Sunday, February 22, 2009

Mogambo (1953)

Eloise Kelly: [to Linda Nordley] 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.~from Mogambo (1953)

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Director John Ford departed from his usual western adventures to film a story set in Africa, involving conflicting passions during a safari expedition. Mogambo is a technicolor remake of Red Dust (1932) which also starred Clark Gable, but had a South East Asian backdrop. In Mogambo, Gable plays Victor Marswell, a big game hunter who is hired by naive scientist Donald Nordley to help him research African wildlife. Donald's prim wife, Linda Nordley (Grace Kelly) feels quite secure in her virtue and therefore is unprepared for the test which lies ahead. Grace possessed the perfect amount of stiffness to make a credible Linda Nordley, who when she falls, falls hard.

On the other hand, Ava Gardner's combination of easy charm and vulnerability made her well-suited for the role of Eloise Kelly, the fast-living, wandering party girl who also is smitten by Victor. Eloise is the fallen woman who seeks and finds redemption, and through her own redemption she is able to rescue the other characters from their entanglements. While on safari she encounters a priest and goes to confession, which is the catalyst for the gradual reformation of her character. Eloise tries to save Linda from Victor's clutches but Linda is too proud to listen to her warning.

The only thing that is annoying about the film is how the clips of wildlife were spliced onto the footage. According to The Stop Button:
The film...mixes naturally-lighted footage of gorillas with the actors on a set. It doesn’t work at all; there’s no energy in the gorilla shots and so Ford gives no energy to the cut-away shots of the actors. Worse, even when there aren’t gorillas around, studio shots mix in with location footage, removing the Hollywood realism aura–awkward as it was–the film created for ninety-five minutes. The film worked its best in the first half, before the location-filled safari....
In spite of the faulty technology which replaced on-location shots, Mogambo is a movie worth seeing, for the human drama that simmers along, punctuated with clever dialog and plenty of action. John Ford usually worked Catholic spirituality into his films, showing how God works in mysterious ways, with unlikely people, seeking out the lost.


cordelia said...

I LOVE this movie!

elena maria vidal said...

Me, too! ;-)

virginiebarbeau said...

Did you see the 'original' also starring Clark Gable - Red Dust? I prefer it, but perhaps that is because I prefer a younger Gable :))

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, I have! I like that version, too, although I like Clark at ANY age! ;-)