Everything Snarls Around This Joint!

Posted: 30/12/2013 in 1953

mogambo

It must be first of all acknowledged that John Ford’s Mogambo is classic Oscar bait fare.  That in itself does not make this a bad film.  In fact, it’s not a bad film at all.  By the same token, it’s also not a film without its flaws.  But first the good news.  We have another film shot on location here, and shooting on location in East Africa does Mogambo a lot of good.  The visuals are realistic, and there is no doubt that we are on an African adventure throughout.  Additionally, the people of Kenya are not presented to us as complete imperialist-created stereotypes.  There is a respect here given to the extras to a certain degree.  That said, there is still an imperialistic air about this film that is hard to shake off.  Perhaps it is the presence of Clark Gable, an old school actor nearing the end of his career and not presenting us anything new here.  But this is not a film that exists to make any political statements, even as African states were getting their independence during the making of this film (although Kenya itself is still a decade away from from it).

This is a film that seeks to present a web of love interests in an old-school Hollywood fashion.  I’m not sure if I was that invested in the main theme of this film to be honest, as I didn’t particularly have much care for any of the characters.  Ah, but we’re supposed to be focusing on good news here, so aside from the wonderful color cinematography, the other good news here is the presence of Ava Gardner.  As Eloise Kelly, she is a fresh presence in the African bush amongst legally existing poachers of sorts, and she is a fresh presence on screen as well.  Her source material isn’t going to do much in shattering this lingering stereotype of the 1950s woman (which a few films this year have actually been able to dodge and turn around), but I do believe that she does the most she can with what she is given.  She certainly is the best thing about this film, and she does often add a third dimension to an otherwise two-dimensional character.  In terms of an awards contender, she is certainly is in the race with this one, but I think that her script may hinder her chances against tougher competition.

Honestly the bad news is everything else.  The directing does not hold up against fresher offerings this year.  The script is weak and it holds the film back from being something much better.  I love Clark Gable, but I’m tired of the shtick.  He’s simply playing the same character over and over again now.  Grace Kelly I’m a bit more hung on.  Her actual character, Linda Nordley, I have very little regard for.  That said, does that make her’s a bad performance.  Miss Kelly is getting a lot of good press for this one, but I’m just not seeing it.  There haven’t been a lot of amazing supporting performances for actresses this year, so maybe in retrospect this may be a stronger performance than I’m giving her credit for.  However, if Grace Kelly holds any degree of jealousy for Ava Gardner like her character does in the film, rightfully so because Mogambo is the Ava Gardner show all the way.

*** ~AOS

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