Sometimes there's something about watching a film projected that makes you change your mind about it (or maybe is just watching it again with different expectations). First time I saw it, "Red Dust" left me a bit cold; seeing it projected I realised how steamy and how much fun it was.
Despite this, the film has the power to grasp your attention. It's a key title in both of its two stars' careers, helping confirm Gable and Harlow's super star and sex symbol statutes. In fact, Sex pervades through the film. In fact, it's impossible not to speak of the film without speaking of sex. It's treated casually, and Harlow brings a lightness and energy to it. Her profession is never hidden and she is clearly into Gable. Then there's that bath scene in the barrel. She really had a gift for just bringing out the most fun, lighter side of sexiness on screen. Gable also exudes sex. He has shirtless scene that he would echo later in "It Happened One Night" and for sure didn't harm the box office. Interestingly, that scene proved too much for the censors - Gable's navel couldn't be shown. In the end, one way of seeing the film is as a battle between a more repressed and a freer sexual attitude represented by Astor and Harlow; a very twisted version of the Old World vs New World view of the period. And of course, in the end the winner is clear - a very pre-Code win for Sex.
Gene Raymond is as bland as the part required and probably more. Even is school kid crush on Gable seems devoid of any interest.