Mogambo (1953)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB

USA, 1953.  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.  Screenplay by , based on the play by .  Cinematography by , .  Produced by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by Helen Rose.  Film Editing by .  Academy Awards 1953.  Golden Globe Awards 1953.

It is thanks to watching movies that one gathers important tips for surviving in the wilder climates of the world: for instance, in Mogambo we learn that wearing high-heeled, open-toed slippers is the perfect accoutrement while residing in the middle of the harsh, African jungle. Worried about the sun? Stylish, off-the-shoulder tops are the perfect way to soak up the heat, and make sure you have a tux handy for champagne dinner on special occasions. Such details are just a few of the reasons why this John Ford melodrama is the height of kitsch, but they do not prevent the film from being entertaining. Ava Gardner stars as a showgirl who comes to Clark Gable‘s hut looking up an old moneybags friend, only to discover that the Maharaja she meant to entertain has decamped for somewhere else. Stuck with the gruff Gable and his animal-trapping safari friends, she is given competition for her new love interest when an anthropologist and his prissy wife (Grace Kelly) show up to make a soup of things. Kelly’s rock-solid performance is the film’s main asset, as she is perfectly cast in the role and gives it a lot more gravity than it deserves; Gable was far too old to be reprising his Red Dust performance, while Gardner is vivaciously sexy and charismatic but it is impossible to believe her as uneducated trash. The filmmakers obviously wanted the money spent on the film to show, so every opportunity to include each and every possible animal found on the continent of Africa makes its way within the frame, including a very scary standoff with some ornery gorillas; the sequences shot on Hollywood soundstages made up to look like jungle locales, however, look like something out of an old Merian C. Cooper film and jar uncomfortably with the location shots. A mixed grab-bag of elements, obviously made to cash in on the success of King Solomon’s Mines, but not nearly as polished or classy.

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