Red Dust stirs the emotions

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Red Dust movie poster

Dennis Carson was a rugged, dirty, fowl mouthed drinking man who owned a rubber plantation. He was abusive to his workers and wasn't any nicer to women.

So when a mouthy prostitute (Vantine, played by Jean Harlow) trying to hide from the law finds herself on his plantation, it is no wonder that the two strong minded individuals would butt heads.

She was a little on the rugged side herself - emanating a soft and pretty look so long as she sat in one place with her mouth shut.

Vantine was a streetwise woman who walked like a linebacker and talked like a sailor. She was harsh and intimidating, not in the mood for anybody's guff.

Bath SceneTalk about two peas in a pod - both of their strong personalities invited bickering between them, which apparently turned them both on, so they began to get along a little too well.

Naturally, though, there's a wrench thrown into the mix when Carson's new worker and his bride (Gary and Babs Willis, played by Gene Raymond and Mary Astor) arrive on the plantation. They're a charming and elegant couple with social status and class.

The WillisesCarson, being the vulgar he-man that he is wants a piece of that cake, too, and since he has no manners to hold him back, he just takes it - and she happily gives it up.

My jaw dropped! What the heck?! I would say, "Only in Hollywood" but as I look around me, no it isn't.

What is it about rude, filthy, poorly mannered drunks that seem to attract women? OK, I can understand the tramp being attracted to him, but a woman of class? Come on!

I guess that's where the excitement comes in. Personally, I found it all upsetting - I was offended by Carson's lack of manners, I was offended by his crude behavior, I was offended that the women found that alluring.

Jean Harlow & Clark GableIn thinking about it, though, I realized that I wasn't offended to see it in the movie; I discovered that the real disgust comes in realizing that this is how it is in real life for much of the world.

This movie was scandalous in its day because of the idea of a man not only taking up with a prostitute, but also a married woman! Such things were kept behind closed doors once upon a time - where they belonged - because of their vulgarity.

Today - things like this are out in the open and considered normal. People are far less offended by that kind of thing, overall - but even by today's standards, the way he treated those women is still pretty bad. I would label it as abusive.

Not surprisingly, this movie continues to push the envelope when he gets his comeuppance. The predatory old dirtbag still manages to muster up enough arrogance to turn on the bimbo, who actually cares about him.

HoyNow, every serious movie must have its element of fun - and this movie had that in the form of the house boy, Hoy, played by Willie Fung. OK, I admit, his delightful character is a little stereotypical, but his infectious laugh is worth watching the movie for. He is absolutely hilarious!

If you'd like to purchase this movie on DVD, it's available at

About the Actors:

Red Dust DVDClark Gable, known for playing arrogant, rugged characters that didn't treat women very well, was paired with Jean Harlow in various films a total of six times.

Known for sleeping with most of his leading ladies, his scandalous behavior was largely kept under wraps, enabling him to keep it up without it affecting his career.

Jean Harlow's birth name was Harlean Harlow Carpenter, but she took her mother's name, Jean, when she started acting.

While on Labor Day break from filming Red Dust, Jean's husband of only 2 months died tragically of a gunshot wound. Although the death was ruled a suicide, it was thought that a former flame killed him before killing herself; and the death brought much ill talk and speculation about Harlow, as well.

Married three times by the time she was 25, she died at the tender age age of 26 of kidney failure, during the production of Saratoga, which also starred Clark Gable. At the time of her death she was romantically involved with William Powell.

Gene Raymond basically grew up a star; he began performing on Broadway as a child. Some of Ramond's notable films include Million Dollar Weekend (which he directed) and The Life of the Party.

Mary Astor starred in 123 films, but the latter part of her career was wrought with depression. Her last movie was Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964). She died in 1987 at the age of 81.

Willie Fung was a talented actor born in Canton. He played roles in 125 films starting with Hurricane's Gal (1922). He died in 1945 at the age of 49 in Los Angeles, California.