Red Dust (1932)
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Critic Reviews for Red Dust
Gable, Harlow and a Rain Barrel. You don't need anything else.
Everything you don't expect from that most conservative of studios Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It is rough, brief, to the point and gleefully trashy.
Gable and Harlow sizzle, and she looks great in a barrel.
Audience Reviews for Red Dust
I should warn you up front that to like this movie, you'll have to overlook some serious racism, both in the horribly stereotypical portrayal of an Asian servant referred to as 'boy' (who unfortunately appears many times), as well as in the depiction of the native workers on a rubber plantation in Indochina as lazy and unintelligent 'coolies'. You will have to mentally block that out of your mind, stifle your disgust, or chalk it up to the times. There is also a fair bit of sexism as well. Clark Gable is in one of his usual roles, the tough guy with loose morals, and Jean Harlow is a prostitute he has a one-night stand with. The prim and proper Mary Astor and her sick husband Gene Raymond arrive on the plantation, and Gable has his eyes on her from the start. Harlow has returned as well, but instead of complicating things, her presence serves as sassy comic relief. Gable sends Raymond away on a difficult assignment so he can seal the deal with Astor, but the resulting affair brings about emotions that are hard for him to deal with - love with Astor, guilt towards Raymond. Harlow and Gable have good chemistry, but I thought it was matched (if not surpassed) by what he shares with Astor. Harlow of course has the famous scene bathing in a rain barrel, but the scene which has Gable carrying Astor through monsoon rains and then kissing her for 17 seconds is far steamier. It's the rain barrel that drew all of the attention, however, and Harlow's natural charm does shine through. The dialog is engaging and this is a good pre-Code picture that will hold your attention. Just be prepared to cringe at times because of the racism.
In "Red Dust," Dennis Carson(Clark Gable) owns a rubber plantation in Vietnam that he runs with his pal McQuarg(Tully Marshall). Along with the usual problems of too much rain or not enough rain in that part of the world, not to mention the large tiger that has his eyes on the parrot, that make such a business proposition risky and occasionally even gives Carson thoughts about leaving, now he has to deal with Vantine(Jean Harlow) who does not sleep that much at night.(Hint. Hint.) At first, they argue but eventually find peace together. Just as she is leaving on the same boat that is bringing in Gary Willis(Gene Raymond), the new engineer, he finds that along with tennis rackets, he is bringing along a wife(Mary Astor). "Red Dust" is a robust and old fashioned entertainment that transcends its soap opera structure by sheer star power alone. The central message is that one should not always go by first impressions and how people can surprise you, especially in the relationship between Carson and Vantine. However, I know this may be unfair with about eight decades of hindsight but it is disappointing that director Victor Fleming does not heed this same advice when it comes to the natives, going by Carson's and Willis' observations alone of how lazy they are.
if you could tolerate sexism and racism without taking them into account too seriously, you might emancipate yourself to indulge in the gable-harlow "red dust"....the mode of gable-harlow screen romances would be that the slicitous harlow desperately courts the handsome but crude gable who disregards this aphrodite-like blonde bombshell but enamoured of the other brunette upper-class prim fairlady who seems to have a crush on him that helps to uplevel his selfism. such pattern also repeats in "china seas", but only this time our stingently coy brunette mary astor has some depth by her delicately tormented conflict of adulterous passion and virtuous guilt. (as gable's typical brunette love interest, astor distinguishes herself with such mental complexity much more than rosalind russell in "china seas") gable always dismisses harlow by shutting at her rudely meanwhile has no objection to acquiant himself with her bedside curtain.(which means he disrepects her but sex with her anyway) however, the intensely lovelorn harlow would always endure his musculine vulgarities (which he makes no attempt to conceal from her) like a good little woman with her own bawdy prole demeanors such as uttering obscenely humorous quib lines. male audience then had an affinity with gable's character that might be due to their own sense of priviledged gender concepts beautified by gable's dashing good looks and his redundancy of female admirers but also identified with his savage roughness and his abusive manners. he has the vices american audience's fond of and also the shrewd manliness approved by men in general that makes him the so called "diamond in the raw" which is the good-looking sexy beast who takes what he wants egoistically like men assume themselves to be. he proves his competence of male charm by successfully seducing the genteel wife but toss her aside once he finally yields to the bourgeois concern of nobility. he loves and runs, eventually even rewarded with a glamour beauty as compensation. additionally, the way those characters treat asian coolies is a vital proof of racism then...when astor gives a line like "how could you treat my husband like one of those coolies" or implicitly deeming them as "animals" or "civilized barbarians" constantly with a goofy smirks on their cheeks. when it comes to the entertainment level, it's still a well-performed flick with engrossing melodramtic clashes between characters that appease audience's salacious want but also concede to the righteously happy ending without intruding the moralistic bourgeois mass.
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