another jungle adventure on the slate. Director John Ford didn't have the benefit of ever seeing what Victor Fleming had done with Red Dust, but was intrigued with the prospect of working in Africa. The director would make the most out of the location filming in Kenya, Tanganyika, and Uganda, rendering vistas as striking as any he created of the American West. Scenarist John Lee Mahin, who had initially adapted Wilson Collison's Broadway play for the screen, was called upon again, and the action was shifted from an Indochinese rubber plantation to a Kenyan safari camp. Though the trappings changed, the story essentially remained intact. Safari guide Gable has to deal with the unexpected arrival of two women at his remote, all-male encampment: a brassy, worldly-wise cookie who seems his ideal match (Ava Gardner, reprising the role first created by Jean Harlow) and a prim young married with whom he gets swept up in forbidden attraction (Grace Kelly in the original Mary Astor part). One would think that some uber-male bonding might have occurred between Gable and the equally macho Ford during filming, but this was not the case. While the two had initially done some of their own off-hours big-game hunting at the Nairobi location, taskmaster Ford had diminishing patience with the retakes necessitated by Gable's bouts with palsy. After Gable requested a retake of a complex scene with Gardner, Ford stormed off the set. In Warren G. Harris' Clark Gable (Harmony Books), producer Sam Zimbalist's advice to his furious star was recounted: "Ford's a tyrant. Do what John Wayne always does with him. When you get in there, you just say, 'Yes, coach,' and everything will be okay." Egos were sufficiently salved to get through the production civilly, but Gable and Ford would never collaborate again. Ironically, it seems that leading lady Gardner turned out to be a much greater beneficiary of Ford's instruction on Mogambo. Her work as HoneyBear Kelly is marked by an ease, even a playfulness, that would seldom if ever surface in her following projects. It's all the more remarkable considering that the production came in the course of her turbulent marriage to Frank Sinatra, who had accompanied her to the shoot. The cast and crew wound up with their own floor show of the couple's spats and make-ups; Sinatra took a hiatus to return to America to test for From Here to Eternity (1953), and his success made for eased tensions upon his return. Mogambo also marked a career boost for Grace Kelly. The MGM brass, who were unimpressed with her work in High Noon (1952), wanted Deborah Kerr for the role; Ford remained insistent and declared, as quoted in Tag Gallagher's John Ford: The Man and His Films (University of California Press): "[T]his dame has breeding, quality, class. I want to make a test of her -- in color -- I'll bet she'll knock us on our ass." Kelly delivered, of course, demonstrating for the first time the sexuality brimming beneath the cool surface that Hitchcock would exploit to good effect in films like To Catch a Thief (1955). While Gable's manly allure was no less diminished here than in Red Dust, it seems that MGM wanted Mogambo to be more family-friendly fare. Harlow's B-girl gave way to Gardner's playgirl, and Gable's dalliance with Kelly is actually relatively chaste in comparison to that with Astor in the original. No one involved had any quibble with the bottom line. Mogambo's $5 million domestic gross was the best first-year return that any of Ford's films ever enjoyed; Gardner and Kelly received Oscar nominations for their efforts; and Gable's career enjoyed a resurgence that would sustain the actor until his death. Producer: Sam Zimbalist Director: John Ford Screenplay: John Lee Mahin, based on the play by Wilson Collison Art Direction: Alfred Junge Cinematography: Robert Surtees, Freddie Young Editing: Frank Clarke Costume Design: Helen Rose Principal Cast: Clark Gable (Victor Marswell), Ava Gardner (Eloise Y. Kelly), Grace Kelly (Linda Nordley), Donald Sinden (Donald Nordley), Eric Pohlmann (Leon Boltchak), Philip Stainton (John Brown Pryce), Laurence Naismith (Skipper). C-117m. Closed captioning. Descriptive video. by Jay Steinberg

Mogambo - John Ford's MOGAMBO - 1953 Remake of Red Dust on DVD


Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, and Donald Sinden star in John Ford's film Mogambo (1953), a remake of Victor Fleming's 1932 film Red Dust. Both films were adapted from a play by Wilson Collison. Thematically, Mogambo (new on DVD) is about the tensions and complexities of romance. Narratively, it follows safari guide Victor Marswell as he takes English anthropologist Donald Nordley (Sinden) and his wife Linda (Kelly) through jungles of Africa to film gorillas. Eloise Kelly (Gardner) accompanies the group for the ride. Obliged to ensure the well-being of his clients, Victor tends to them when ill and rescues them from all the dangers of a wild environment. Upon saving Linda from an animal trap, and later a raging rainstorm, Victor develops a soft spot for the blonde-haired, conservative housewife. Eloise looks on in jealousy-she landed in his homestead first.

A substantial amount of the expedition portion of the film address a Eloise vs. Linda scenario in the form of brilliantly written dialogue. Eloise impresses Mr. Nordley with her knowledge of baseball and Linda articulates how much she loves her husband. In addition to the interpersonal conflicts among the characters, director John Ford also presents a near ethnographic tableau of African landscape, animals, and human inhabitants. In fact, Mogambo begins with an establishing shot of the boundless African plains, and the narrative continues to underscore the role of the environment and its effects on the characters.

These colonial-accented, anthropological sequences suggest that Ford could be making a nature film-and not just because much of the animal footage was either filmed by a second unit or was archival footage. Ava Gardner shares the screen with a number of animals (a baby elephant, a lion, a chimpanzee, a leopard, and a baby rhinoceros), and while these moments are adorable, other sequences in the film could have benefited from a disclaimer assuring viewers that no animals were harmed during the making of this motion picture.

Known for his westerns, John Ford again displays his exquisite sense of picture composition and his use of Technicolor as cinematic paint. Produced by Sam Zimbalist for MGM, Mogambo manages to separate itself from middlebrow melodramas because of Ford's skills as an auteur and as a result of its outstanding cast. The chemistry between Gable and Gardner electrifies each frame, while Kelly's prim and uptight demeanor complements her Gable's rugged disposition. Their performances were so impressive that Grace Kelly won the 1954 Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress and Ava Gardner was nominated for Best Actress at the 1954 Academy Awards.

Belligerent gorillas and the safari expedition places Mogambo within the realm of "adventure film," specifically the safari film, but the humor provides a comedic touch in the vein of a screwball comedy a la Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Ava Gardner acerbically says of the Nordleys: "They look kind of shiny new and young to be scientific types, don't they?" When Victor has to go look for Linda, he utters, "Mrs. Nordley takes a walk in the bush like it's Hyde Park." Victor also has a python called Old Joe, "the migratory mousetrap." Perhaps a nod to screenwriter John Lee Mahin is in order as well.

After the opening credits have ended, bold canary yellow text informs the viewer that "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is grateful beyond measure to the government officials of: Kenya Colony, Tanganyika, The Uganda Protectorate and the Republic of French Equatorial Africa, whose limitless cooperation made this motion picture possible." This message grounds Mogambo in a historical context that fortunately doesn't overwhelm the story. It is a battle of the senses and affections, not of geopolitics.

To order Mogambo, click here. Explore more John Ford titles here.

by Stina Chyn

Mogambo - John Ford's MOGAMBO - 1953 Remake of Red Dust on DVD

Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, and Donald Sinden star in John Ford's film Mogambo (1953), a remake of Victor Fleming's 1932 film Red Dust. Both films were adapted from a play by Wilson Collison. Thematically, Mogambo (new on DVD) is about the tensions and complexities of romance. Narratively, it follows safari guide Victor Marswell as he takes English anthropologist Donald Nordley (Sinden) and his wife Linda (Kelly) through jungles of Africa to film gorillas. Eloise Kelly (Gardner) accompanies the group for the ride. Obliged to ensure the well-being of his clients, Victor tends to them when ill and rescues them from all the dangers of a wild environment. Upon saving Linda from an animal trap, and later a raging rainstorm, Victor develops a soft spot for the blonde-haired, conservative housewife. Eloise looks on in jealousy-she landed in his homestead first. A substantial amount of the expedition portion of the film address a Eloise vs. Linda scenario in the form of brilliantly written dialogue. Eloise impresses Mr. Nordley with her knowledge of baseball and Linda articulates how much she loves her husband. In addition to the interpersonal conflicts among the characters, director John Ford also presents a near ethnographic tableau of African landscape, animals, and human inhabitants. In fact, Mogambo begins with an establishing shot of the boundless African plains, and the narrative continues to underscore the role of the environment and its effects on the characters. These colonial-accented, anthropological sequences suggest that Ford could be making a nature film-and not just because much of the animal footage was either filmed by a second unit or was archival footage. Ava Gardner shares the screen with a number of animals (a baby elephant, a lion, a chimpanzee, a leopard, and a baby rhinoceros), and while these moments are adorable, other sequences in the film could have benefited from a disclaimer assuring viewers that no animals were harmed during the making of this motion picture. Known for his westerns, John Ford again displays his exquisite sense of picture composition and his use of Technicolor as cinematic paint. Produced by Sam Zimbalist for MGM, Mogambo manages to separate itself from middlebrow melodramas because of Ford's skills as an auteur and as a result of its outstanding cast. The chemistry between Gable and Gardner electrifies each frame, while Kelly's prim and uptight demeanor complements her Gable's rugged disposition. Their performances were so impressive that Grace Kelly won the 1954 Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress and Ava Gardner was nominated for Best Actress at the 1954 Academy Awards. Belligerent gorillas and the safari expedition places Mogambo within the realm of "adventure film," specifically the safari film, but the humor provides a comedic touch in the vein of a screwball comedy a la Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Ava Gardner acerbically says of the Nordleys: "They look kind of shiny new and young to be scientific types, don't they?" When Victor has to go look for Linda, he utters, "Mrs. Nordley takes a walk in the bush like it's Hyde Park." Victor also has a python called Old Joe, "the migratory mousetrap." Perhaps a nod to screenwriter John Lee Mahin is in order as well. After the opening credits have ended, bold canary yellow text informs the viewer that "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is grateful beyond measure to the government officials of: Kenya Colony, Tanganyika, The Uganda Protectorate and the Republic of French Equatorial Africa, whose limitless cooperation made this motion picture possible." This message grounds Mogambo in a historical context that fortunately doesn't overwhelm the story. It is a battle of the senses and affections, not of geopolitics. To order Mogambo, click here. Explore more John Ford titles here. by Stina Chyn

Quotes

Look, Buster, don't you get overstimulated with me!
- Eloise Kelly
Everything snarls around this joint!
- Eloise Kelly
Hey! A kangaroo.
- Eloise Kelly
Remember, I came here to be your friend. For your sake. And I'm keeping the offer open. ...It'll be rugged, but I'll keep it open.
- Eloise Kelly
Well anyway, they both blew up in a million pieces somewhere over Berlin. But you know, Brownie, as short as it lasted, it was like being blessed for a lifetime.
- Eloise Kelly
So you hit the high spots and the gay beaches, trying to forget again.
- John Brown-Pryce
Yeah. Great strength of character.
- Eloise Kelly
Let me jump to my own conclusions.
- Eloise Y. 'Honey Bear' Kelly

Trivia

When the film was dubbed into Spanish, Franco's censorship found the adultery between Marswell and Nordley immoral, so they changed the dialogs to make them... incestuous siblings.

Notes

The African native expression "mogambo" is variously translated as either "passion" or "to speak." According to a December 17, 1951 item in Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" column, M-G-M sought Lauren Bacall for a role in the film. Modern sources provide the following casting information: director John Ford originally wanted Maureen O'Hara for the role of "Eloise Kelly," and M-G-M wanted Deborah Kerr to portray "Linda Nordley." The role of Linda was offered to Gene Tierney, who declined because she did not want to take her young child on a lengthy location shoot in Africa. In her autobiography, Lana Turner recalled that the studio offered her a choice between Mogambo and Flame and the Flesh. Turner wrote, "The Mogambo script didn't appeal to me, and I elected to do Flame and the Flesh. A big mistake! Ava Gardner took the Mogambo role and played it beautifully, but with a script very different from the one I read." A modern source states that the director's brother, actor and silent film director Francis Ford, had been cast as the "Skipper," but died before production began.
       According to contemporary sources, Mogambo was shot primarily on location in Tanzania (formerly Tanganyika), Uganda, French West Africa, French Equatorial Africa, Zaire (formerly the Belgian Congo) and Nairobi, Kenya. Additional scenes were shot in M-G-M's studio in Elstree. Contemporary news items add that M-G-M studio technicians constructed a large, well-appointed safari camp on the Kagera River, complete with a 2,000-yard airstrip. The studio also brought in hundreds of tribal warriors from different sections of Africa to serve as extras. News items also reveal security concerns over the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya, in which a radical sect of the Kikuyu tribe launched a violent rebellion against British rule. Production began only a month after the British declared a state of emergency in the area, and, according to M-G-M News, the film's stars and director were required to carry guns. John Hancock, an assistant director with M-G-M's British studios, was killed, along with two native workers, when his vehicle overturned during location shooting in Kenya. A November 26, 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Ava Gardner was in a London nursing home recovering from a "tropical illness" contracted on location. In her autobiography, however, Gardner revealed that she had learned she was pregnant during the shoot, and had flown to London for an abortion without then-husband Frank Sinatra's knowledge.
       Mogambo is a remake of the 1932 M-G-M film Red Dust, which was directed by Victor Fleming and starred Clark Gable, Jean Harlow and Mary Astor (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). Set on a rubber plantation in Indochina, Red Dust also featured a screenplay by John Lee Mahin. The 1940 M-G-M film Congo Maisie, directed by Henry C. Potter and starring Ann Sothern, is often referred to in modern sources as a remake of Red Dust, but Congo Maisie was actually based on the Wilson Collison novel Congo Landing. According to modern sources, Stewart Granger proposed the remake, hoping to recreate his success in M-G-M's 1950 African adventure film King Solomon's Mines (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50). Dore Schary, M-G-M's head of production, agreed with the idea, but decided to cast Gable in the role he had played twenty-one years earlier. In a modern interview, director Ford said, "I never saw the original picture. I liked the script and the story, I liked the setup and I'd never been to that part of Africa-so I just did it."
       Although Mogambo was less risqué than Red Dust, the film encountered Production Code problems because of the scene in which "Victor Marswell" discovers Eloise using an outdoor shower-a new version of the famous scene in Red Dust in which Harlow's character is seen bathing in a rain barrel. According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the PCA believed the shower scene "involved too much exposure" and demanded that some footage be eliminated. On April 13, 1954, M-G-M executive Robert Vogel wrote to Geoffrey Shurlock of the MPAA regarding a recent, unidentified film that also had a shower scene. "In Mogambo, there are five shots of Ava Gardner in the shower; the five total exactly 40 feet," he wrote. "The sequence in the other picture runs exactly 160 feet-practically all of it in close-up, and the dialogue is obviously more questionable." Vogel concluded, "I presume you realize that I am not bringing this matter up because I object to anybody else having 160 feet of such a scene, but merely because we had a little difficulty before we were permitted to retain 40 feet in our picture."
       Mogambo received generally good reviews, and boosted the careers of both its female stars. The Daily Variety review proclaimed, "What Red Dust did for the late Jean Harlow in 1932, this modern version should do for Miss Gardner in 1953." Gardner was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, and Grace Kelly received a nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Some reviews noted that, like King Solomon's Mines, which also was produced by Sam Zimbalist, Mogambo had no musical score, and instead drew on native chants and the sounds of the jungle for atmosphere. According to a modern source, New York City disc jockey "Murray the K" used one of the African chants from the film as his theme song. According to a March 29, 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item, M-G-M tried unsuccessfully to have Mogambo designated as a British production in order to qualify for a tax rebate under Great Britain's Eady Plan. A modern source adds Asa Etula (Young native girl) to the cast and credits Alexander Fisher with sound and Richard Rosson, Yakima Canutt and James C. Havens with second-unit direction.

Miscellaneous Notes

Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1953 National Board of Review.

Released in United States Fall October 9, 1953

Released in United States February 1990

Released in United States March 1977

Shown at American Museum of Moving Images, New York City February 18 & 21, 1990.

Remake of "Red Dust" (1932) directed by Victor Fleming.

Interiors filmed in London. Exteriors filmed in Tanganyika, Kenya, Uganda and French Equitorial Africa from October-February 1953.

Released in United States February 1990 (Shown at American Museum of Moving Images, New York City February 18 & 21, 1990.)

Released in United States March 1977 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Double Vision-Two different classics made from the same story) March 9-27, 1977.)

Released in United States Fall October 9, 1953