Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Mogambo (1953)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Mogambo (1953)

In director John Ford's and MGM's old-fashioned, Technicolored remake romance/adventure film (twenty-one years after Red Dust (1932) upon which it was based, that coincidentally also starred Clark Gable as the hero) was shot mostly on location in Africa, and was similar to Howard Hawks' Hatari! (1962); its title was translated as "passion" in Swahili; John Lee Mahin's screenplay about "forbidden love" and romantic intrique was based upon Wilson Collison's 1928 play Red Dust:

  • the film opened as African big-game animal trapper and weatherbeaten safari leader Victor Marswell (Clark Gable) for a safari company returned to his African ranch; upon his arrival, he was angered to encounter ex-showgirl Eloise "Honey Bear" Kelly (Best Actress-nominated Ava Gardner) taking a sexy outdoor shower behind a low bamboo wall after he noticed her luggage and clothing strewn about
  • the stranded, provocative, wisecracking good-time-girl expressed her sassy frustration at being left stranded a week earlier by the duplicitous Indian Maharajah of Bunganore named Bunny, who didn't even leave her "a return ticket" as he left for India to attend to palace business: ("Ooh, of all the rotten, subversive tricks. Flying all the way, thousands of miles to this lousy place. Arriving here hot and tired as a Sixth Avenue mink. And that water's even hotter, and that soap gives out about as much lather as blue cheese....Well, I wouldn't be so proud of it....Look buster, don't you get over-stimulated with me! I'm the little gal that flew all the way from New York to this lousy place, this Dark Continent. Only I expected to find a man with a flashlight...Can't you get me a canoe or a truck, or a pair of rollerskates, anything to get out of here?...You mean there's no way to get out?...This will be the gayest week of the season!"); she was frustrated that she was marooned and would have to wait a week in order to take a boat to leave Africa

Eloise "Honey Bear" Kelly (Ava Gardner)

John "Brownie" Brown-Pryce (Philip Stainton)

Victor Marswell (Clark Gable)
  • during the first major section of the film, Eloise became better acquainted with Marswell after they shared a drink during their first night; his complimentary statement ("You're all right!") that they were highly compatible together was promising; they strolled out to the porch during the moonlit night to gaze upon the river and converse; Eloise: "The river looks awfully pretty in the moonlight, doesn't it?" (Victor impulsively grabbed and kissed her.) "Now wait a minute, Marswell. You're turning into the original African hot-rod....You can be nice and sweet when you want to, can't you?...I'm warning you. I'm searching. I'm looking, really I am"); he vowed to cooperate: ("I'll look with you - for a little while"); an attraction (and beginnings of an affair) developed between Honey Bear and Vic
  • she also became good friends with Marswell's aides - lazy, heavy and vulgar drunk Leon Boltchak (Eric Pohlmann) and especially with dependable right-handman John "Brownie" Brown-Pryce (Philip Stainton) with whom she often confided; however, after a week passed, Victor coldly ordered Eloise to pack and leave on an arriving steamboat; she discussed her departure with Brownie (Eloise: "He's running a business and I'm a bottleneck." Brownie: "Sometimes a man can't see the one tree because of the forest")

Arrival of New Clients: Donald Nordley (Donald Sinden) and Mrs. Linda Nordley (Grace Kelly)

Marswell's Semi-Cold Goodbye to Eloise "Honey Bear"

Often Drunk Steamboat Skipper (Laurence Naismith)

Eloise Reluctantly Leaving on the Steamer
  • as Eloise was leaving (and Marswell insisted on giving her plane fare), Marswell also greeted a newly-arrived couple: clueless British anthropologist Donald Nordley (Donald Sinden) and his cool, prim, and sheltered blonde wife Mrs. Linda Nordley (Best Supporting Actress-nominated Grace Kelly)
  • their arrival had a rough start; unbeknownst to Marswell, the Nordleys had planned to journey up-river to study gorillas; he refused to agree to their surprise intentions that were different from their original agreement: ("It's a long and difficult safari, and it doesn't fit in with my schedule"); in addition, Donald immediately began suffering from a bad reaction to his tsetse-fly vaccination (for "sleeping sickness"); any type of safari was temporarily delayed while Nordley recovered under Marswell's tough-love care and doses of quinine
  • when the hysterical, pampered and sophisticated Mrs. Nordley complained: ("Is that all you're going to do for him?") and he responded jokingly: "What do you expect me to do with him, Mrs. Nordley? Crawl in bed with him and hold his hand?", she viciously slapped him across the face; later, she humbly apologized for her rash behavior ("I'm terribly ashamed")
  • that same evening, Eloise arrived back at the camp with the drunken Skipper (Laurence Naismith), due to problems three miles down river with the steamer boat's engine - she would now be stranded for another four weeks until repairs were made
  • a love triangle began to form when a strong romantic relationship developed between Victor and the married, vulnerable, and secretly-lustful 27 year-old Linda Nordley; Honey Bear watched from the side and spouted cynical jokes ("dumb cracks") about everything: ("She's the kind that makes men want to break out of jail"); she immediately realized that Marswell was increasingly drawn to Mrs. Nordley and was trying to keep his love for her a secret from her husband

Contrast: The Cool, Conservative and Sophisticated Blonde and The Earthy, Worldly Brunette

Mrs. Nordley - Vulnerable During a Jungle Bush Walk

Carried Back to Camp in Marswell's Arms

First Look of Desire on Mrs. Nordley's Face Upon Their Return to the Camp's Porch
  • during Mrs. Nordley's foolish jungle walk into the bush, Marswell was forced to save her life from a threatening black panther, and then in the midst of a fierce wind-rain storm as they returned, he had to carry her back to camp - their attraction only intensified, as noted by Eloise who had watched their wild animal magnetism on the porch: ("The lady seemed to be in a fair amount of danger right here on the porch")
  • Marswell impulsively changed his mind and agreed to accompany the Nordleys into gorilla country; he instinctively realized that Mrs. Nordley might not be in love with her husband; Eloise immediately realized his motivation - to be able to spend more time with Mrs. Nordley in private; the plan also facilitated a way for Eloise to connect with the Kenya Station in the Samburu territory before arranging for transportation to leave (on a flight to Cairo)
  • in one of the best acted scenes in the film, Eloise appeared broken-hearted by the burgeoning relationship between Vic and Linda, but she still tried to counsel Linda with advice and a friendly warning about the consequences of her affair: "I'd just like to tell you that I know how it is with you and Vic. We girls are pretty smart about those things, aren't we?...I came here to be your friend. And the only way I know how is to tell you, well, that I understand. It can happen to a girl. He's a pretty attractive burglar...But keep your head, will you? You know, you're sitting pretty. You're a lovely, attractive woman. You're married to a wonderful man...It's you we want to worry about. You know, this is no Sir Galahad who loves from afar. This is a two-legged boa constrictor...I came here to be your friend. For your sake. And I'm keeping the offer open. It'll be rugged, but I'll keep it open"
  • the group's trip and plans were subverted when they arrived at the District Office; a belligerent native revolt against the British (over ivory poaching) had led the lethal wounding of Jack Wood, the District Officer; Eloise was forced to remain with the tour group
  • there were multiple kissing scenes during the safari between the two illicit lovers - before a waterfall and then during a dusk walk, when Linda admitted to Vic: ("You realize, don't you, that just from the way I can't stop myself looking at you, that everybody knows?"); he replied that only Donald was ignorant of their affair: ("Everybody but Donald...I know, I feel it myself. But he has to be told, that's all"); she worried: ("I don't know how to tell him"); he proposed a solution: ("You stay in camp tomorrow. I'm going up the hill. Do you understand?"); Linda had to face the decision to break up with Donald when Marswell proposed to openly inform Donald of their affair the next day
  • that evening Eloise spoke to Marswell, trying to console and advise him during his intense affair and dilemma, and she wished him happiness: ("But whatever you do, Vic, I wish you all the happiness in the book"); he gratefully hugged her
  • ultimately, Marswell realized Donald's true and steadfast love for Linda (Donald: "Forgive me if I tell you how much I'm in love with her"), who had become moody and irritable lately; both Donald and Marswell admitted that she was completely unsuited for life in Africa; Donald thought she should be back in Devonshire raising their family; the gorilla expedition was aborted when an attacking gorilla had to be shot dead; and Marswell changed his mind about divulging the affair to Donald: (Eloise: "You went noble" - Marswell: "I went yellow")
  • to help facilitate the complete sabotage of their forbidden affair, Eloise (who now felt Marswell was within her own reach when he told her: "Yes, you're all right Kelly!") began drinking with Marswell in his tent; they deliberately staged being caught hugging and carousing; Marswell instigated a breakup: "You know how it is on safari. It's in all the books. The woman always falls for the white hunter. And we guys make the most of it"
  • the enraged and hysterical Mrs. Nordley wounded him in the arm with a gunshot from his own pistol; when Donald arrived, Eloise cleverly and quickly explained and invented an alternative version of what had happened to conceal the affair, that the drunken Victor had been making another pass at the very "decent" Linda when she defensively shot him: ("This big Congo Casanova has been after your wife ever since she's been here. And she's been sport enough to hold him off, and not even tell you about it to not spoil your fun"); Eloise's explanation both absolved Linda of adulterous guilt and preserved her marital relationship; the Nordleys decided to quickly leave the next morning
  • after the Nordleys left the camp, the melodrama ended when Marswell realized that Honey Bear was his true romantic partner; in the film's ending as "Honey Bear" Kelly was getting ready to leave the camp, Victor proposed to her, but she rebuffed him: (Honey: "You mean you're gonna make an honest woman out of me?", Victor: "It suits me, Kelly." Kelly: "It suits you!? Listen buster, you and your quick-change acts aren't gonna hang orange blossoms all over me because you feel the cold weather comin' on. No thank you. I'll go back where I can be honest without gettin' kicked around for it. I'll see ya!")
  • Marswell walked along the shore and yelled out to "Brownie" as she shoved off: ("Take good care of her...I said, take good care of her!"); after she looked back and realized he cared for her, she decided to leave her departing canoe, jumped in the shallow water, ran up to him, and enjoyed a closing embrace with Marswell on the river's edge
"Honey Bear's" Decision To Stay With Marswell After He Proposed

Victor Marswell (Clark Gable)

"Honey Bear" (Ava Gardner) Showering Upon Her Arrival at Victor Marswell's African Safari Camp

Sharing a Drink Together On Their First Night

Marswell Romancing and Kissing "Honey Bear" During their First Moonlit Night Together

Mrs. Nordley's Slap Across Marswell's Face

Later, An Apology for the Slap

Marswell On Safari to Gorilla Country with the Nordleys

Eloise's Offer of Friendly Female Advice for Linda in the Midst of Her Affair

During the Safari

An Illicit Love Affair Developing During the Safari Between Victor and Mrs. Nordley - Before a Waterfall

Also Kissing At Dusk During a Walk Together

Eloise Trying to Support Marswell During His Affair

The Film's Turning Point: Marswell's Talk with Donald "Up the Hill"

Eloise to Marswell: "You went noble"

"Honey Bear" In the Arms of Drunken Marswell - A Deliberate Plan to Sabotage the Illicit Affair

Marswell Shot in the Arm by Enraged Mrs. Nordley


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