It isn't every leading man that can make a classic motion picture and 21-years later, remake it! His name was William Clark Gable and this is a look at those two motion pictures.
He was born on February 1, 1901, in Cadiz, Ohio, his father, oil-driller William Henry "Will" Gable, was a Protestant, his mother, Adeline Hershelman Gable was a Catholic.
Gable's mother passed away when he was 10-months old, and his father remarried, in April 1903, Jennie Dunlap. His stepmother can be credited with raising him to be both well-groomed and well-dressed, but also to play the piano and other instruments. She also encouraged his love of literature and William was known to quote Shakespeare's sonnets to his closest friends.
In 1918, William Clark Gable, seen below in that year, saw the stage play, "The Bird of Paradise", by Richard Walton Tully, and wanted to become a professional actor.
That dream would have to wait until he turned 21 and received an inheritance of $300 (equal to $4,465 at the time of this writing) from the Hershelman trust. Jennie Dunlap Gable passed away in 1920, and with his father, the two moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to work as oil-drillers.
After receiving the trust money, Gable started touring with stock companies as W. C. Gable, learning his trade, but his last company went bankrupt in Astoria, Oregon. He started working for Pacific Telephone and at the same time getting acting lesson from Josephine Dillion, below, who managed a Portland, Oregon, legitimate theater. It was Josephine that had Clark fix his teeth, start getting his hair styled, worked on his voice and delivery, his posture, and turned him into a potential leading man. In 1924, she moved to Los Angles and opened "The Dillion Stock Company".
Here we have a small problem, according to multiple biographies, Clark Gable came to Los Angeles in 1924, following his future first wife, Josephine Dillion. They both would lie on the marriage license, he claimed he was 24-years-old, the much older Josephine, claimed she was only 34-years-old, they would divorce six-years later.
That problem comes from the release of the motion picture, "Fighting Blood", on February 18, 1923, those same biographies state Clark Gable had an uncredited and undetermined role in the film. If Gable only came to Los Angeles in 1924, he couldn't have had a role in the motion picture and probably the real reason the role is listed as undetermined.
What is the first confirmed on-screen appearance for W. C. Gable, now calling himself as Clark Gable, was the silent feature, "White Man", released November 1, 1924. He was fourth-billed as "Lady Andrea's Brother". Which meant he just missed having his name on the film's posters.
Eleven uncredited roles followed through 1926, plus one credited role, as "Archie West", in 1925's, "North Star", a motion picture starring "Strongheart the Dog", a competitor to "Rin-Tin-Tin", as "North Star".
On January 18, 1931, the "B" Western, "The Painted Desert" premiered starring pre-"Hopalong Cassidy" William "Bill" Boyd as "Bill Holbrook", and Helen Twelvetrees as "Mary Allen Cameron". At fifth-billing was Clark Gable, as the villain of the piece, "Rance Brett".
Gable's career and billing started going up and he found himself co-starring with Joan Crawford and Neil Hamilton in the romantic drama, "Laughing Sinners", released May 30, 1931.
Then came Clark Gable's first starring role as "Warren 'Rid' Riddell", in the long-forgotten horse racing romance, "Sporting Blood", released August 8, 1931.
Next, Gable found himself co-starring with Greta Garbo in 1931's, "Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise)". Four more films followed with the actor co-starring with Wallace Berry, again with Joan Crawford, with Marion Davies, and again, Norma Shearer.
Clark Gable was now an established star at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and this brings me to the first of the two motion pictures of this articles title.
RED DUST released on October 22, 1932
Familiar plot stuff, but done so expertly it almost overcomes the basic script shortcomings and the familiar hot-love-in-the-isolated-tropics theme (from the play by Wilson Collison).
The date of the review is December 31, 1931, but cannot be accurate, because the film was in production from August 1932 through September 1932. So, a review eleven-months prior to the films release has to be incorrect and the year was a typo. Further into the review, my reader will find the correct year of 1932 mentioned.
Before I look at the motion picture, I want to look at the source, the play by Wilson Collison.
The play, "Red Dust", was first performed on January 2, 1928 at "Daly's 63rd Street Theatre", on Broadway in New York City, I could not locate the cast, but the setting of the three-act play is described as:
The living room of Lucien Fourville's bungalow on a rubber plantation in French Indo-China
The following day, the "New York Times", on page 29, had a review of the play that partly stated:
Another of those plays of the tropics, or anyway the near tropics, where passions are primitive and men wear their shirts open in the front, again holds the willing stage of Daly's Sixty-third Street Theatre.
Proper production credit in the 1930's wasn't as clear as it would be starting in the 1940's. As a result, some names appeared one-way on one list, a different way on another, or not even on the finished motion picture. Such is the situation with 1932's, "Red Dust".
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer acquired the rights to Wilson Collison's play and turned it over to the credited writer, John Lee Mahin, to only write a screen story that would be turned into a screenplay by another writer. However, on some lists for the motion picture, Mahin is shown as writing the actual screenplay and not the screen story.
He had written the screenplay for 1932's, "The Beast of the City", starring Walter Huston, Jean Harlow and Wallace Ford, and wrote additional dialogue for director Howard Hawks', 1932, "Scarface", starring Paul Muni and Ann Dvorak.
While on some listings, the uncredited Donald Ogden Stewart, is shown as writing additional dialogue for the "Red Dust" screenplay, but on others. He is listed as the uncredited writer of the actual screenplay.
Stewart had written additional dialogue for the Norma Shearer, Fredric March and Leslie Howard, 1932, "Smilin' Through".
Producing the motion picture were three men:
Victor Fleming was the only MGM credited producer on "Red Dust", and his name appears on the title card in the opening credits.
However, on different "complete cast and crews lists":
Co-producer, Hunt Stromberg, who had been producing shorts and feature films since 1921, is shown as one of the uncredited producers of the motion picture.
MGM executive, Irving Thalberg, who produced for "Universal Pictures", Lon Chaney's 1923, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", and moved to MGM to produced Chaney's, 1925's, "The Unholy Three", and 1927's, "London After Midnight". Along with other major MGM productions, such as Greta Garbo's, 1930,"Anna Christie", and Harry Carey, Sr's, 1931, "Trader Horn", is shown as the other uncredited producer on "Red Dust".
While, MGM's fully credited producer, Victor Fleming isn't even mentioned on many of these listings.
Speaking to Victor Fleming, he was MGM's hired director for "Red Dust", but on many of those cast and crew listings, his name is shown as an uncredited director. Which usually means there was another director on a film, but I could not locate any other name.
Among Victor Fleming's later films with full directing credit are 1937's, "Captains Courageous", starring Freddie Bartholomew, Spencer Tracy, Lionel Barrymore, and Melvyn Douglas, both 1939's, "Gone With the Wind", and "The Wizard of Oz", and the 1941, "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", starring Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, and Lana Turner.
Above, Victor Fleming in a publicity photo, seemingly to be directing Jean Harlow, while Mary Astor and Clark Gable look on.
There is no character named Lucien Fourville in the screenplay.
Clark Gable portrayed "Dennis Carson". He had just been seen in 1932's, "Strange Interlude", the motion picture Gable co-starred with Norma Shearer. Clark Gable followed "Red Dust" with 1932's, "No Man of Her Own", co-starring with Carole Lombard. Lombard would become Gable's third wife on March 29, 1939, and sadly, on January 16, 1942, Carole Lombard, her mother, Elizabeth Jayne "Bessie" Peters, and Gable's press agent Otto Winkler, were killed in an airplane crash.
Jean Harlow portrayed "Vantine Jefferson". The "Platinum Blonde", aka: "The Blonde Bombshell", Harlean Harlow Carpenter, started as an extra on-screen in 1928's, "Honor Bound". Among her films prior to this one are 1930's, "Hell's Angels", directed by Howard Hughes and the uncredited James Whale. My article, "JAMES WHALE: Jean Harlow to Louis Hayward", may be read at:
In 1931, Jean Harlow co-starred with James Cagney, in director William Wellman's, "Public Enemy", also in 1931, Harlow starred with first billing in director Frank Capra's comedy, "Platinum Blonde", second billing went to Loretta Young.
Above, one of the scenes director Victor Fleming could get away with in pre-Motion Picture Code Hollywood. Two-years later and the scene would have been censored, or probably removed, by Joseph Breen of the "Hayes Office".
During the shooting of the motion picture, Jean Harlow's husband, of two months, Paul Bern, a producer, director, and screenplay writer for MGM, on September 5, 1932, committed suicide, or did he, with a gunshot wound to the head. Conspiracy theories go on to this writing, but one point seems to remain. It is believed Bern was gay and couldn't give Harlow the love she deserves. Jean Harlow was away from the film shoot for 10-days, but other scenes were shot around her.
In 1965, 28 years after Jean Harlow's death, two studios raced each other to become the first to get their motion picture biography of the actress into movie theaters. My article, "JEAN HARLOW: The 1965 Biographical Motion Picture Race", is available to read at:
Gene Raymond portrayed "Gary Willis". Actor Raymond Guion was a 1930's lead or second billed actor, and "Red Dust" was only Raymond's fifth motion picture. Following this picture, just in 1933 alone, Raymond co-starred with Bette Davis in "Ex-Lady", co-starred with Fay Wray in "Ann Carver's Profession", co-starred with Carole Lombard in "Brief Moment", co-starred with Kay Francis in "The House on 56th Street", co-starred with Dolores del Rio in "Flying Down to Rio", and co-starred with Lillian Harvey in "I Am Suzanne!"
Mary Astor portrayed "Barbara Willis". Lucile Vasconcellos Langhanke had been appearing in short subjects since 1921's, "Brother of the Bear", and by the end of her career would appear in 165 different roles. Her last in 1964's, "Hush..Hush Sweet Charlotte", starring Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland. Yet, she is really only remembered for portraying "Brigid O'Shaughnessy" in director John Huston's, 1941, "The Maltese Falcon". My article, "MARY ASTOR co-starring John Barrymore, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., Clark Gable, Edward G. Robinson, William Powell, and of course, Humphrey Bogart", can be read at:
Above, Mary Astor and Gene Raymond
Tully Marshall portrayed "Mac' McQuarg". Character actor William Phillips moved from the legitimate stage to on-screen roles in 1914, he was both the "High Priest of Bel" and a "Friend of the Musketeer", in director D.W. Griffith's, 1916, "Intolerance". he was in the classic 1927 version of the horror mystery "The Cat and the Canary". Marshall also appeared in 1929's, "The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu", Al Jolson's, 1930, "Mammy", the Western that introduced an actor, now-named, John Wayne, 1930's, "The Big Trail", and in both 1932's, "The Beast of the City", and director "Howard Hawks, "Scarface".
The Basic Screenplay for "Red Dust":
To save money, MGM had the motion picture shot on the same sets used for the studios first "Tarzan" movie, "Tarzan of the Apes", that had its premier in New York City, on March 22 1932.
As with Wilson Collinson's original play, the setting is a rubber plantation in French Indochina, so named, because of the year of of the story, but today, Vietnam. The plantation owner is "Dennis Carson", who apparently was born on it, and has lived there all his life, with the exception of the occasional trip to Saigon, for what he describes as a "Fling".
The movie opens with "Carson" and one of the two overseers, "Mac' McQuarg" inspecting part of the plantation.
Returning to the main house, they find a drunk and out cold "Guidon", the other overseer, at the one large table in the main room. The two lift him up, take him into his room and toss "Guidon" onto the bed. It's dark in the room and "Guidon" lands on top of the sleeping "Vantine Jefferson", who has showed up while "Carson" and "Mac" were out.
"Vantine Jefferson", is a Saigon prostitute, or maybe she's just a low life tart, take your pick, but she has an easy-going personality and is extremely likeable. "Dennis" has had an on again, off again, relationship with her, but this time she's come to the plantation to hide from the Saigon authorities and has, admittedly, been falling in love with him, if he hasn't with her.
Playfully, "Vantine" calls "Dennis", "Fred", he calls her, "Lily", playing as if they don't remember the others name, or perhaps more to forget where they are and their own situations.
Four weeks later, it is now believed safe for "Vantine" to return to Saigon.
The supply boat arrives skippered by "Limey", portrayed by Forrester Harvey. On the boat is the newly hired surveyor, "Gary Willis", but to "Dennis Carson's" surprise, "Willis" has unexpectedly brought his newlywed wife "Barbara" with him. "Vantine" leaves on the boat after surveying "Barbara Willis" and "Carson" now must deal with "Gary Willis" and a wife accustomed to high society and not the jungles of Indochina .
"Dennis" makes his annoyance known to the inexperienced surveyor, over bringing his wife to a rubber plantation far away from even the civilization of Saigon. While, "Barbara Willis" is in shock about how her husband's employer acts toward him and strongly disapproves of "Dennis Carson" and shows it.
However, on the long boat trip upriver to the plantation, "Gary" has already developed malaria and "Barbara" has no idea what to do. Her attitude toward "Dennis" slowly changes as he does what she can't, nurses her husband back to health.
Meanwhile, "Vantine" has returned, "Limey's" boat got damaged going down river and the plantation was closer than attempting to make Saigon.
During treating "Gary Willis", "Dennis Carson" has started seeing "Barbara Willis" in another light, and perhaps her for him, but there are two problems.
The first is "Vantine", whose speech and actions are the opposite of the high society "Barbara", but have always pleased "Dennis". The second is the recovered "Gary Willis" and what to do about him?
Dinner that night, is full of sexual tension that is not picked up by "Gary" but is by "Mac" and "Guidon",
Clark Gable goes to the bathing and at least topless Jean Harlow. to drop the curtains and some pre-production code dialogue and action takes place. According to the "Legend of Harlow and "Red Dust", after shooting the scene, Jean Harlow stood up in the barrel and yelled:
Here's one for the boys in the lab!In the screenplay as the above scene is taking place, "Barbara Willis" appears, and "Dennis" invites her to take a walk with him to see the plantation.
The following link, as of this writing, takes my reader to Jean Harlow's famous bath scene.
While, "Barbara" is being shown the plantation, a monsoonal brief rain takes place, "Dennis" gets "Barbara" to a small workers shed, and in it the two realize they're in love and become lovers.
The only person on the rubber plantation who seems not to know about "Barbara" and "Dennis" is her husband "Gary". To avoid being discovered by him, "Dennis" sends "Gary" down river to survey another section of the plantation.
With "Gary" away, the love affair between "Dennis" and "Barbara" reaches a climax as the two want to marry. "Dennis Carson" decides to go down river and tell "Gary Willis" about the affair and the fact that his wife wants a divorce to marry him.
Down river finding the appropriate time to tell "Gary" isn't easy for "Dennis", in fact the two go out on a tiger hunt, with "Mac" and porters, during another monsoonal rain.
It is on the hunt that "Dennis Carson" realizes how much "Gary Willis" loves his wife and he makes the decision to break off the affair. Riding his horse all night, "Dennis" arrives at the main plantation house and starts drinking with "Vantine", whom he finally realizes is his type of woman.
"Barbara" enters and "Dennis" plays the cad telling her he's not a one-woman man, but she's invited to join "Vantine" and him. "Barbara" leaves and returns with a pistol and shoots "Dennis"
At that exact moment, in walks "Gary Willis" and to protect "Barbara", "Vantine" and "Dennis" come up with a story that while drunk, he walked into her room to take advantage of her.
"Gary" is proud of his wife and disgusted with "Dennis Carson". "Vantine" suggests "Gary" take "Barbara" and go away and he agrees. After the two leave, "Vantine" doctors "Dennis's" wound.
Later, "Vantine" reads that "Barbara" and "Gary" are returning to San Francisco as the story ends with "Dennis" and "Vantine" finally happily together.
From 1933 to 1942, Clark Gable made 39-motion pictures, and then enlisted in the United States Air Force and actually flew combat missions in a B-17, for the 8th Air Force, during the Second World War.
After the war ended, Army Air Force Major Clark Gable returned to motion pictures in the romantic comedy, 1945's, "Adventure", co-starring with Greer Garson and Joan Blondell, 11-movies later was:
MOGAMBO that premiered in San Francisco, on September 23, 1953
The story behind the making of this picture is interesting in itself, as are the threats to Clark Gable's life during the shoot.
On November 4, 1946, film critic Edwin Schallert, in the "Los Angeles Times", wrote that MGM was considering a remake of "Red Dust", starring Marilyn Maxwell in the Jean Harlow role, but the production was never made.
On March 30, 1948, also in the "Los Angeles Times", Hedda Hopper reported that Marie McDonald, was now being considered for the Harlow role.
On May 27, 1949, according to Edwin Schallert, MGM was back to Marilyn Maxwell with actor Gene Kelly.
On August 16, 1951, again in the "Los Angeles Times", it was reported that Clark Gable had been signed for the remake of "Red Dust". In February 1952, it was announced that Sam Zimbalist would produce, he had already produced MGM's 1950 remake of "King Solomon's Mines" and MGM's 1951 remake of "Quo Vadis", and he was scouting locations in Africa.
Zimbalist came up with the title of the movie and counter to all the stories about what the word meant, or what the trailer for the picture he created claiming it was Kenyan for "The Greatest". Sam Zimbalist took the name of his favorite West Hollywood Night Club and Hollywood hang out, "Mocambo", 8588 Sunset Boulevard, and just changed the letter "C" in the nightclub's name for a "G". The "Mocambo" had opened on January 3, 1941 and would close on June 30, 1958.
In June 1952, it was announced that John Ford would direct. He had just released the overlooked comedy-drama-western, 1953's, "The Sun Shines Bright", considered by many film critics as one of the director's masterpieces.
However, when most people mention John Ford, who made 1935's, "The Informer", 1940's, "The Grapes of Wrath", and 1945's, "They Were Expendable", it is his westerns that are normally first mentioned. My look at Ford's cavalry trilogy, "John Wayne in John Ford's CALVARLY TRILOGY: 'Fort Apache' 1948, 'She Wore a Yellow Ribbon' 1949 and 'Rio Grande' 1950", will be found at:
Even with Ford on board, the problem still remained as to who would play the Harlow, Astor, and Raymond's roles. Again, the search went on and actress Shelley Winters was considered for the Jean Harlow role, as was Patricia Neal, but in June 1952, Ava Gardner signed a contract.
Initially the Mary Astor role was given to actress Gene Tierney, who was engaged to Pakistani Prince Aly Khan, but Khan was going through a messy divorce to Rita Hayworth.
Tierney dropped out of the role to be with Aly Khan and in early July, Grace Kelly was offered and accepted the role.
Once again, the screenplay would be based upon Wilson Collison's play "Red Dust". In fact, the only screenplay writer for "Magombo", was "Red Dust's", John Lee Mahin. Who had become Clark Gable's favorite writer, and among his other films for the actor are both 1938's "Test Pilot", and "Too Hot to Handle", his uncredited work on 1939's "Gone with the Wind",1940's "Boom Town", and uncredited work on 1945's "Adventure". During the Second World War, Mahin, served with Gable as a Lieutenant in the 8th Air Force.
The New Character Names:
Clark Gable now portrayed "Victor Marswell". Gable has just co-starred with Gene Tierney in the adventure romance, 1953's, "Never Let Me Go", he followed this feature co-starring with Lana Turner and Victor Mature in, 1954's, "Betrayed".
Ava Gardner, in the Jean Harlow role, portrayed "Eloise Y. "Honeybear" Kelly". Ava Lavinia Gardner had just co-starred with Robert Taylor and Howard Keel, in the 1953, western romance, "Ride Vaquero!". She would follow this film portraying "Guinevere", to Robert Taylor's "Lancelot", and Mel Ferrer's, "King Arthur", in 1953's, "Knights of the Round Table".
Grace Kelly, in the Mary Astor role, portrayed "Linda Nordley". Grace Patricia Kelly had just made her sixth on-screen appearance. It had been on the television anthology series, "The Philco Television Playhouse", in "The Way of the Eagle", on June 7, 1953, co-starring with Jean-Pierre Aumont. Kelly would follow this motion picture with her last of six appearances on televisions "Kraft Theatre", on January 6, 1954, in "The Thankful Heart". The actress would follow that television appearance with her next motion picture, director Alfred Hitchcock's only 3-D movie, 1954's, "Dial M for Murder", co-starring with Ray Milland and Robert Cummings.
Donald Sinden, in the Gene Raymond role, portrayed "Donald Nordley". British actor Sir Donald Alfred Sinden was borrowed from "The Rank Organization". He had just co-starred in the excellent British naval drama, 1953's, "The Cruel Sea", co-starring with Jack Hawkins and Denholm Elliott. Sinden followed this motion picture co-starring with Stanley Holloway in the 1953 drama, "A Day to Remember".
Clark Gable arrived in Kenya on November 1, 1952, and shooting was to begin, but according to the "Los Angeles Times", November 2, 1952, there was a rumor that Gable was a target for assassination and Clark Gable was given an armed guard.
Moving forward for a moment, in 1955, author, syndicated columnist, and African big game hunter, Robert Ruark, published his novel "Something of Value". It would be made into an excellent 1957 motion picture starring Rock Hudson, Dana Wynter, and Sidney Poitier. Both tell of events that took place in Kenya, at the same time as Clark Gable's arrival to make "Mogambo".
Briefly, these events possibly began in August 1951, with the British authorities receiving rumors of a secret society in Kenya called the Mau-Mau. Which was made up of members of the Kikuyu, a Bantu tribe, found in Central Kenya, but also found in Tanzania.
On October 7, 1952, Senior Kikuyu Chief Waruhui was assassinated in broad daylight on the streets of Nairobi by a man using a spear. Waruhui had spoken out about Mau-Mau aggression against the British colonial rule of Kenya that he supported.
On October 19, 1952, it was announced that England would be sending British troops to Kenya to help fight the Mau-Mau and protect the British citizens who were the major plantation owners.
On November 14, 1952, thirty-four schools in the Kikuyu tribal area were closed.
On November 25, 1952, Open Rebellion Against British Rule Began. British troops arrested over 2,000 members of the Kikuyu tribe alleged of being "Mau-Mau".
Also on November 25th, the "New York Times", had a story that Ava Gardner fell ill from dysentery and had to be rushed to London for treatment and rest. The article mentioned that two of the "Mogambo" film crew were discovered to be "Mau-Mau".
"Victor" expected "Donald", but didn't know anything about a wife, let alone "Donald" bringing her. "Victor" thought "Donald Nordley" was only going to use his ranch as a homebase to study animal life around it. "Victor's" second surprise came when "Donald" wanted him to guide the anthropologist into gorilla country. Which "Victor" flatly refused to do. As "Victor" is dealing with the "Nordley's, "Eloise" leaves on the boat.
After setting up a camp, "Eloise" tells "Brownie" that she was once briefly married, but her husband was killed in the war.
When "Linda" returns to camp and her tent, she refuses the advances of her husband to his confusion.
Back at the camp, "Eloise" and "Victor" are in his tent drinking and she deduces he went "All Noble" and didn't tell "Donald" anything. "Linda" enters to find "Eloise" sitting in "Victor's" lap.
The "Nordley's" leave the tent, "Eloise" tends to "Victor's" wound, and on the following morning the "Nordley's" start back to their home and "Victor" asks "Eloise" to marry him.
Nine feature films followed "Mogambo", before Clark Gable's final on-screen appearance.
Released on February 1, 1961, Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, and Montgomery Clift co-starred in "The Misfits". A modern western directed by John Huston from a screenplay by Monroe's current husband, playwright Arthur Miller, and Gable's final feature film.