|RED DUST (1932)|
|"I saw him kick the door shut. He came out with rouge all over his mouth. I suppose he asked to borrow your lipstick."|
|Time: 83 mins.|
Rating: Not Rated
In their first major onscreen pairing, Harlow and Gable prove just how fun lust can be. This red-blooded romance brings our stars together in the remote jungles of Africa, which allows them to be as wild as they choose. Gable plays Dennis Carson, the owner of a rubber plantation, whoís not exactly looking for love, but wonít turn down attractive company. Itís fairly clear from her first scene that Harlowís character Vantine is a girl who can be bought, though when she lays eyes on the hunky Carson, she finds herself willing to give the goods away for free. Their relationship is saucy, sexy and uncomplicated, until competition shows up on the doorstep in the form of Babara Willis (Astor). She arrives with her husband Gary (Raymond), a new employee of Carson, and immediately sets Carsonís imagination on fire. His defection from Vantine is as unbelievable to her as it will be too you, but the script says that he turns to the lady from the tramp, so one must go along for the ride. Being the boss, he conveniently sends Mr. Willis away on assignment so he can woo his wife without feeling guilty.
For her part, you canít really blame Babs for falling for Carsonís charms. Heís almost too much man for any woman to resist and is without a doubt much more of one their her husband will ever be. Of course, unlike Vantine, life in the wilderness is not a picnic for Babs and ending her marriage is not an option, however tempting Carsonís intoxicating masculinity may be. As in every love triangle somehow winds up with a broken heart and what makes this one unsually intriguing is that this time itís the man who fails to get the girl. Well, he gets one, but not the one he initially believes he deserves. One wonders about halfway through why Vantine would stay where sheís no longer wanted, but when you see the way she looks at Carson itís clear that sheís found a man to call home and isnít about to lose him to an uptight ninny like Babs. What he comes to discover is that Vantine is the right fit for his rugged, no-nonsense lifestyle; the kind of gal who fears nothing and will watch your back when things get tough. When push comes to shove, Miss Van proves sheís a whole lot of woman and recaptures Carsonís wandering heart for good.
Victor Fleming was no "women's director" and this is not your typical gushy love story. For one thing (though most assuredly filmed on a back lot) it has a rustic, exotic feel that adds to the animal attraction of its' stars. There is also a significant amount of action and danger to prove to the audience that the story is taking place in a wild and untamed land. If that weren't enough, Harlow's no-nonense, sarcastic, sex appeal pretty much drains the sappiness out of any scene she happens to be in. Filmed pre-Code, the story is allowed to be told in a blunt, adult manner, a style that would soon disappear from movies until the 1970s. Gable remade this film as MOGAMBO in the 1950s with Ava Gardner cast in the lusciously loose Harlow role and Grace Kelly in the icy cool, passions-run-deep Astor part. While MOGAMBO is told in a grander style with wide Technicolor panoramas and perfectly-quaffed leading ladies, it loses some of the audacity and spirit that makes RED DUST stand out from the crowd. Harlow's sass and determination color this tale from beginning to end, making her character the only choice for Gable. Her slinky outfits only add to her appeal. His robest youth makes him equally irresistable, something slightly lacking in the later version. Sure, he's still Gable, but he's missing a certain recklessness (found in the original) that leaves his co-stars breathless with anticipation.
Both versions are clearly products of their time and are interesting to watch for the differences between them, especially to see the distinct chemisty Gable has with all four of his leading ladies. What a tough life. This is a romance even men will enjoy since the crux of the story is Gable trying to decide which lovely lady to share his life with. Only Hollywood could make such a dilemma not only palatable, but entertaining as well.