I can’t remember another film where I have had so many changes of opinion just while watching it. The other day, Bitter Victory (Nicholas Ray, 1957) went from boring to interesting because stuff actually started to happen, and i decided that Richard Burton was pretty dreamy.
At first I thought there was little credit to give Mogambo (John Ford, 1953) except that Grace Kelly and Clark Gable had an affair whilst filming, because, as she said, what else is there to do when you’re stuck in the jungle with Clark Gable? And also the beautiful shot after Clark has walked Grace to her cabin during a storm, and embrace within a frame of the bamboo shack, punctuated by a slice of bright green and blue for the water, mountainous surroundings.
Then I moved on to decided the core storyling of the film was excellent, a real twisting of emotions within a love triangle, and very interesting characterisations especially for Grace Kelly and tension between the two women. All this in spite of the fact that it was slightly politically incorrect, looking at it today, at least- but that i have come to expect of many films of that era (am thinking particularly of Westerns and backstage musicals ie representations of Native Americans). And in spite of the messy cinematography and editing disjuncture between studio and location footage, different lighting, focus, etc. This, I suppose, for an MGM studio film particularly (because of time constraits etc.) can be forgiven.
But my final experience of the film has made me very, very angry. Clark Gable supposedly turned ‘noble’ and decided to break Grace Kelly’s heart so that she would stay with her husband who had, in a conveniently revelatory speech, just revealed how much he loved her. So he earns the tag of respectable gentleman by, as it seems, sacrificing his own happiness for her husbands. What fails to be kept in consideration here is her happiness- Clark seemed to forget the fact that she was terribly unhappy with her husband, not in love with him, and committed to this act of adultery. Grace’s heartbreak is shown but also completely overlooked for Clark’s ‘feelings’ to benefit. And then, to top that all off, he goes and gets Ava Gardner anyway. So really, Grace Kelly loses terribly in all this because she is forced, by men, to submit to their patriarchal demands, and yet all is disguised as being for her own good.
Damn John Ford.