Red Dust (1932)

Red Dust
Clark Gable and Jean Harlow

'Red Dust' is a movie drama made in 1932, directed by Victor Fleming and starring Clark Gable, Jean Harlow and Mary Astor. The film is based on the play of the same name by Wilson Collison which opened in New York on 2 January 1928.

In 1953 Gable starred in a remake of the film, 'Mogambo', co-starring Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly.

The film was made before the strict enforcement of the Production Code which set moral standards for the movie industry and includes dialogue and some scenes which would have been forbidden just two years later.

The movie was beautifully acted by a strong cast and is still very watchable today. It was selected by the Library of Congress in 2006 for inclusion in the United States National Film Registry.

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The movie pre-dates the Production Code by 2 years and is all the better for it, telling an intriguing tale of passion and jealousy set in the steamy jungle of French Indo-China. Clark Gable plays Dennis Carson, the boss of a busy rubber plantation. His new surveyor, Gary Willis, played by Gene Raymond, arrives at the plantation with his classy wife, Barbara, played by Mary Astor. Although Carson is involved with a prostitute, Vantine, played by Jean Harlow, who is passing through, he becomes attached to Gary's wife. The ensuing love triangle is what propels the plot forward.

The twist is at the end when an almost certain tragic dénouement is averted and the audience goes away contented.


Wilson Collison was primarily a writer of successful theatrical farces such as 'Up in Mabel's Room', and 'Red Dust' was one of his few non-farce plays. He worked at MGM for several months in 1927 but left when it appeared that none of his work would be used on screen. He immediately wrote the stage play, 'Red Dust' and it opened in New York in January 1928 but closed after only eight performances. MGM bought the film rights, originally intending it as a vehicle for John Gilbert and Greta Garbo, and to be directed by Jacques Feyder.

Clark Gable had recently come to prominence with a good performance in 'Hell Divers' in 1931, and it was decided by Irving Thalberg of MGM that Gable should partner Jean Harlow, who, herself had had a recent success with 'The Public Enemy' with James Cagney in 1931. It was an inspired decision. Harlow and Gable complemented each other perfectly and went on to make a further four movies together.

Jean Harlow and the death of Paul Bern

During filming, Jean Harlow's second husband, producer Paul Bern, an MGM executive whom she had married in July 1932, committed suicide by shooting himself. A few days later, his mentally unstable former common law wife was found floating in the Sacramento River, after allegedly committing suicide, giving rise to the theory that she had murdered Bern before killing herself. Harlow's reaction to the tragedies was muted and dignified and won her many admirers. She was absent from filming for ten days but director Fleming was able to shoot scenes around her and the production was not interrupted. In September, 1933 photographer Harold Rosson became Harlow's third husband.

Main Cast

The acting is superb and is one of the factors which makes the movie so watchable. Gable and Harlow are an inspired pairing. A youthful Gable displays his raw charisma and he is matched all the way by Jean Harlow.

Clark Gable ... Dennis Carson
Jean Harlow ... Vantine Jefferson
Mary Astor ... Barbara Willis
Gene Raymond ... Gary Willis
Tully Marshall ... "Mac" McQuarg, overseer
Donald Crisp ... Guidon, overseer
Willie Fung ... Hoy, house servant
Forrester Harvey ... Captain Limey


Director ... Victor Fleming
Producer ... Hunt Stromberg, Irving Thalberg (both uncredited)
Screenplay ... John Mahin
Based on ... the play 'Red Dust' by Wilson Collison
Music ... Kenyon Hopkins
Cinematography ... Harold Rosson, Arthur Edeson
Distribution Company ... Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date ... October 22, 1932
Running time ... 83 minutes

Academy Awards

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