RED DUST 
Red Dust is one of the earliest Clark Gable/Jean
Harlow films. I love the movie everytime I watch it. The chemistry between
Gable and Harlow is so great. The kissing scenes are sizzling. They
are, in fact, the sex god and goddess.
Dennis Carson (Clark Gable) is a rubber plantation manager torn between
two women, Vantine (Jean Harlow), a flamboyant but likeable blonde,
and Barbara Willis (Mary Astor), the refined wife of an engineer (Gene
Raymond). The jungles of Indochina provide the steamy setting for this
often humorous love triangle.
A rubber plantation owner has an affair with the wife of an employee
despite the jealousy of a stranded prostitute.
Dennis Carson (Clark Gable) runs a rubber plantation in Vietnam. He
finds Vantine (Jean Harlow) in his house hiding out from the police
in Saigon. As Vantine chatters on, Dennis is angry at first; but he
warms up to the woman who says she is not used to sleeping at night.
Dennis gives her some money as she gets on the boat that brings Gary
Willis (Gene Raymond) and his wife Barbara (Mary Astor). Dennis tells
Barbara to give Gary quinine for the fever. She is worried about him
not having a doctor and slaps Dennis, who smiles and hopes she got it
out of her system. Vantine comes back at night after the boat wrecked.
Dennis sends her upstairs and tells her to dress and behave decently.
Dennis treats Gary for three days until the fever breaks. Both Barbara
and Gary believe they owe him much. Dennis finds Vantine in his room
but declines a forehead massage. Gary goes out to work, and Dennis argues
with Vantine while she is taking a bath. Dennis shows Barbara how they
make rubber and explains why he doesn't allow women on the plantation.
During a storm he carries her back to the house and is seen kissing
her by Vantine.
sends Gary with Guidon (Donald Crisp) and McQuarg to work in the swamps
for three weeks or so. Vantine tells Dennis she wants to leave, but
he won't provide the coolies. After three weeks Dennis kisses Barbara
and says he is going to tell Gary about them. She asks him if he loves
her. Dennis learns the coolies are not working because they are afraid
of a tiger. While they wait with rifles, Gary tells Dennis he would
fold up without Barbara. Dennis shoots the tiger and heads back at night
in the rain. Guidon tells Gary that Dennis is involved with his wife.
Dennis gets home and starts drinking. Vantine joins him. Dennis tells
Vantine he is noble and kisses her. As they wrestle, Barbara wakes up
and tells Vantine to leave. Dennis tells Vantine he will be right up
and explains to Barbara he is not "a one-woman man." Barbara
shoots Dennis just before Gary comes in. Dennis explains he made a pass
at Barbara, and Vantine tells Gary his wife is virtuous. Dennis tells
Gary and Barbara to pack and leave. Vantine helps Dennis treat his wound.
In the final scene Dennis is in bed, and Vantine reads him the news
of Gary and Barbara departing for San Francisco. She reads him fairy
stories, and they kiss.
The rainy season is considered a time of passion in the tropics as
this story shows, though they work in the rain. Dennis goes from no
women to choosing between two, complicating their lives.
RED DUST has become a classic primarily because of the romantic teaming
of its two stars, Jean Harlow and Clark Gable, in roles perfectly suited
to Harlow's unique brand of earthy humor and Gable's virile charm. Provoking
both passion and laughter, they seem to bring out the best in each other.
Usually thought of as a steamy romantic melodrama, this film is also
a romantic comedy that comments on sexual morality and the dangers of
sexual stereotyping. The comic elements are centered in Jean Harlow'
s Vantine, a shrewd, wisecracking blonde whose sardonic wit provides
a running commentary on events and who represents the true moral center
of the film.
Gable's Dennis Carson manages a rubber plantation in Indochina. For
all his surface bravado and toughness he still has Victorian ideas about
morality and sex. When Vantine arrives unexpectedly, he decides, from
her voluptuous appearance, brazen manner, and flamboyant dress, what
kind of woman she must be and what his reactions to her should be. Though
he is at first indifferent to her and then irritated by her chatter,
he finally admits that she is a "cute little trick" and pulls her onto
his lap. The next morning when she gets ready to leave, he forces money
on her even though she is clearly hurt by the gesture. When she leaves
on the riverboat, Dennis thinks she is gone forever.
same boat brings the new engineer, Gary Willis (Gene Raymond), and his
wife Barbara (Mary Astor). Barbara is the complete opposite of Vantine
-- dark, slim, reserved, and impeccably dressed. Just as quickly as
he had formed an unfavorable opinion of Vantine, Dennis decides that
Barbara is a decent woman who must be protected and sheltered.
Barbara is shocked by the primitive living conditions, the dirt, and
the heat; and she soon learns that her husband has malaria. She is horrified
to find that there is no doctor nearby and that he must be nursed by
Dennis, who seems indifferent to sickness and danger. She cannot help
contrasting his strong, dependable masculinity with the weakness of
her sick, helpless husband, who is dependent upon her for strength and
comfort. When Vantine returns after the boat runs aground, she quickly
sizes up the situation before Dennis sends her upstairs to keep her
out of Barbara's way.
Dennis' chivalrous, protective attitude toward Barbara is in strong
contrast to his indifferent, contemptuous manner towards Vantine. Barbara
must be protected from any offensive sights, including the sight of
Vantine roaming around "half-naked." Up to now Dennis has been unshaven
and disheveled, wearing the same dirty shirt every day. The morning
after Barbara's arrival, however, he shaves, puts on a clean shirt,
and douses himself with after-shave lotion. Vantine goes along with
Dennis' efforts to the point of telling an unbelieving Barbara, in a
faked Southern accent, about her fine old Southern family and the brother
she has been visiting on the next plantation. The scriptwriters have
now established an interesting triangle, in which conventional ideas
about "good" and "bad" women are questioned.
Bored and nervous, Barbara becomes more and more attracted to Dennis.
As soon as Gary is well, Dennis packs him off to the jungle, leaving
the field clear for his pursuit of Barbara. While he is showing her
around the plantation, a thunderstorm catches them by surprise. Dennis
carries the half-fainting, fearful Barbara back to the house and into
her room, where she finally surrenders to him. Barbara is plainly out
of her element on the plantation and is surprised at herself and put
off balance by her attraction to Dennis. Once she surrenders to him
and admits that she loves him, she is immediately fearful and needs
his reassurance and support.
Vantine, both furious and wounded by Dennis' preference for Barbara,
tells him she wants to leave. "The rain has uncovered a lot of garbage,
" she says. Honest and straightforward, Vantine cannot stand dishonesty.
She does not think much of Dennis' standards; he believes that "the
Duchess," as Vantine calls Barbara, should not see her bathing in the
water barrel, but does not mind deceiving Barbara's innocent, trusting
husband, who idolizes him.
Dennis next visits Gary to tell him that he is in love with Barbara,
but while listening to Gary's plans for his future with her, he realizes
how dependent Gary is upon her love and how much they have in common.
He knows he cannot carry out his plan to leave with Barbara and returns
immediately to the house. After his departure, a drunken foreman makes
insinuations about Barbara and Dennis, causing Gary -- upset and suspicious
-- to follow Dennis.
realized that he cannot have Barbara, Dennis uses Vantine to help disillusion
and repulse her. He kisses Vantine after telling her how noble he has
been in giving up Barbara. They begin an argument which becomes so noisy
that Barbara comes out to investigate, carrying a gun given to her by
Gary. Mockingly, Dennis tells her that he is not a one-woman man. Furious,
Barbara shoots him in the side as Vantine rushes to help him. When Gary
suddenly enters, Dennis explains that he made a pass at Barbara and
she shot him; Vantine quickly supports his story. The film ends with
one of its most amusing moments, in which Vantine, in excruciating baby-talk,
reads a fairy story about rabbits and chipmunks to Dennis as she pretends
to ignore his hand creeping up her leg.
Despite the humorless romance of Barbara and Dennis, most of the passion
in RED DUST is tinged with laughter. All of the love scenes of Vantine
and Dennis are believable and warm because they begin with laughter
and end with kisses. Even when she is most jealous of Barbara and hurt
by Dennis' contempt, Vantine cannot resist a wisecrack. Seeing that
Dennis is in love with Barbara, she vents her rage on the parrot as
she furiously scrapes out its cage. "Whaddya been eatin'? Cement?" After
she has watched Dennis carry Barbara into her room, she puts her legs
up, pulls up her skirt, and furiously buffs her nails. When Barbara
comes in, however, afraid and confused, Vantine is too kindhearted to
stay angry very long. Again, when Dennis leaves to see Gary, he warns
Vantine to be nice to Barbara or to stay out of her way. "I though we
might run up a few curtains and make a batch of fudge while we decide
what dress to wear to the Country Club dance," Vantine mockingly retorts.
In RED DUST, Clark Gable as the stalwart, virile plantation overseer
further solidified his reputation as a romantic leading man, but it
is Jean Harlow as Vantine who gives the most memorable performance.
Shrewd, brassy, honest, and sensuous, she is the quintessential tart
with a heart of gold; it is one of her most notable roles.
Victor Fleming, who had persuaded a reluctant Gable to accept the role
of Dennis, skillfully directed the film with primary emphasis on characterization
and atmosphere. The result is a film which broke box-office records
then, and remains unforgettable today. Although two remakes of RED DUST
have been filmed, CONGO MAISIE in 1940 and MOGAMBO in 1953, neither
was as successful as the original, even though the 1953 version also
starred Clark Gable as the hero.
Release Date: 1932
Victor Fleming for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Director: Victor Fleming
Cinematographer: Harold Rosson
File Editor: Blanche Sewell
Run Time: 83 minutes
Dennis Carson - Clark Gable
Vantine - Jean Harlow
Barbara Willis - Mary Astor
Gary Willis - Gene Raymond
Guidon - Donald Crisp
McQuarg (Mac) - Tully Marshall
Limey - Forrester Harvey
Hoy - Willie Fung