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. When a breach with his father arises, Jesse leaves the ranch, leaving Pearl to the mercy of Lewt who will stop at nothing, not even murder, to ensure his claim over Pearl. In the end, Lewt appears to be the one to get Pearl, but what he gets may be more than that for which bargained. Moreover, Pearl may also be prone to self-sacrifice.
Herbert Marshall, as the Spanish Grandee with regrets, gives an effective performance, although he is somewhat miscast. Lillian Gish gives an excellent portrayal of the put upon Laura Belle, though her death scene is so melodramatic that it is hard to keep a straight face. Lionel Barrymore is also excellent, though a little over the top in his performance. I have to say, I loved Gregory Peck as the bad guy. He gives a truly terrific performance. The viewer gets a sense that Peck really seemed to be enjoying himself. Joseph Cotten oozes integrity in the role of the saintly Jesse. Butterfly McQueen, as Vashti the maid, is, well, Butterfly McQueen, with her distinctive, high pitched voice, holding sway over the viewer. Charles Bickford, as the ranch straw boss, Sam Pierce, gives a restrained and moving performance as the man who truly loves and wants to marry Pearl, a desire that Lewt will do everything to thwart.
Jennifer Jones, quite frankly, is utterly laughable as Pearl. If she had not been the producer's main squeeze at the time, I doubt that she would ever have been cast for the part of Pearl. So over the top is her performance, so filled with pouty grimaces, histrionics, and sultry poses, that her portrayal of Pearl rises to the level of high camp. The scene where she grabs Lewt's leg in a histrionic fit, declaring her undying love as he walks away, dragging her across the floor, is a bit much. I suspect that the director's handling of Ms. Jones' portrayal of Pearl was the director's way of getting back at the producer. If so, the director succeeded in giving it to the producer in spades.
Notwithstanding this, the film is still a moderately enjoyable western. For those who object to its political incorrectness, remember to keep in mind the social context out of which it arose. The times, they are a changing.
on December 15, 2000
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. The Overture and Exit music, by the great Dimitri Tiomkin, prepares the viewer for this overblown, extravagant, and overlength Western. The narration during the Overture places the film in its historical context, and foreshadows the filmmakers' concerns with the Production Code Administration of the day. This film wasn't known as "Lust in the Dust" for nothing.
That this film is overdone in almost every respect shouldn't for one minute discourage the purchase of DUEL. Its tremendous cast--including a surprisingly atypical performance by the great Walter Huston as the "sin killer" preacher--is well worth seeing. While the film is overlong, the costly restoration work that has gone into this edition makes it a visual treat that, for the first time, accurately reveals the high standard of craftsmanship insisted on by its producer David O. Selznick. The colors are so sharp and true that they seem to jump out from the screen. If you are a fan of this film--as something of a "guilty pleasure"--you'll throw away the previous video release of this film with gusto. There is absolutely no comparison whatsoever. The 5-star rating is primarily for how gorgeous it looks than for the story itself. This is what great Technicolor could do during Hollywood's Golden Age. The trailers, also included in this edition, make this a great package.
on March 9, 2016
This review is for the 2001 Anchor Bay Roadshow Edition of Duel in the Sun. (This edition must be distinguished from the earlier Anchor Bay edition, which according to some contains an inferior reproduction.)
The 2001 Roadshow Edition (which can be identified by those words at the top of the cover) contains the original Prelude, Overture, and Exit Music, which combine to stretch the length of the picture to 144 minutes.
There are no special features other than Trailers and "Tags" -- the latter being very brief partial ads lasting less than 20 seconds. There is a 4-page insert with still photos and a scene menu.
There is a good scene menu of 27 stops, which divides the movie conveniently into roughly 5-minute segments.
The picture and sound are very good. My only complaint on this front is that often the lips of the characters are slightly out of synchronization with the soundtrack. The difference is very slight, and if you aren't looking for it, you may not notice it. Indeed, I hesitated to mention it, lest it spoil the enjoyment of someone who wouldn't otherwise have noticed it. And there may be no edition in existence where the synchronization is perfect. However, I think buyers of a DVD deserve full information of this kind.
For some reason, critics describe this film as strange, odd, quirky, etc. I don't find it so at all. It's a dramatic Western with a passionate romance and a touch of epic feel to it. The epic feel is not surprising, at it comes from Selznick, who was responsible for Gone with the Wind. The final resolution of the love conflict in the story is, to be sure, "extreme," but it's not quirky; it follows from the character development throughout.
The film is directed by King Vidor (apparently several other directors helped, but only Vidor gets the credit). The script apparently is Selznick's. The cast is stellar. Gregory Peck plays a bad guy, against type, and Joseph Cotten plays a good guy, somewhat against type. Jennifer Jones plays the common love interest of Peck and Cotten, and does a good job. Great richness is added to the film by the supporting cast. Lionel Barrymore gives the best performance I've ever seen him give as the flawed father of two very different sons. Lillian Gish is excellent as their mother. Herbert Marshall, Walter Huston, and Charles Bickford all are excellent in their smaller roles. The cast is truly a gathering of luminaries. Selznick certainly had talent for casting.
The musical score is by Dimitri Tiomkin, known for his grand and thundering (some think overdone) scores. He gives the film a suitable feel, and I didn't find the score overbearing.
I think this is a very good DVD of a very good movie, well worth having in my collection. The only downside is that this particular edition is out of print and very expensive, either new or used. However, if you keep looking around, and are patient (i.e., can wait a few months for the right price), you can find "very good" to "like new" used copies at lower cost. I got mine for less than $20.
This edition gets 4 stars, rather than 5, because a major 1940s film like this deserves a commentary and/or other significant special features, and this edition has none. But if all you want is the movie, you can't go wrong with this edition.
on May 25, 2004
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. Selznick's usual attention to craftsmanship and story design also seem to be absent from this occasion. He repositions Butterfly McQueen (Prissy from "Gone With The Wind) as the Prissy-esque house maid, Vashti, who is even dumber than Prissy and, Selznick muddles the supporting cast with oddities of all sorts, including Walter Huston as a religious zealot, determined to rid Pearl of her sexual demons, and Charles Bickford, as an over-the-hill farmer who offers Pearl his hand in a loveless marriage. Because of its sexually charged subject matter (there is, after all, a rape, a murder and the prospect of lovers committing suicide in the mountains) "Duel In The Sun" acquired the rather unflattering moniker of 'Lust In The Dust.'
"Duel In The Sun" had previously been made available from Anchor Bay in a stunning road show edition. MGM's reissue is the truncated theatrical version - also made previously available through Anchor Bay. On all three DVD incarnations, colors are well balanced, though on this new version they seem a tad more dated from the rich and vibrant colors on the Anchor Bay version. Black levels are good but fine detail is lost in many darkly lit scenes. There's also more noticeable film grain on this version than the Anchor Bay edition. The audio is remixed to stereo but only marginally appealing, sounding rather forced and re-channeled. There are NO extras.
There's nothing to stand up and cheer about here. If you are a die hard fan of this film, or westerns, then you will definitely want to look up the out of print copy from Anchor Bay, rather than this reissue. Aside from being longer, the Anchor Bay version also tends to be a better visual presentation overall.
on May 24, 2004
It is WONDERFUL!!! What more could one ask for from the Golden Age of Hollywood: Producer David O. Selznick(he did a little something called "Gone With the Wind" - you may not remember that one....), beautiful Jennifer Jones, a young Gregory Peck, stalwart support from Joseph Cotten, a crotchtedy Lionel Barrymore, a luminious Lillian Gish, supendous 3-strip Technicolor, a decent story for a western(my least favorite movie genre), and a history that would equal Selznick's other "little movie" - GWTW. The DVD of this does the film justice, although some commentary or other supporting features would have been fantastic. I have the Anchor Bay releases of this film and just got this MGM release-they seem to be taken from the same source material, which is very, very good. This film's reputation needs to be defended - sure it was shocking in 1947, but in 2004, they could probably touch on these topics in an "Waltons" or "Litte House" episode. Judge for yourself - get this movie - you won't be disappointed!!
on July 11, 2001
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, taboos and Hollywood racial stereotypes then prevailing.It would be more relevant if this critique had been applied to a film like this made today.I think people should enjoy a film in the social context of when it was made.Why does this person watch it if it so offends, with all the many other channels available? I enjoy watching old movies, especially Ms Jones.Many films from that era were so more literate than the grunting new age actors of the method school today.I have read a great deal about the making of this film.The Brean (U.S. Fim Censors) office requested several scenes to be cut and although modifications were done Selznick resisted total scene cuts except one which involved JJ dancing seductively around a tree at "the Sump" with just Gregory Peck to enjoy her performance.Apparently the scene just did not work and Tilly Losch offered to do it as she was a professional dancer.You see her as the native American Indian mother of Pearl Chavez, dancing in the saloon at the beginning of the film.Pity!I for one would love to have seen it but the film editors had to destroy all these risky out-takes! If you want spectacle, colour, a big canvas,melodrama,Westerns,actors such as Gregg Peck/JJ/Lillian Gish/John Barrymore/Jo Cotton, this is the film for you.
on July 8, 2004
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.
As Lewt McCanles we get the hottest, meanest, most excitingly nasty performance Gregory Peck ever was allowed to give. And what an irresistible bad boy he is. He was never sexier or more wonderful than in this departure from the Peck norm.
Even the usually dull Joseph Cotton manages to rise above his typically dry rolls, but not too much, in the thankless roll of the good brother. He seems a little too old for the part and a little too polished. Someone like Charlton Heston might have been more on the spot.
Lillian Gish steals every scene she is in with quite assuredness and only finds completion from the ever-prissy Butterfly McQueen. In her final scene with Lionel Barrymore Miss Gish makes off with the scene so quitly that you are hit with it's impact only after the fact. Barrymore creates one of his most beloved curmudgeons as Senator Jackson McCanles full of sound and furry and ultimately signifying less than nothing. His introduction to Pearl topped by a sneeringly shocking racial slur that encapsulates his character and time and place.
Another highlight is the cameo by Walter Huston as "The Sinkiller". What can be said of him is only this, pure cinematic magic.
The film unfold with such a sense of grandeur and awe that it sweeps you along to its incredible ending on the wings of epic pure camp poetry. The Dimitri Tiomkin score is a masterpiece and much famed over the years for the incredible call of the bells set piece.
The three cinematographers involved, Hal Rosson, Ray Rennahan, and Lee Garmes paint movie memory after memory with the palate of hot dusty hues that have long been forgotten by audiences of today. To see it now is perhaps more exciting and thrilling than it was in 1947.
All of this mad mixture of melodrama, mush and music was orchestrated by the master showman of his time, the ultimate huckster of smoke and mirrors and consummate barometer for just what we wanted in our early epics of the America that never existed, David O. Selznick, who added the "O" to his name just because it looked better on the marquee. When they say that off heard lament "They don't make'um like they used to." Both Mr. Selznick and "Duel In The Sun" are what they are talking about. If they still made them like this then something would be terribly wrong. Thank god they did make films like this once upon a time and we still have them to lose ourselves in a dream of what never was and what will never be again.
on May 20, 2002
"Duel in the Sun" was David Selznick's attempt to outdo "Gone With the Wind". Sure, it has lavish and sweeping production, glorious cinematography. But nothing can outdo "Gone With the Wind". But it was still a valiant attempt.
The film revolves around Pearl Chavez, a half white/half Amerind girl whose became an orphan when her father was hanged for murder. She was sent to the family of her father's ex-fiancee (Lillian Gish). Unfortunately, the patriach of the family harbors racist attitude toward Pearl ("PEARL??? Why aren't you called POCAHONTAS?!!"). The two son, blond Jesse (Joseph Cotten)the saint and dark haired Lewt (Gregory Peck) the devil both fell for Pearl, and this love triangle eventually leads to the climatic event suggested by the film's title.
As usual, the ever reliable Jennifer Jones demonstrate her talents that other Hollywood actresses can only hope they had. If you are used to seeing Ms. Jones in goody two shoes virginal roles in films such as Song of Bernadette, Since You Went Away, Love Is A Many Splendored Thing, Portrait of Jennie, and even The Towering Inferno, Duel In the Sun shows that she can exude sex as well. Typical of Jennifer's performances, she don't just act with her face, she acted with her entire body as well. She BECOMES the character.
Gregory Peck is also excellent, being a rotten rakish rogue for once rather than the defender of right and virtue we use to get from him in films such as A Gentleman's Agreement and The Paradine Case.
Highly sexually charge in its day, Duel In the Sun was jeered by critics as "lust in the dust". But given how this film has gone on to be a classic, both Peck and Jones can jeer back. Their performances, and the film itself is still remembered and celebrated.
And where are the critics now?
on January 8, 2002
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. It doesn't hold up as well most other films from the 1940s (or the 50's, 60's, 70' ,80's and rest of the century for that mattter), and the script (sic) which is corny, campy, unbelievable and painful to watch is an insult to discerning film-goers now, just as it must have been 60 years ago. King Vidor ( the name fits, and he wears it well) has teamed up with David O. Selsnick to foist this multi-million dollar spectacle on overzealous groupies of the film-classic genre who, (as you can read from the surrounding reviews) just adore it! It has three things which will please film lovers: 1.Jennifer Jones 2.great scenery (redundant) and 3.the best stunt horses this side of - - wait -- I already said that.
Despite a tremendous effort on the part of Gregory Peck, Jones, Lilian Gish and the rest of the talented cast to make this horrendous script come to some sort of life-form, the movie ultimately sinks to a level of jabberwocky so low that it makes the script of Paul Verhoeven/Elizabeth Berkley's "Showgirls" seem like "A Place in the Sun" by comparison.
This is two and a half hours of my life I can never get back.
I give it 2-stars -- only because of the stars.
on August 14, 2000
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 lovers. When Jennifer Jones, a half-breed Indian Girl named Pearl Chavez, goes to live with her dead father's ex-fiancee and her family, a love triangle develops between Lewt and Jesse McCanles, Gregorgy Peck and Joseph Cotton respectively. Peck is the low down spoiled son of Senator (Lionel Barrymore) and Laura Belle (Lillian Gish) McCanles, whose interest in Jones is purely physical. Cotton's character on the other hand has a genuine affection for Pearl and tries to protect her from his raffish younger brother. The inevitable showdown between brothers ensues, with Peck appearing the winner for Pearl's affections. Filled with enough sweep and grandeur for twenty films, Duel has some of the most interesting color cinematography ever put on celluloid. The scenes during the building of the railroad and the confrontation that follows are most impressive. Everyone in the cast seems to believe the storyline, which makes for a fun ride in spite of the downright hokiness of the plot. David O. Selznick spent six million dollars on a film that was supposed to be another Gone With the Wind and it shows. Released in 1947, Duel became one of the biggest grossing westerns of all time. It's also a testament to how popular stars can turn a mediocre story into a full blown blockbuster. With all its faults, this is a highly entertaining movie.