Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Grace Kelly in Mogambo

Grace Kelly received her first Oscar nomination for her performance as Linda Nordley in John Ford's Mogambo. Of all the performances I've reviewed so far on this little endeavor of mine, Grace Kelly's in Mogambo is undoubtedly the one I've had the hardest time writing about. It's not really a statement on the quality of the performance (which was not great) or the film (which was melodramatic fun), but I can't really say what makes this performance so hard to judge. It's just an incredibly unremarkable performance that has so many awkward moments that mix with terrible acting and a few fleeting decent moments. Mogambo is essentially a love triangle between Kelly, Clark Gable, and Ava Gardner set in Africa that gives all three of them an opportunity to be lovestruck, melodramatic, and gaze deeply into someone else's eyes longingly. It's a pretty harmless film that is very old Hollywood.

Linda Nordley is perhaps the most boring character that I've had to review so far because what she essentially is a giant cliche: the reserved British woman who experiences a sexual awakening through the help of a 'wild' man. The worst aspect of the performance is Kelly's handling of the 'reserved' Linda when she first arrives at the African outpost. Her accent is absolutely dreadful, and her every move awkward and stilted. She's trying too hard to make Linda seem like an uptight shrew and instead makes her character unreal and stupid. I understand the whole purpose of her performance at this point was to be naive and transform through her 'love' with Gable, but it's just not effective because Kelly is so terrible.

It doesn't help that Clark Gable gives one of his worst performances, and is just terribly mean in this movie. To give Kelly some credit, she does manage to do a decent job at depicting the sexual tension that exists between her and Gable, particularly the first scene between them when Gable rescues her from the panther (no joke!). At the very, very least I felt a change in her character from the beginning to the end. Her performance was filled with histrionics and inexperienced acting to get to that point, but I sort of see potential in Kelly here. Her material really lets her down, as does her leading man, and it was near impossible for her to recover from that point.

This was a near-impossible evaluation for me to write, and I fully recognize this is far from my best review--Kelly just didn't inspire me to write anything meaningful about her and that's why it took me so long. The film is worth it even if just for the scene where Gable just violently throws Kelly to the ground in order to protect her from an oncoming gorilla (I couldn't find a good clip on YouTube) that made me die of laughter. 2/5 Thelmas.

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