Mogambo (1953) starring Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, Donald Sinden, Philip Stainton, Eric Pohlmann, Laurence Naismith directed by John Ford Movie Review

Mogambo (1953)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Clark Gable and Grace Kellly in Mogambo

It's Animal Magnetism for Gable, Gardner and Kelly

Although not a remake "Mogambo" is another adaptation of Wilson Collison's play which provided the back bone for "Red Dust" in 1932. What these two movies have in common other than being based around the same sort of storyline is that they both star Clark Gable in the lead role. I wish I could say which version was best but I am yet to watch "Red Dust", what I can say is that although "Mogambo" is a wholly serious movie about a love triangle, directed by none other than John Ford watching it now it is more entertaining for all the wrong reasons, most notably the constant over acting from all parties.

Having returned to his home after trying to catch a big black cat, big game trapper Victor Marswell (Clark Gable - Gone With The Wind) unexpectedly finds himself in the company of Eloise Kelly (Ava Gardner - The Snows of Kilimanjaro) who was expecting to meet someone there but has been stood up. Despite initially antagonistic towards each other it doesn't take long for Marswell and Kelly to hit it off. That is until Mr. and Mrs. Nordley (Donald Sinden and Grace Kelly) show up to go on a gorilla tracking safari and Marswell becomes attracted to Mrs. Nordley who is growing tired of her husband's enthusiasm for anthropological work.

Donald Sinden and Grace Kellly in Mogambo

Before I get to the overacting there is a major problem when it comes to "Mogambo" and that is the way it's been put together. On one hand you have the entertaining messy love triangle between Marswell, the feisty Kelly and Linda Nordley, then you have the expedition to study Gorillas and finally you have the location. To put it bluntly the only time "Mogambo" is really interesting is when the focus is on Marswell and his feelings towards Linda, whilst Kelly struggles with her feelings towards him. When Ford focuses on the actual Gorilla study or the various stock images of wild animals in action it becomes boring.

What this unfortunately means is for about the first half of "Mogambo" it's quite entertaining as all the pieces are put into place. And in fact it's quite amusing with the feisty relationship between Kelly and Marswell whilst the relationship between Marswell and Linda is more smouldering. But after that first half as we basically go on Safari, John Ford decides to fill the running length with animals running in the wild, stock footage of Gorillas and it loses that interest as it struggles to find itself. It does manage to rediscover the storyline for the final fifteen minutes but the damage is done in that middle section.

But watching "Mogambo" now it's very hard to take it seriously because it is chock full of over acting, with not a single star putting in anything close to a realistic performance. Ava Gardner is great fun as the larger than life, seriously feisty Kelly but it's over the top with so much melodrama coming from her that you end up laughing at what is meant to be a moment of heightened emotion. Grace Kelly fairs no better as Linda Nordsley and in fact delivers even more melodrama than Gardner. It just makes it all unintentionally laughable, as is the fact both of these beautiful actresses were nominated for Oscars for their performances.

Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly are not alone as Donald Sinden as Linda's husband Donald Nordley camps it up with an awfully posh British accent and a severe case of stiff upper lip. And as for Clark Gable, well it seems he was playing to his legend, that handsome cantankerous man whose looks would get him any women. Trouble is with Ava Gardner 20 years younger and Grace Kelly nearly 30 years younger it just feels all wrong. Don't get me wrong Gable even in his 50s was handsome but it makes the storyline a little bit of a joke.

What this all boils down to is that these days taken seriously "Mogambo" just doesn't work, the mix of messy love triangle, with safari and wild life footage just doesn't feel right and makes it feel over long and padded. And the constant over acting by all the stars makes it quite laughable. But not taken seriously, allowing yourself to laugh at the various old fashioned over acting and "Mogambo" becomes a little amusing.