Genre: Adventure, Romance, Drama
Director: John Ford
John Lee Mahin
By no means MOGAMBO is among John Ford’s best work, nor is Gable or Kelly’s, but, it brings Ava Gardner her the one and only Oscar nomination, this reason alone can suffice my curiosity and leapfrog onto the top tier of my watch list.
Although the selling point is the African safari, its exotic fauna and aboriginal tribes, this film is a standard combo of location shooting and studio imitation, particularly feels ill at ease when the two drastically incompatible part bluntly encounter during the confrontation scenes in the gorilla field, one can feasibly detect actors are acting in front of the footages of the wild creatures, since the qualities of their cinematography are conspicuously inconsistent. We can never catch the vicariousness after all.
The storyline is a meandering love triangle with a twist of adultery, Gable is Victor Marswell. a “supposed” charming, middle-aged bachelor and game hunter in Kenya, insouciantly circles around a freewheeling American widow Eloise (Gardner) and a young English wife Linda (Kelly), meanwhile, casually smuggles some wildlife from this primitive land. It is quite awful to watch now, not only because Gable has long passed his crest of his irresistible charisma, but his vocation is innately abhorrent, love is a too precious gift he should not deserve, not to mention from two diametrically disparate belles. Unfortunately, this is the philosophy which the Golden Age of Hollywood spoon-fed to its audience (and the picture was a great box office success too).
Gable is weathered but unerringly macho, stubbornly guarantees the aesthetics at then. Grace Kelly, soon would win her undeserved Oscar in THE COUNTRY GIRL (1954) and reach the zenith of her short but sensational film career with Hitchcock’s one-two punch REAR WINDOW (1954) and DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954) before retreating to be a princess, in here, she also got an Oscar nomination for BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, but her character is miserably off-putting, her unreasoning crush on Victor has never been effectively pulled off, although she does fully represent the usual feminine vulnerability to the hilt.
Thankfully, Ava Garner is the saving grace in the movie, despite being equally badly materialised as a commodity to men’s libido, she strives to be the woman who is decidedly intent on what she wants, most of the time, she is stranded in her low tide during the tug-of-love, nevertheless she is perpetually exuberant and fully charged, the time when she feeds the baby elephant and rhinoceros with bananas is priceless, also when a leopard passes by in her tent at night, her response is simultaneously spontaneous and droll. Her presence can validly let viewers forget what a shoddy story it is as long as eventually, she is the prize winner.
I give the film a generous 6.2/10 in light of that, albeit all its drawbacks, at the very least it is a coherent star vehicle, and Ava Garner who should be tenderly remembered for her outright beauty and gallantry, even though her entire filmography is not that impressive, she is a one-of-the-kind screen diva who cannot be duplicated in this era.