Like Red Dust

Red Dust (1932) starring Jean Harlow and Clark Gable, directed by Victor Fleming
Like Red Dust

Red Dust (1932)1 starring Jean Harlow, Mary Astor, and Clark Gable, and directed by Victor Fleming, is currently streaming on FilmStruck as part of a Harlow retrospective. The colonialist themes render the picture unsurprisingly problematic for the period, but Harlow and Astor steam up the film with infidelity and betrayal; the movie only cools off when someone casts an icy glare.

It’s my sense that modern audiences have something of a disconnect when understanding Harlow’s sex appeal, but in Red Dust her bravado and infinite impudence is nothing short of hypnotic2. She’s a fighter, and her flippant allure gets a bold underline from her foil in Astor’s sophisticated polish.

  1. I did this drawing with Speedball India Ink and a Speedball pen and nib drawing in a Strathmore 460+39 300 Series Bristol Journal. Prior, I had been drawing on a sketch pad that was not designed for pen and ink; in contrast the 100 lb. smooth paper of the Strathmore pad is fantastic. My high school art teacher, Mr. Burgess, introduced me to the technique, and about two years ago I picked up a set of pens. Shortly after we moved, and in the ensuing shuffle of boxes they got lost; the other week I found them and ordered the Strathmore pad. 

  2. Heather Addison’s essay “Transcending Time: Jean Harlow and Hollywood’s Narrative Decline”, published in the Journal of Film and Video, vol. 57, no. 4, Winter 2005, provides an excellent contextualization of Harlow’s stardom, and as Addison puts it, “Hollywood’s Cult of Youth” (35).