Legendary producer David O. Selznick dreamed of another magnum opus like his 1939 production ofGone with the Wind; he also purposed to make Jennifer Jones, hisladylove and eventually second Mrs. Selznick, a megastar. Accordingly, he micromanaged the making of Duel in the Sun (Lust in the Dustto some), an extravagant Technicolor epic about the collision of the old Westwith the new, wide-open spaces with railroads and barbed wire, and hot-bloodedoutlaws with civilized folk, often wimpy or unwell. Beginning among giantrocks drenched in a blood-red sunset, with velvet-voiced Orson Welles intoningthe leibestod legend of doomed Pearl Chavez and her demon lover, Duel neverstrays 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 originsand insistent voluptuousness. Sexual license versus law--Pearl's choices--aresymbolized by the McCanles brothers: dark, undisciplined Lewt (a lubriciouslywicked Gregory Peck) and reasonable, forward-looking,repressed Jesse (Joseph Cotten). The cast is huge(Lionel Barrymore, Walter Huston, Harry Carey, Herbert Marshall, CharlesBickford, Butterfly McQueen) and there are unforgettable set pieces: summonedby a cacophony of bells, the gathering of McCanles cowboys from the fourcorners of the earth; Pearl in heat, clutching Lewt's leg and being dragged across thefloor as he makes his getaway to Mexico; and the lovers' final shootoutamong those red rocks, as orgiastic a finale as you could ask for. --Kathleen Murphy ... Read more
Sprawling western, silly plot
Duel in the Sun was supposed to be the next Gone with the Wind for David O. Selznick. The hyped film boasts an all star cast: Jennifer Jones, Gregory Peck, Joseph Cotton, Lionel Barrymore, and Lillian Gish. The acting is over the top, especially Jennifer Jones' sultry Pearl. Gregory Peck seemed to enjoy his change of pace role as Lewt and enacts the role with gusto. It was a change from his heroic characters that he played in his earlier films. Joseph Cotton is the virtuous brother, Jesse, who does not choose to "forget" that he catches Lewt with Pearl, much to Pearl's hearbreak.
The ending of the book had Jesse and Pearl vanquishing the evil Lewt and riding off into the sunset. Looking at the over the top finale of this movie, I wish the producer had stayed with the ending of the book. The lines are laughable ("You know I had to shoot you," cries Pearl. "Yes, dear, I know you did," answers Lewt.)
There are many cliches: Lewt catching Pearl swimming in the nude and not allowing her to leave the water and get her clothes. Pearl throwing herself at another man to make Lewt jealous. Pearl's transformation, where she decides to become a wanton, her facial expression changing to reflect this.
I understand the "dance of the sump" was left out of the film, where Pearl dances for Lewt. It was supposed to be "indecent" but in retrospect might have been a source of amusement to contemporary audiences.
If you are looking for representative films from the Selznick studio, consider the following instead: Gone with the Wind, A Star is Born, Portrait of Jennie, and The Prisoner of Zenda. For MGM, Selznick produced such standout films as David Copperfield and Anna Karenina. For better films pairing Jones and Cotton, look for the films Love Letters and Portrait of Jennie. The two are at their best in those.
Epic, Sprawling Horse Opera (Roadshow Edition Review)
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.
Dreadful sound transfer
The dvd image is great, the soundtrack transfer is horrible: drops in volume and the dialogue is often distorted.
POINTLESS REISSUE OF ALREADY AVAILABLE DVD
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.
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. 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!!
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