Mogambo does not veer extensively from the story of Red Dust. It changes character names, the location of the action, and the reason for the visit of the Nordleys. It also extends the story somewhat. Much of this is in the nature of a travelogue. We are treated to many shots of stunning African vistas, exotic animals, all in wide-screen and Technicolor. Much of this is done to attract an audience that is dismissing film for their television - TV is not really available in color, so the film entices audiences with the promise of excitement and beauty. And viewes Clark Gable without his shirt (still a rather pleasant slight). The film was shot on location, a huge incentive for hunters Gable and director John Ford, and for Grace Kelly, who was delighted at the idea of a trip to Africa. Allegedly, Gable and Kelly also became romantically involved while there (at least according to Donald Sinden). This series of TCM articles is worth a read for many tidbits about the film.
Other actors were considered before the cast was finalized: Stewart Granger (as Victor - Granger actually suggested the remake, with himself in the lead. Sam Zimbalist, however, wanted Gable); Deborah Kerr, Greer Garson, and Gene Tierney (for the part of Linda) and Lana Turner (as Honey Bear). And while some of our group members were not impressed with Kelly (her Linda is much harder than Astor's Barbara), there was overwhelming praise for Ava Gardner. Her character has much more depth than that of Vantine - we learn a little about her past, and her gradual growth into acceptance is a big plus in liking Honey Bear. Gardner also get all the best lines. One of my personal favorites is: "The only lions I ever want to see again are in front of the public library." Spoken like a true New Yorker!
One thing that the character of Linda has that Barbara does not is more backstory. Linda and Donald are childhood sweethearts (she's known him since she was five years old). They've been married for 7 years, and she is only 27 (Barbara and Gary are newlyweds), and Linda has traipsed around the world with her husband, despite that fact that what she really wants is a set home and children. The affair with Victor becomes all the more understandable when one has all this background information - that she's been trying to sustain the marriage for many years, has been a "good sport" about her husband's penchant for exotic travel, and that she is reaching an age where the call for a family is probably quite loud (a call that Donald doesn't hear). Her husband's illness, and Victor's rescue of her from an animal trap make him Sir Galahad in her eyes. Small wonder that she falls for him.
If Gable at times seems impatient, we wondered if it could have been the difficulties he was having with John Ford, who resented Gable's need for retakes (Gable - compromised by years of drinking - now suffered occasional palsies, that would come unbidden. He would need to reshoot scenes if they popped up onscreen).
It was Ford who insisted on Grace Kelly for the part of Linda; and, both Kelly and Gardner were nominated for Oscars for their work on the film. The film also - at Ford's insistence, does not have a soundtrack. He wanted, and got - animal sounds and native music to be the background to his story.
We'll close with the scene in which we meet Honey Bear - a scene "borrowed" from the original film. Interestingly, according to this AFI article, the Censorship Board had problems with the scene; "the PCA believed the shower scene 'involved too much exposure' and demanded that some footage be eliminated" The ruling was protested (and, it seems MGM's Robert Vogel won). See if you agree: