Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Here is my contribution to the Jean Harlow Blogathon, a perfect double bill of Jean with Clark Gable. It was gracious of Carley over at The Kitty Packard Pictorial to invite me. I try never to turn down a request and was happy to contribute.
RED DUST (1932)
A dynamite movie involving three screen legends: Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, and Mary Astor. Gable is Denny Carson, who runs a rubber plantation in Indo-China with a tight fist. Along comes Lily Vantine (Ms. Harlow) who just lights up the screen with her explosive persona. Lily explains she had to leave the states because of certain complex issues. All Denny sees is her trampish looks and the two become attached fairly quickly. But that relationship is put under pressure when Gary Willis arrives with his wife Babs (the terrific Astor) to begin work on the plantation. Denny is immediately attracted to Babs and thus a love triangle is formed. Babs husband is totally unaware of what's going on and to be fair he is under the weather with a fever when they first arrive there. Red Dust is one heck of a movie. I know some people complain of the racial overtones but this movie is set in 1932 so just keep that in mind when watching it. As far as performances go, all three leads are sensational. Gable is definetly a man's man in this one. Holding the screen with all his macho swagger he can muster. Jean Harlow is funny all the way through. She spits out lines with rapid fire regularity. And Mary Astor brings a little class to the proceedings. And believe it or not she has one scene where she manages to out-sex Ms. Harlow. After being caught in an unexpected rainstorm, she gets soaked and is carried back to the house by Gable. In that one instant she gives off so much sexual energy, you can feel it coming off the screen. Red Dust is a solid film that delivers action, humor, passion, and some great acting.
CHINA SEAS (1935)
Clark Gable and Jean Harlow team up again after the success of Red Dust and make China Seas better than it ought to be. Gable is ship captain Alan Gaskell who has to deliver passengers safely from Hong Kong to Singapore because of the waters being overrun with pirates. The first time you see Gaskell it is apparent he is coming in from an over-night bender and makes it to his ship just as it's about to sail. His ex-girlfriend Dolly (Ms. Harlow) shows up to razz him about not being committed to their relationship. Also on board is Sybil Barclay (Rosalind Russell), a woman Alan fancied years ago but she married someone else. Well, Ms. Barclay is a widow now and hopes of a relationship is presented before Alan's delight and Dolly's anger. Also on board is Dolly's old drinking Buddy MacArdle (Wallace Beery) who has a hidden agenda. Throw in some rough weather, a jewel thief, the deadly pirates, and a coward of an officer looking to make amends and China Seas has a lot going on. There is a lot of unintentional humor that kinda throws it off every now and then, mainly from Harlow and Beery. But it doesn't ruin the whole movie. Not as good as Gable and Harlow's previous film Red Dust, but still worth a look.