For Reel

Red Dust (1932)
March 23, 2011, 1:05 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Victor Fleming

Clark Gable and Jean Harlow worked together on a total of six pictures throughout the 1930s. Red Dust was the second of their collaborations, and it is an excellent example of Pre-Code Hollywood at it’s most risqué. Gable stars as the owner of a rubber plantation who chases after a prospector’s wife (Mary Astor) while a brash prostitute (Jean Harlow) jealously battles for his affections. Beyond the picture’s pleasures as an example of Hollywood at its most sleazy – this being a film that frankly deals with prostitution, adultery, and alcohol – it’s a wonderfully cast erotic drama with a number of sharp-witted, quotable lines (Harlow to a quiet parrot: “Whatcha been eatin’, cement?”) Astor is a serviceable contrast to Harlow as the “come-hither” trollop (in a memorable scene she bathes naked in a barrel of drinking water), and Gable’s animalistic lust is mirrored by the tigers that stalk about the campgrounds. Although a shameful product of its time in the presentation of the natives, the flavorful battle of the sexes is much more provocative and wickedly sensual than even today’s Hollywood productions. John Ford remade the picture as Mogambo in 1953 with Grace Kelly and Ava Gardner starring alongside the returning Gable.

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