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Duel in the Sun

Jennifer Jones , Joseph Cotten , David O. Selznick , Josef von Sternberg    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 54.98
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Legendary producer David O. Selznick dreamed of another magnum opus like his 1939 production of Gone with the Wind; he also purposed to make Jennifer Jones, his ladylove and eventually second Mrs. Selznick, a megastar. Accordingly, he micromanaged the making of Duel in the Sun (Lust in the Dust to some), an extravagant Technicolor epic about the collision of the old West with the new, wide-open spaces with railroads and barbed wire, and hot-blooded outlaws with civilized folk, often wimpy or unwell. Beginning among giant rocks drenched in a blood-red sunset, with velvet-voiced Orson Welles intoning the leibestod legend of doomed Pearl Chavez and her demon lover, Duel never strays far from lush romanticism, spiced with a dash of S/M. Orphaned Pearl (Jones) comes to live at Spanish Bit Ranch, where frail Laura Belle McCanles (Lillian Gish) tries to make a lady of her, despite her questionable origins and insistent voluptuousness. Sexual license versus law--Pearl's choices--are symbolized by the McCanles brothers: dark, undisciplined Lewt (a lubriciously wicked Gregory Peck) and reasonable, forward-looking, repressed Jesse (Joseph Cotten). The cast is huge (Lionel Barrymore, Walter Huston, Harry Carey, Herbert Marshall, Charles Bickford, Butterfly McQueen) and there are unforgettable set pieces: summoned by a cacophony of bells, the gathering of McCanles cowboys from the four corners of the earth; Pearl in heat, clutching Lewt's leg and being dragged across the floor as he makes his getaway to Mexico; and the lovers' final shootout among those red rocks, as orgiastic a finale as you could ask for. --Kathleen Murphy

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars LAUGHABLE YET CURIOUSLY ENJOYABLE... March 23 2003
By Lawyeraau TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:VHS Tape
This 1946 western boasts spectacular, technicolor cinematography and a script that is sometimes laughable. Directed by Hollywood notable, King Vidor, one wonders whether he was under pressure by the producer, David O. Selznick, and was more of a puppet rather than a director. That can be the only explanation for this directorial faux pas. It is so over the top in its excesses that in the first five minutes one sees some wild, almost hysterical dancing, the cuckolding of a husband, and two murders arising out of that nasty domestic situation.
The storyline is simple. A Spanish Grandee, Scott Chavez (Herbert Marshall), married the wrong woman, a wild and passionate Indian, instead of his true love, Laura Belle. Together they have a child whom they named Pearl. Known as a half breed, Pearl Chavez (Jennifer Jones), wants to be a lady, a "good girl". Given who her mother was, however, no one wants to give her a chance to prove herself. When her father knows he is to die, he packs her off to his first love, Laura Belle (Lillian Gish), who lives in Texas and is married to Senator McCanles (Lionel Barrymore). They have two sons, Jesse (Joseph Cotten) and Lewt (Gregory Peck). Jesse is the good son and his mother's favorite, while Lewt is a spoiled rake and his father's favorite.
When Pearl arrives at the McCanles ranch, Lillian greets her warmly, as does Jesse. Senator McCanles, her overbearing husband, however, treats Pearl to some racist, politically incorrect invective, while Lewt eyes her lasciviously. Needless to say, a love triangle of sorts develops. Ultimately, both sons want her, but they both can't have her. Jesse treats Pearl like a lady, while Lewt treats her like a wanton.
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Sweeping! Magnificent! Corny! Romantic! A west that never existed is splashed across the screen as only David O. Selznick, the master of such gargantuan Hollywood classics as "Gone With the Wind", "Since You Went Away" and "Rebecca" could give us.
This is not the revisionists west of the 1990's, nor that West of the gritty operatic glamour of Sergio Leone's "Once Upon A Time In The West." You will not find the spare clean and lean beauty of John ford's West. What we have here is the epic telling on a screen that screams to be stretched into widescreen and spills out over the audenience the lush and romantic horse Opera of Pearl Chavez, the McCanles clan and the coming of the railroads in the 1880's.
From the moment the overture replete with unneeded narration begins you know you are in for a melodrama of purple emotions and blood red vendettas. The opening scene is set in a saloon on a scale of a modern Vegas casino. There amidst the wild gunfire of overheated cowboys and insanely spinning faro wheels we are introduced to the Scarlett O'Hara of the West, half-breed Pearl Chavez. As played by Jennifer Jones she is just about the hottest tamale to ever hit the pages of a screenplay expressly written to drive men mad, turn brother against brother and defy a "Sinkiller". What Jane Russell was supposed to be in "The Outlaw" we get in Technicolor spades in the form of Miss Jones.
She takes huge hefty bites of the massive sets and chews them to a fare thee well and in the process creates a wanton nymphomaniacal character of such charm, heat and passion that she is truly a motion picture original. This is the best thing Miss Jones ever did because it is so out of control and beyond the pale of her more subdued performances. Of saints, teenage war brides and ghosts of lost love.
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By Nix Pix
Producer David O. Selznick never thought small. Dreaming of a magnum opus on the same grand scale as "Gone with the Wind" and, perhaps a little bit self-conscious of the fact that his recent affair with Jennifer Jones had yielded only one stellar performance from the starlet - and not even in a film he had produced - Selznick's driving ambition to make Jones a star on par with the likes of Vivien Leigh, led him to handcraft "Duel in the Sun." This was to be an extravagant Technicolor epic about a doomed mulatto, Pearl Chavez (Jones) and her rabid lust for, Lewton McCanles (Gregory Peck, in the uncharacteristic part as the villain), the ruthless son and roguish playboy of retired senator and bigoted rancher, Jackson McCanles (Lionel Barrymore). After Pearl's father, Scott (Herbert Marshall) murders her mother, Pearl is sent to live with Jackson and his wife, Laura Bell (Lillian Gish) on their sprawling ranch, Spanish Bit. Pearl is determined to live purely and plainly, but her incendiary disposition leads into the arms of Lewton. Jesse McCanles (Joseph Cotten), the good son, is forced to leave Spanish Bit, returning years later to find that his brother has become a ruthless tyrant and outlaw. Buttressed by a fiery backdrop about the colliding sensibilities of old West morality and the true Northern ambitions to tame it, "Duel In The Sun" ultimately became an overblown melodrama that seemed almost a garish lampoon of "Gone With The Wind" rather than its successor. It did respectable box office at the time but very little to advance Jennifer Jones' career into the echelons of super stardom. Prior to its release a sensual dance sequence that Pearl performs around a tree stump for Lewton was deleted because the censorship of the period found its sexual implications...well, shocking. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Dreadful sound transfer
The dvd image is great, the soundtrack transfer is horrible: drops in volume and the dialogue is often distorted.
Published on June 10 2004 by Peter Stanfield
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't know why this movie has such a bad rap.....
It is WONDERFUL!!! What more could one ask for from the Golden Age of Hollywood: Producer David O. Read more
Published on May 24 2004 by S. Dees
2.0 out of 5 stars ONE of the WORST WESTERNS EVER MADE.....
No! This is one of the worst MOVIES ever made! Of course, political correctness did not exist in 1946, but some responsible person should have been considerate to the feelings of... Read more
Published on June 15 2002 by Reginald D. Garrard
4.0 out of 5 stars This film has Jennifer Jones....what more can you need?
"Duel in the Sun" was David Selznick's attempt to outdo "Gone With the Wind". Sure, it has lavish and sweeping production, glorious cinematography. Read more
Published on May 20 2002 by Kendrik Lau
2.0 out of 5 stars what were you all thinking?
Duel in the Sun is an epic production. It is beautifully filmed -- with great music, expert stunt work, well-trained horses and a superb cast of superstars. ... end of story. Read more
Published on Jan. 8 2002 by Charles Laquidara
4.0 out of 5 stars JONES VS PECK
Ranchomolina's review dated 11th July 1999 is naive.How can social values of the 21st century be retrospectively applied to a film made in 1946 with all the attendant censorship,... Read more
Published on July 11 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Plan on "Drueling" over this Duel in the Sun
This first-time-ever release of the original Roadshow Version of DUEL IN THE SUN is definitive both as to length and features as well as to its sparkling new look. Read more
Published on Dec 15 2000 by James D'Arc
3.0 out of 5 stars Texas-sized Entertainment
Duel in the Sun is an epic in both it's themes and production. Although it doesn't hold up nearly as well as other films from the 1940s, it has many things which will please film... Read more
Published on Aug. 14 2000 by Stephen Reginald
4.0 out of 5 stars Selznick at his best
I am eagerly awaiting delivery of the DVD version of this classic film. Jennifer Jones has never looked more beautiful. The colors and photography in this film are luscious. Read more
Published on June 29 2000 by Mr Peter M Skinner
5.0 out of 5 stars brother battles brother for the love of a woman
This a classic western from 1946. Gregory Peck did one of his finest jobs of acting playing the hot-blooded Lewt McCanles.(He should have won an Oscar for this performance). Read more
Published on June 14 2000 by Stewart Stewson
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