DATELINE: Safari Fun
Mogambo could have been made in 1953 as a movie chestnut with Stewart Granger, Maureen O’Hara and Gene Tierney. The title name isn’t even African. It’s portmanteau.
We might have found this trifle cast entertaining, but it would never have reached the electrifying fun of Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, and Grace Kelly, having at it in the jungles of Equatorial Africa.
Put John Ford in the director’s chair—changing his pace from Ireland and John Wayne’ Quiet Man, and you have glorious banter among stars at their peak.
You may find the beauty of Ava (playing Kelly) and Grace (not playing Gardner) overwhelming. It is topped off with Ava in one of her more delightful feisty roles, bantering with elan, with everyone in the cast. She even finds herself knocked into the mud by a baby elephant as she asks him to stomp on Gable when he grows up.
Some might say that Gable was on the downslide by mid 1950s, but no moreso than Gary Cooper or Spencer Tracy. He is Rhett Butler again, with gray at the temples.
Ford manages to weave his usual magical images with story and character here. Moonlight on the African Serengeti is matched with moonlight on Ava.
This is not one of those modern cartoon movies that directors today must merge with special effects. Life has enough effects for a movie with adults and for adults with a mature perspective.
Mogambo was lost in a plethora of on location movies of the era as Hollywood tried to play against television at the box-office, but the stars here were up to the task of adventure in the remote jungles. Oh, yes, African Queen, King Solomon’s Mines, and even Woman and the Hunter were glorious Technicolor romps—but for pure delight, this one wins, safari, so good.