In this updated version of Wilson Collison’s play that was previously filmed as the 1932 Red Dust, the scene is an African safari, but instead of being a prostitute, the loose woman is a sex-starved widow.
From his camp Victor Marswell (Clark Gable) leads a hunting party that catches a black leopard in a trap. Leon Boltchak (Eric Pohlmann) causes the leopard to escape, and angry Victor knocks him down. Victor discovers Honey Bear Kelly (Ava Gardner) taking a shower, and she tries to explain why she is there. He says she can’t leave until a boat comes in a week. Kelly meets some of the animals. At dinner she learns that an anthropologist is coming for a safari. They rush out to get a captured rhinoceros. In his room that night Victor offers Kelly a drink. She sees a python and clings to Victor. He kisses her.
In the morning Kelly plays piano and talks with Browny (Philip Stainton). Victor asks her if she is packed to go on the boat. She runs off, cries, and starts to pack angrily. Victor tells her he might see her in Paris. Donald Nordley (Donald Sinden) and his wife Linda Nordley (Grace Kelly) get off the boat. Victor gives Kelly money for her plane fare, and she promises to pay it back. Victor is glad to meet Linda, and he learns that Donald is looking for gorillas. Victor says that is too dangerous. Donald collapses, and Victor says it is a reaction to a shot. An African was mauled by a lion. Victor gives Donald quinine. Linda asks Victor to do more for him and slaps him. That night Linda apologizes to Victor. Kelly comes back, and the skipper (Laurence Naismith) says the boat was wrecked. Victor asks her to go easy on innocent Linda.
Kelly meets Linda and shares some of her experience with men. Linda goes for a walk. Kelly says Linda is pretty and went for a walk, and Victor goes after Linda, who falls in a trap. Victor hears her scream and kills a panther to rescue her. Linda calls herself a fool. He asks her age. She says she is 27 and asks if he was ever married. He says no. In a storm he carries her into the house. Kelly goes out walking in the rain and says Linda was in danger on the porch. The six people have a formal dinner. Donald plays piano, and Kelly sings “Coming Through the Rye.” Victor offers to take the Nordleys up to the gorilla country. Kelly will go as far as the district office. Privately Browny tells Victor it is no good.
The safari leaves with four vehicles, and they see animals. Donald likes Kelly’s wit. In camp Victor gives Kelly a pistol. Linda asks Victor why Kelly is making insinuations. He says she is not in love with her husband. Victor says she may be the reason why he never married. Donald tells Linda that Victor and Kelly were having a fling, and they broke it up.
At a village they meet Father Josef (Denis O’Dea), who says they can have the canoes and the men. Victor has to undergo an ordeal, and natives throw spears near him. Kelly confesses to Josef. Linda tells Donald she is edgy. Kelly apologizes to Linda and advises her. Linda shows she is jealous.
They travel in large canoes and find the district office abandoned. The only white man tells them to leave quickly, and the natives chase them away. In camp Victor tells Donald that gorillas are near. Browny asks Kelly about her emotional scars. She says her husband was killed in Germany. By a waterfall Victor kisses Linda, and she kisses him back. In her tent she pulls away from Donald, who asks if she is still his girl.
Victor invites Kelly to come along to see the gorillas, but she stays in camp. Victor and Linda see gorillas in a tree. Victor advances with Donald who has a camera. A gorilla comes close. Victor holds a rifle while Donald films; Linda screams. Victor tells Browny which gorilla they want to pick up the next day. Donald wants to stay there at night. Victor and Linda take a walk and embrace. He says Donald has to be told, and she should stay in camp. Victor sits by the fire, and Kelly chats with him. She says he is in love, and she wishes him happiness. He sends her to bed, and she cries. She is playing cards, and a leopard walks into her tent.
Africans put up nets to trap the gorillas. Victor tells Donald it is dangerous. Donald talks about Linda and says these trips are not for her. He wants to raise a family with her in England. Victor says he has been too busy collecting animals to get married. As a gorilla approaches, Donald screams, and Victor kills the gorilla. Drunk Boltchak tells Donald to look to his wife and Victor. Kelly finds Victor drinking in his tent. She says he went noble and drinks with him. She sits in his lap, and Linda comes in. Victor tells her that he and Kelly are old friends and tells her not to take it seriously. Linda grabs a gun and shoots Victor in the arm. When Donald comes in, Kelly tells him that Victor was after his wife.
Donald and Linda get in the canoes. Victor asks Kelly to stay with him. She says no, and he asks her to go see Father Josef with him. She gets uppity and gets in the canoe. Victor tells Browny to take good care of her. She sees Victor cares and jumps out of the canoe and runs to him.
This adventurous romance is reeking with the animal magnetism that attracts opposites. Yet there is much more to life than carnal passion, and Victor comes to realize that Donald and Linda may be a good match and that Kelly would be much more compatible with his wild life-style.