Red Dust [1932]

Director: Victor Fleming
Stars: Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Gene Raymond, Mary Astor
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Runtime: 83 minutes

Red Dust is the second of six movies Clark Gable and Jean Harlow made together. As usual, he plays a rugged man's man whose devilishly sexy good looks and deep-rooted gallantry make him irresistible to women; she, a tough, no-nonsense broad with a smart mouth, champagne hair, a body that won't quit, and a heart of mush. Their presence elevates this otherwise melodramatic soaper to the rank of classic. Directed by Victor Fleming (who, at Gable's insistence, took over the direction of Gone With the Wind from George Cukor), it definitely bears Fleming's macho mark. Dennis Carson (Gable) runs a Southeast Asian rubber plantation. Vantine, a "woman of easy virtue" (Harlow), drifts into camp looking for a place to evade the law. One look at Dennis and she falls, hard. Her incessant chatter drives him nuts--and out of sheer impudence she insists on calling him "Fred"--but she finally wears him down. "You talk too much, but you're a cute little trick at that," he grins, pulling her onto his lap as the camera cuts away... Then Dennis falls for Babs Willis (Mary Astor), the genteel wife of visiting surveyor Gary Willis (Gene Raymond). (The couple arrives at the dangerous, ramshackle camp with tennis rackets.) Babs can't help but succumb to Dennis's raw masculine power. Come the monsoons, he carries her in out of the rain. Their ensuing first kiss is one hot movie moment--and her a married woman! Of course this can't last: Gable and Harlow have to end up together. Dennis takes pity on Gary and abandons his plan to run away with Babs. "I've been noble," he tells Vantine, taking her in his arms. "Well, it's about time!" she replies. --Laura Mirsky

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