Red Dust was remade about 20 years later as Mogambo, still starring Clark Gable (playing Dennis Carson) in the lead role. Which has to be kind of unique, playing the exact same character in the exact same story (as opposed to sequel or whatever) decades apart. The problem for me, of course, is I didn't really like Gable's character when I watched Mogambo, and nothing's changed here. This time around, Jean Harlow is the lady who comes upriver first (instead of Ava Gardner), running from a bit of a trouble, and since this was before the morals codes or movie authorities or whatever, the film is pretty blunt about Vantine being a lady of the evening. She and Gable had a nice couple of weeks, but when she prepares to return downriver, he literally stuff money down the front of her shirt, over her protests that it wasn't like that for them. A real classy guy.
Then Barbara (Mary Astor in the role Grace Kelly would occupy in the remake) shows up with her husband Gary, but Harlow winds up back there because the boat got swamped. Except Gable's already set his eyes on Astor, and treats Harlow like something he can barely bother to scrape off his shoe. She's more than a little resentful, and doesn't mind making life difficult for him. Things proceed pretty much as they did the last time I watched the story. It's nice I suppose, that Gable's character's conscience prevents him from running off with Astor, although it's because he decides he can't hurt that sap Gary more than any concern that he and Astor might not work longterm or anything. But hey, it's at least showing consideration for someone other than himself. But I'm still left with the conclusion Dennis turns to Vantine strictly because he's decided to give up on Barbara. He's treated her consistently shabbily for two-thirds of the movie, but oh well, she'll do I guess. And she rolls with this, which is a little strange to me, given how willing she was to give him crap up to then. I guess that could have been her flirting, trying to get him to open up a little, but it felt like a valid resentment of how he treated her.
The cast do well with the roles they're given, though I'm curious at the insistence on putting Clark Gable is roles where he's kind of ass. I would have expected the filmmakers to figure women would want to like Gable, and so they should make his character likeable. Or maybe this was considered likeable. Or they figured it wouldn't matter. Or they wanted people to question it. Or they figured it was somehow "proper" for such a crude fellow to end up with a sex worker. My problems with the film are the same ones I had with the remake, and if I'd known what it was going in, I probably wouldn't have watched it.