Welcome to the third day of reviews from TCM’s four-disc Greatest Classic Films: Romance set!
And tomorrow, we’ll cap off the series with a review of Now, Voyager.
Film #3: Mogambo (1953)
Directed by John Ford
Written by John Lee Mahin from a play by Wilson Collison
Starring Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly and Clark Gable
Victor Marswell (Clark Gable) lives in Kenya, where he operates a trapping operation, tracking down big game including leopards, giraffes and various primates to sell to zoos and circuses.
Eloise Kelly (Ava Gardner) is new to Marswell’s camp. She’s been deserted there by a man she was supposed to be visiting, having flown all the way from New York to see him only to find that he left for India a week earlier.
Eloise quickly finds herself attracted to Vic after she learns that she’ll be stuck with him for a week, until the next boat arrives that can put her on her journey back to New York.
More newcomers soon enter the camp: Anthropologist Mr. Nordley (Donald Sinden) and his wife Linda (Grace Kelly) have come to Kenya for a safari led by Vic, hoping to find and document gorillas in the wild. But Mrs. Nordley is no longer in love with her husband, and she provides some competition for Eloise when she falls for Marswell, too.
Mogambo is a film that boasts some beautiful cinematography, largely shot on-location in various African countries (including Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda). It’s clear that some of the animal footage (the angry gorillas, for example) is pulled from stock footage, but overall, the film is wonderfully photographed. The studio-shot interior scenes are blended pretty seamlessly with the on-location scenes.
The film’s also got a stellar cast of all-star players. You can’t go wrong with Gable, Gardner or Kelly and this film’s got all three of them. The scenes between Kelly and Gardner in particular are great — full of tension and rivalry.
Mogambo is a perfect fit for a romance DVD set because the love triangle between Marswell, Eloise and Linda really takes over all of the other aspects of the plot.
There’s an adventurous tale of an antropologist looking for gorillas hidden in there, and the story of Marswell’s business, but before re-watching the film for this review I’d completely forgotten about those things. It’s been a few years since the last time I saw this film, and I mistakenly remembered that Mr. and Mrs. Nordley had come to Marswell for a plain ol’ safari vacation rather than a primatology expedition!
Take a film like The African Queen for comparison — also partially shot in African countries, also blending adventure and romance. But when I reminisce on that film, I think of the adventure aspect of the story rather than the love story. Mogambo, on the other hand, is more of a romantic drama than anything else — but a very good one, at that.
Special feature: Theatrical trailer
Only the original trailer is included as a special feature on this disc, unfortunately!