This entry is part of “The Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon” hosted by Virginie at “The Wonderful World of Cinema”. I would personally like to thank her for allowing me to participate at such short notice. This is officially my first blogathon- I entered at the last minute- its Grace Kelly, my favorite actress so I couldn’t let it pass me by! For me, Mogambo was the second Grace Kelly picture I saw, and I watched for the first time on my 17th Birthday.
Mogambo… what is Mogambo? According to the trailer, Mogambo means “The Greatest”. And maybe that’s because MGM really had the “greatest” elements going for the film- Technicolor, location shoot, and the “greatest” actor in all of Hollywood, the king of himself, Mr. Clark Gable. Of course, MGM also had the “greatest” source material for the picture, as Mogambo was to be a remake of their own 1932 Jean Harlow pre-code Red Dust (which also had Gable as the leading man- Only Gable can replace Gable folks, even if its twenty years later!)
Like its predecessor, Mogambo was to have the same plot- two women (one married, one single) vying for the affections of Clark Gable in an exotic location- but instead of taking place on an Indochina rubber plantation, Mogambo was to be set in the African jungle. To cast the female leads, MGM turned to some of Gable’s former co-stars: Ava Gardner, who had previously worked with Gable on both The Hucksters and Lone Star; and Gene Tierney, his leading lady from Never Let Me Go. With Gable, Gardner, Tierney and veteran western/ action director John Ford all attached, Mogambo was set to be a smash even before it hit the big screen.
So how does the wonderful Grace Kelly fit in of this? It actually turned out to be a twist of fate, as right before filming began, Gene Tierney dropped out due to illness. Needing to find a new actress for the part, John Ford went to MGM executives and showed them Grace’s 1950 screen test from the film Taxi. Of her test, Ford said Ms. Kelly had “Breeding, Quality and Class” (I agree Mr. Ford, I agree!!!)
At the time Grace only had two films to her name, (14 Hours and High Noon) but MGM execs clearly agreed with Ford when they offered her the role of Linda Nordley (the married woman; Donald Sinden played her husband), as well as the traditional 7 year studio contract. Grace accepted, but careful as ever, signed on the conditions that A– she was able to live in New York and B– every two years she could get time off to work in the theater.
Filming took place from Fall 1952- Winter 1953. During the duration of the shoot, Grace naturally got along with all her co-stars (she found a life-long friend in Ava Gardner; with Clark, while on location, she joined him on hunting trips ) and even impressed everyone at dinner one night by ordering in Swahili! On the downside, behind the scenes, there were also some problems- Frank Sinatra and Ava’s deteriorating marriage (and her abortion during a filming break), Ford’s nasty treatment to all the stars, and of course the alleged “affair” between Gable and Grace.
In the end, however, Grace’s hard work prevailed, as was she was nominated both for a Golden Globe and an Oscar with both noms in the category of Best Supporting Actress. I think Grace gave a good performance and her character proves glamour can exist even in the most un-glamourous of places. Her scenes with Gable and Gardner are well acted and it’s easy to believe she’s falling for Gable, even though she’s a married woman. The costumes are also wonderful as Helen Rose made Grace to be “Safari Chic”.
Today, Mogambo may not be regarded as a “classic” classic, however, it still is a fan favorite and is considered by many to be John Ford’s most under rated work. I think Grace herself summed it up well as to why we still watch the film today, when she later said,“Mogambo had three things that interested me-John Ford, Clark Gable, and a trip to Africa.”
(photo- DVD Beaver)
What I like about Mogambo is even though it’s a re-make- it’s a good one that’s worth watching. It’s different to Red Dust and is not a shot by shot, word for word re-make. The film also has nice parallel between Grace and Mr. Gable, in regards to their careers- his last real success and a breakout performance for her. My favorite scene has to be the lake scene with Clark, Grace, and their embrace- it’s just so pretty and it’s really the moment Grace’s character falls for Clark’s (seriously who can blame Grace!!)
After all everyone, with talent like that Mogambo truly is “The Greatest”!
Spoto, Donald. High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly. 1st Ed. New York: Harmony Books, 2009. Print.
MOGAMBO 1953 Available on DVD