Vic Marswell (Gable) is a big-game hunter and safari guide in Africa. His existence on the savanna is disturbed by the arrival of Eloise "Honey Bear" Kelly (Gardner), a New York party girl who had traveled to Africa to meet an Indian maharajah. The maharajah didn't show up due to unrest in his homeland, so Kelly is stuck at Vic's safari camp. They trade insults for a while but eventually go to bed together. A week later the next boat arrives, bearing anthropologist Donald Nordley and his pretty wife Linda (Grace Kelly). Eloise is hurt when Marswell, wishing to avoid the appearance of impropriety, packs her away on the boat going back downriver. However, the boat runs aground, and Kelly has to come back to the safari camp, accompanying the Nordleys on their expedition to film African gorillas—while Vic is now showing great interest in lovely Linda.
Mogambo was a remake of Red Dust, a 1932 film that starred Gable, Jean Harlow, and Mary Astor. It was a rare late-career highlight for Gable, who hadn't made much in the way of good movies since Gone with the Wind. World-famous sex symbol Ava Gardner got recognition for her acting chops with an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, while Kelly was nominated for Best Supporting Actress.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Quite obvious as Vic and Honey Bear snipe at each other.
- Betty and Veronica: Eloise is a fun party girl, wears tight dresses, is clearly kind of slutty, and has dark hair. Linda is prim and proper and reserved, and is blonde. Vic has to choose.
- Book Dumb: Honey Bear has street smarts and she sees through BS, but she isn't all that educated. She doesn't know what an anthropologist is, and when Vic captures a baby hippo, she says "Hey, a kangaroo!"
- Bowdlerize: In Red Dust, Harlow's character was a prostitute on the run from the law, and Astor and Gable clearly consummated their relationship. In this film, Gardner's character is a socialite, and it's not clear if the Kelly-Gable romance ever advanced past kissing. (This was necessary due to The Hays Code that was enforced from 1934).
- Confessional: When the gang happens upon a Catholic mission in the desert, Eloise confesses to the priest.
- Deadpan Snarker: Honey Bear does this a lot, especially after Linda arrives and Honey Bear sees what's going on between Linda and Vic.
- Distracted by the Sexy: A Discussed Trope, as Vic says he doesn't like Honey Bear being there because she might be the cause of this amongst his workers.
- Driving a Desk: Some bad green-screen shots when Vic is driving the truck carrying the safari party, and later when they are in boats on the river.
- English Rose: Proper, reserved, very pretty Linda. Grace Kelly does a good job with the British accent.
- Everyone Can See It: A source of some embarrassment for Linda, who points out to Vic that everyone can see how he looks at her. Vic replies that Donald can't, because he is utterly clueless.
- Fanservice: If Ava Gardner is in your movie, you might as well have a scene where she's wearing a translucent white robe. And you might as well make sure she never wears a bra.
- Foreshadowing: Vic identifies a certain wildlife sound as "two hippos fighting over a female". Soon he will be going after Donald's wife.
- Great White Hunter: Vic, although he doesn't make a habit of killing animals, instead capturing them to sell to circuses and zoos. Eloise calls him a "little white hunter".
- Have a Gay Old Time: Eloise is prone to this. She tells Vic that she's "better known in the gay capitals of the earth as Honey Bear", and upon hearing that she's stuck at the camp for at least a week, says "this'll be the gayest week in the season."
- Hidden Depths: Eloise the carefree party girl eventually reveals to John that she still mourns her late husband, a pilot who was killed in World War II.
- High-Class Glass: John Brown-Pryce, Marswell's very British sidekick, wears one.
- In-Series Nickname: Eloise's nickname is "Honey Bear".
- Love Dodecahedron: Vic, Vic's girlfriend Eloise, Vic's other girlfriend Linda, and Linda's husband.
- The Remake
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Some episodes in the film were based on events that happened during the shoot. Just as in the movie, a leopard actually wandered into Ava Gardner's tent one night. She also took a stab at cooking for the entire crew, just as her character does on screen.
- Scenery Porn: Some pretty impressive shots of the African savanna and the wildlife therein.
- Shower Scene: The Meet Cute for Vic and Eloise comes when he returns to his hut and finds her in his shower.
- Source Music: All the music is diegetic. There's some chanting by African tribesmen, and Gardner sings a song, but there is no score.
- Thunder Equals Downpour: Some thunder signals a torrential rain, which catches Vic and Linda out in the open, which brings on the first intimacy between them.