DUEL IN THE SUN
Color, 138 min.
Released: Dec. 31, 1946 (Selznick)
Cast: Jennifer Jones (as Pearl Chavez), Joseph Cotten, Gregory Peck, Lionel Barrymore, Lillian Gish, Walter Huston, Butterfly McQueen, Charles Bickford, Herbert Marshall, Harry Carey, Tilly Losch, Joan Tetzel, Scott McKay.
Director: King Vidor
Producer: David O. Selznick
Complete Credits at IMDB
Pearl Chavez, a half breed girl, is sent to live with distant relatives following the hanging of her father, who shot and killed Pearl's adulterous mother. Upon her arrival at the huge McCanless ranch, two brothers, Lewt and Jesse, are immediately smitten with Pearl. Lewt (Gregory Peck), the bad boy of the two, seduces Pearl but has no intentions of marrying her. The good brother, Jesse (Joseph Cotten), marries someone else but is still protective of Pearl and asks her to come and live with him and his wife. Tensions rise as the love triangle culminates in a violent end.
Duel In The Sun is the most famous, successful and controversial film Jennifer Jones ever made (but certainly not her best film). David Selznick envisioned Duel as his next Gone With The Wind and spared no expense in the production of it. It ended up costing over 5 million (which the film easily earned back), employed a huge cast and crew and took an arduous eighteen months to shoot. Selznick wanted Jennifer Jones to shatter her saintly Bernadette image (which she does).
Josef Von Sternberg, who discovered Marlene Dietrich, was hired as a visual consultant and Jennifer here is ravishing, sultry and sexy. Full body makeup was used to give her a dark complexion. Cinematography was by three different cinematographers, including Lee Garmes, one of the best in the business, and one who knew how to light an actress to her best advantage. He had already photographed Jennifer beautifully in Love Letters. Duel In The Sun is a marvel of color photography with some truly stunning Technicolor images.
The censors had a field day with Duel. They found practically everything objectionable, even the memorable scene where Lewt blows up a railroad and strolls off singing "I've Been Working On The Railroad". Selznick was successful in keeping that scene intact. However, a sexy dance that Pearl does for Lewt at the sump was cut. Other objections arose over Pearl's attire (or lack of) as well as insinuating language and graphic (for the time) sex scenes.
The casting is first rate. Gregory Peck is outstanding as Lewt and Joseph Cotten is equally good as Jesse. There are also fine supporting roles by Lionel Barrymore, Walter Huston, Lillian Gish, and Butterfly McQueen (who is hilarious as the ditsy Vashti). And as for Jennifer? Her acting is decidedly mixed here. In most scenes, she pulls it off well, but in many she displays a smoldering intensity that borders on overacting. If anything, her performance showed what an impressive character range she could display. The media had a field day with headlines such as "From Saint to Sinner in just three years!"
The publicity campaign for Duel In The Sun was immense and it paid off. Audiences flocked to see it and waited in long lines to buy tickets. The film made 17,000,000 on it's first release and subsequent releases would bring in even more. Critics snubbed the film in large numbers, referring to it as "Lust in the Dust" and took obvious delight in seeing Selznick flounder. The film only received Academy Award nominations for Jones (Best Actress), and Lillian Gish (Supporting Actress). Unbelievably, it was not nominated for Cinematography.
Interesting Tidbit - The film was originally intended as a vehicle for (believe it or not) Teresa Wright!
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