Duel in the Sun

Deep among the lonely sun-baked hills of Texas the great and weatherbeaten stone still stands; the Comanches called it Squaw’s Head Rock. Time cannot change its impassive face nor dim the legend of the wild young lovers who found heaven and hell in the shadows of the rock. For when the sun is low and the cold wind blows across the desert there are those of Indian blood who still speak of Pearl Chavez, the half-breed girl from down along the border, and of the laughing outlaw with whom she here kept a final rendevous, never to be seen again. And this is what the legend says: a flower, known nowhere else, grows from out of the desperate crags where Pearl vanished. Pearl who was herself a wild flower sprung from the hard clay, quick to blossom and early to die…

It’s not uncommon to come across critics and writers referring to the operatic qualities of Sergio Leone’s westerns.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it applied to other spaghetti westerns, but of course Leone’s films were not really like other spaghettis anyway. Nevertheless, I don’t believe his films were the first westerns this label could legitimately be applied to. To my mind, opera is essentially melodrama set to music; roaring, all-consuming passions explored and exploited with grandeur. Yet excepting a handful of cases, cinematic melodrama tends to get brushed aside somewhat disdainfuly, as though the cranked up passions on display are paradoxically of diminished value. Duel in the Sun (1946) is full-throttle, unapologetic western melodrama, a heady Technicolor cocktail of love and hate, of guilt and desire. It is operatic in scale, mood and ambition, and I feel it must have been an influence on Leone.

The credits roll and segue into an impression of the desert bathed in a twilight glow, Dimitri Tiomkin’s otherworldly score whispers across the sand and rocks, and Orson Welles softly intones those words at the top of this piece. The allusion is towards the epic and the movie, bursting in upon a nighttime street scene, is forever striving to become an epic. There is sweep and scale and spectacle, the frequently breathtaking visuals manfully going toe to toe with a tale which crackles with the power of the emotional currents contained within. This is the story of Pearl Chavez, daughter of a dissipated Creole (Herbert Marshall) and an Indian mother (Tilly Losch). She witnesses her father’s shooting of her faithless mother, and then his subsequent execution for the crime. Before his death though, he sends her on her way to seek out the protection of Laura Belle McCanles (Lillian Gish), his first and perhaps only real love. Laura Belle is married to the wealthy and influential Senator Mc Canles (Lionel Barrymore), a wheelchair-bound bigot whose own family is hardly less dysfunctional than the setup Pearl has just left behind. The idea is to turn Pearl into a lady, a task destined to be thwarted by the girl’s own wilful and untamed nature, the Senator’s undisguised prejudice, and the competing attentions of his two sons.

Jesse (Joseph Cotten) is the elder brother, educated and with a broader and more progressive outlook, the latter aspect highlighted especially by his willingness to embrace the arrival of the railroad and the consequent restrictions which will inevitably be placed on the concept of the open range. It’s a common feature in westerns to see the railroad driving back the frontier and pressing ahead with the process of civilization with every sleeper and rail laid. If Jesse can be said to be progressive in this wider, visionary sense, there’s no denying that he also suffers from what might be termed a form of moral idealism, an unfortunate tendency which, at a crucial moment, allows his judgement to be fogged by some latent prudery or sanctimony. Lewt (Gregory Peck), on the other hand, is something of a primal throwback, a reckless man of the moment, impetuous and ruled largely by his instincts and desires. He is his father’s favorite for his full-on machismo and that earthy nature which suggests a greater affinity for the vast and sprawling Spanish Bit ranch. Yet Lewt is as faithless as he is feckless, a self-obsessed man who takes his pleasures where he finds them, spoiled, entitled and lacking any kind of moral compass. He treats his brother with disdain, the world as his private playground, and Pearl as just another glittering toy within it. Pearl herself is every bit as complicated as the men who covet her; she yearns for that illusory respectability her father failed to provide but is too impassioned to ever make the necessary compromises that might attain it. Transplanted into an alien environment, she finds herself assailed on all sides – weighed down by the proprietorial expectations of Laura Belle, shamed and demeaned by the contempt of the Senator, wooed by the decency of Jesse but simultaneously overpowered by her hunger for the no-good Lewt.

Those three points of the dramatic and romantic triangle are brought to life by three well chosen performers. Cotten’s reserve and diffidence is used effectively to show a man capable of professional determination but a more faltering approach to matters of the heart. Peck’s natural confidence is concentrated and twisted into a cocksure egotism. And Jennifer Jones was afforded the opportunity to explore an extraordinarily broad range from barefoot ingenue to abused victim and finally avenging femme fatale.  Generally, it is hard to find fault with the casting of Duel in the Sun. From the decaying patrician weariness of Herbert Marshall to the unvarnished meanness of Lionel Barrymore, the characters who populate the tale neatly capture the flavor of their roles. Lillian Gish had the ability to tap into that fading delicacy that was entirely apposite for a woman whose essential gentility has been broiled by relentless exposure to a husband whose temperament is as caustic and pitiless as the Texas sun. Smaller but by no means insignificant roles are filled by Charles Bickford as the aging and tragic suitor smitten by Pearl, Walter Huston as the larger than life Sinkiller, and Harry Carey as the Senator’s old associate.

Films produced by David O Selznick tend to have a lot of the producer himself in them, his hands on approach practically guaranteeing that. Duel in the Sun saw him producing this adaptation of Niven Busch’s novel and also taking a hand in the writing alongside Oliver H P Garrett and an uncredited Ben Hecht. Somehow the man seemed to be imprisoned by his own success after Gone with the Wind and his struggles to escape and surpass the long shadows cast by that epic production dominate much of his subsequent career. Duel in the Sun has ambition stamped all over it, although it doesn’t always hit the mark. That blend of writers has Lewt appearing too one-dimensional for starters: he’s an out and out villain, self-serving, cold, abusive and murderous. Yet we have to buy into Pearl’s inability to resist him. Sure he ultimately goes too far and pays the price as a consequence, but the fact it takes so long for this to occur is something I find problematic. That said, I guess the overriding theme of the entire piece is that of being trapped by one’s nature. Pearl is in the spotlight more than anyone else, but none of the leading characters seem able to break the bonds built by their own natures either. This is perhaps the real tragedy of it all, a collection of people all fated to live out their lives damaging themselves or those around them.

The director’s reins were taken up by King Vidor, who would work with Jennifer Jones again a few years later on Ruby Gentry, and the frustration of working under Selznick apparently drove him off the set. This is one of those movies where a whole raft of people seem to have had a hand, albeit uncredited, in getting it to the screen. Aside from Vidor, Josef von Sternberg, William Dieterle, and Selznick himself, to name just a few, worked on the film. Even the cinematography was shared out by Hal Rosson, Lee Garmes and Ray Rennahan. One might be forgiven for expecting a bit of a disjointed affair as a result of all this but the finished film remains remarkably cohesive. The scenes of the advancing railroad had me thinking of Leone and his similar setups as Sweetwater gradually takes shape in Once Upon a Time in the West. The panache of the various duels that develop as the story progresses leads me to wonder about their influence too – from the barroom confrontation between Bickford and Peck, and that poignant shot of the engagement ring, to the stylized face off between Cotten and a mounted Peck, and of course the final showdown which builds to a truly operatic finale. In among this there are numerous memorable visual flourishes too, the marshaling of the Spanish Bit riders being a good example. However, one of the standout scenes for me is the dawn meeting between Lewt and the Senator as the younger man heads off into hiding. It is shot in silhouette atop a hill with the rising sun in the centre, an almost demonic image as though the flames of the abyss itself were reaching out to reclaim these two scoundrels.

Duel in the Sun has had a number of releases in various territories over the years, with Kino in the US putting it out on Blu-ray. For the present, I’m still relying on my old UK DVD, which generally looks fine and shows off the stunning cinematography well, although there are instances of softness and a few registration problems at times. I am aware this may not be a movie that is to everybody’s taste – it is necessary to tune into those heightened and heated emotions that underpin this type of melodrama in order to appreciate it all – but it strikes me as a title that would be an excellent Blu-ray candidate for one of the boutique labels in the UK. Here’s hoping…

88 thoughts on “Duel in the Sun

  1. I love your beautifully-constructed use of language, Colin. It is particularly suitable to describe the beautiful images to be found in this remarkable movie.
    “DUEL IN THE SUN” would never get into my list of favourite westerns but is a film I enjoy. Running your eye down the cast list can take your breath away; some really major talents are on hand. That fact alone would be enough to make me watch the film – Walter Huston, Charles Bickford, Harry Carey and more.
    Selznick was clearly trying for another “GWTW” and though he doesn’t succeed he nonetheless put together a major piece of movie-making. I like a lot of films that came out of Selznick studio.

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    • Jerry, while I don’t suppose I would describe it as a favorite either I do like it a lot and I find I respond well to a lot that’s going on in it.
      Selznick appears to have been a difficult man to work for but, again as you’ve said, I have a good time with many of the movies he produced. They don’t always succeed and there’s certainly room for criticism in many cases yet there’s no doubting Selznick’s desire to make high quality movies.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What an elegant piece of writing, Colin! My opinion of “Duel In the Sun” has risen over the years. The opening scene in the dance hall is simply brilliantly executed. I love Welles’ narration, Walter Huston’s bodacious Sinkiller, and Tiomkin’s score. Sure, there’s plenty in it that makes me wince, but I think that its merits balance out its shortcomings. It’s funny, but just the other day I was wondering if you would ever review “Duel in the Sun”.

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      • I think it was over a year ago that I suggested that you contribute to the next BFI / Sight and Sound poll that’s issued every ten years. A lot of the contributors to the poll, while they may have an understanding of film, are not household names. But beyond that, I think that you write better and know more about film than many reviewers who are remunerated for their efforts in magazines and newspapers. I also maintain that you also are a better writer than many of the historical critics who were around in my youth (Stanley Kaufmann, Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris, Judith Christ, Richard Shickel, Bosley Crowther, etc). Only Molly Haskell and James Agee possessed gifts similar to yours. I give Roger Ebert a pass because he was OK as a critic and was a likable guy. Richard Brody and Dave Kehr are good contemporary critics. There was one guy, John Simon, who used to appear on the talk show circuit circa 1970. He was mainly a theatre critic but he wrote and talked about film as well. Sporting a PhD in Comparative Literature from Harvard, he was the quintessential snob. But it was entertaining to see him go head-to-head with, say, Jacqueline Susann. Anyway, beyond being a film aficionado, you are a very talented writer.

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          • Actually, I completely agree with Frank’s thoughts there.
            Apart from chatting movies with a nice bunch of readers, Colin, your writing is one of life’s pleasures for me and a big reason for taking part in your great blog.

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          • Well, I wouldn’t call Bosley Crowther and Judith Crist “exalted company.” Bosley was a terrible writer. Judith Crist called so many movies a “sheer delight” she should have trademarked the phrase. I occasionally read Andrew Sarris and Molly Haskell in archived versions of the “Village Voice”. I appreciate Sarris’ defense of the Western (he said Kael didn’t understand Westerns — she panned “The Searchers”). However, he wrote a nasty review of “The Fall of the Roman Empire”.

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            • I guees everyone who writes about movies is going to have their own strengths and weaknesses, or perhaps it’s better or more accurate to speak of areas/genres where they feel more comfortable and for which they have a greater affinity.
              To be honest, I doubt if I’ve ever come across someone I’ll agree with all the time but I guess we’ll all have those with whom we can share a broad overview of cinema. Personally, as long as I sense that a writer is striving to offer an honest appraisal of what they have seen, then I respect the writing while reserving the right to disagree on an interpretation.

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        • There’s a lack of good modern writing on classic films because so many contemporary critics are not capable of judging the films on their own terms. They insist on seeing them through the lens of 21st century social attitudes and end up seeing things in those films that just aren’t there.

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          • It’s probaby unavoidable, and not necessarily undesirable, that a certain amount of who we are as individuals comes through in anything we comment on and critique. It would be something of a dry, soulless exercise otherwise, wouldn’t it? But yes, I do think any piece of art needs to be taken on its own terms first and foremost – to be assessed on what it is as opposed to what it is not. Personally, I try to apply that maxim as much as possible, but in doing so I’m well aware of how easily it can be overlooked.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s good to read a spirited defence of melodrama. I like melodrama and I get annoyed when the term is used in a snarky manner – sometimes to belittle the sorts of movies that ordinary people like and sometimes to belittle the sorts of movies that women like.

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  4. It’s not a film I go back to often. Compared with almost any other Western of that era, it’s hard to think of one that is as ambitious in scope and deserves loads of credit. But to me it feels more and more overdone / overblown as it gets nearer to the end. This is where the opera comes in I guess 😁 I don’t think any of the participants is truly at their best in this but I should definitely re-watch. Thanks Colin!

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    • Fair enough. I think a lot does hinge on how one reacts to melodrama in general. I guess the more accepting one is of this, the more rewarding the movie will be. If melodrama is definitely not your thing though…

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      • The best experience I had watching it was at a screening of an original nitrate print some 20 years ago, which certainly felt special. But … well, I much prefer the also fairly OTT psychoanalytic western PURSUED though, let me put it that way 😁 Now that was s huge influence on Leone!

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        • Ican imaine that would feel rather special, it is such a visually sumptuous movie after all.
          Personally, I like Pursued just fine too. But the best aspect of all these movies is that they don’t present us with “either… or” choices, and we can pick and choose which ones appeal most to us, or pick all of them if that works better.

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  5. This essay of the ‘visually sumptuous’ movie is a beauty! The visual was in fact stunning and was not surprising with Selznick involved. You really do credit hereof.

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    • Thanks, I enjoyed revisiting the movie – it had been quite a few years since my previous viewing – and it’s great to know you liked browsing this piece on it.
      If it enourages yourself or anyone else to check out the movie again, or even for the first time in some cases, then that is much more important.

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  6. I haven’t seen Duel in the Sun for years. And when I did see it it was on TV and in black-and-white. So I guess I’ve never really seen it. You’ve got me at least half-convinced to add it to my shopping list.

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  7. DUEL IN THE SUN
    Another well known film that I have never seen. I guess the tar and feathers are getting closer to being applied. . No excuse at all for not having seen it as yet. Was talking with a pal the other day about big films that I still have not seen and I mentioned, THE CARPETBAGGERS. as one more I have missed.

    Gord

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    • and I mentioned, THE CARPETBAGGERS. as one more I have missed.

      No-one could describe THE CARPETBAGGERS as an actual good movie but it’s enormous fun. George Peppard and Carroll Baker are fantastic. One of my all-time favourite bad movies.

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    • Thaks, Gord.
      Most of us probably have some high profile films we’ve never seen – perhaps they have simply eluded us due to lack of availability, or perhaps they belong to a genre or era we have not explored fully or have less interest in. After all, nobody has seen everything and I like to take the positive view and see omissions or oversights in my viewing as pleasures yet to come.

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  8. Nice review, Colin. Like you, I have really developed a love and appreciation for melodrama over the years. It has been unfairly maligned. I love Duel in the Sun. Is it histrionic at times? You bet. Is it campy? (There it is again, that word 🙂 ) I’d say it is, mostly due to the overheated and occasionally nostril-flaring performance by Jennifer Jones, who was perfectly capable of giving understated and nuanced performances. I assume, Selznick told her to play it that way.
    I also love it that Peck plays against type. So often in films he had to be so depressingly noble.

    That being said, again I have to say that I don’t consider the word camp an insult. Emotions in this movie are obviously larger-than-life, and the movie doesn’t apologize for it. It has many emotionally hard-hitting and affecting scenes, especially Pearl’s scenes with her father on the eve of his execution and clearly the last scene.

    This movie seems to be Selznick’s answer to the eternal nature vs nurture question. In Duel in the Sun it’s nature that counts, and no veneer of civilization will change that. Pearl is cursed from the beginning by her Indian blood (questionable nowadays), Lewt is entirely his father’s son, while Jesse is his mother’s.

    On a totally different note, I can’t believe the PCA let the scene with Pearl (barely clad in a blanket) and the Sinkiller pass. Somebody must have been out sick that day. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Margot, good to hear from you. Yes, the film does set up the whole nature/nurture business and does come down firmly on the side of one’s essential character determining one’s path. That could be seen as rather depressing, especially given the way events play out here. But it could also be said to be making a point about how powerfully one can be moved by passion, and how what we might term common sense is no kind of competition.

      As for affecting scenes, there are a number of those and I was very impressed with the way Charles Bickford’s character was used – his natural prickliness was still there but he brought a great deal of pathos to the part and those scenes where he appears are very well judged.

      And yes, that scene with Jones and Huston is a bit of an eye-opener, isn’t it!

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    • Bickford played the villain, Buck Rand, who kidnaps “Boy” in “Tarzan’s New York Adventure.” It’s one of the better Tarzan movies. This is the one where Tarzan dives off of the Brooklyn Bridge.

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      • It’s an age since I watched an of those old Tarzan movies so I’ve no memory whatsoever of that. I must revisit some of these as I have fond memories of Saturday morning TV screenings of all of them, and I have all of them on disc – there’s really no excuse.

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        • In recent times I’ve watched several of the Sy Weintraub-produced Tarzan films of the late 50s and 60s. Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure, Tarzan and the Valley of Gold, Tarzan’s Three Challenges. They’re terrific. Very very different from the earlier Tarzan movies. The character of Tarzan is much more in tune with Burroughs’ original creation, with Tarzan as an educated man with a sophisticated understanding of the world, a truly a man caught between two worlds. But in the later films they add some Bond movie elements which works better than you’d expect.

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            • I think Weintraub was right in his decision to change the formula radically. It was a huge risk with such a well-established franchise but it had to be done. Tarzan had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 1960s. The Weintraub Tarzan movies have some great location shooting as well.

              I like the early Weissmuller Tarzan movies as well, but that formula was running out of steam.

              The Weintraub Tarzan movies are easy to find on DVD as well.

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  9. Excellent and positive review of this movie. I own the Kino blu and still can’t believe I do. Modern media is fantasic! It has a really good feminist perspective commentary track. Also Ihighly recommend Thomson’s bio of Selznick. He really tells the story well. Keep up the great writing. Chris

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  10. Colin, I would like to congratulate you on a very fine write-up of DUEL IN THE SUN (filmed 1945-46, released 1946). In my opinion, I think it is the best review of the movie I’ve ever read. Most reviews I’ve read didn’t give this very ambitious movie the credit I think it deserves. Your talented way with words continues to amaze me, and this is a joy for me. “Full-throttle, unapologetic western melodrama, a heady Technicolor cocktail of love and hate, of guilt and desire. It is operatic in scale, mood and ambition, and I feel it must have been an influence on Leone.” I wish I could have written that apt description of the psychological free for all that is DUEL IN THE SUN. Melodrama, you bet your boots it is, in all its wild and woolly behavior put up there on the screen in all its grandeur. This is one bizarre Western, but it is compelling to watch in an entertaining way.
    Most critics and reviewers of DUEL IN THE SUN, during the 1940’s weren’t kind, to say the least, but the viewing public turned out in droves to see what all the fuss was about. DUEL IN THE SUN became the most financially successful Western Movie ever, at the box office. Today, adjusted to inflation, it still remains number two, behind only BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (filmed 1968-69, released 1969). A lot more people viewed DUEL IN THE SUN when it made its way to television. I first saw the movie on THE ABC SUNDAY NIGHT MOVIE on January 23, 1972. This was its prime time network television premiere. I was a younghammer, at the time, and had never heard of the movie. My Mother, who wasn’t a movie buff whatsoever, remembered seeing the movie with my Father and her younger brother in 1947. She remembered it as being a really good Western. While watching on our black and white RCA television, I was blown away by the movie. I had never viewed a Western like it.
    Margot, I liked your comment concerning eternal nature versus nurture. Also, about the Production Code censors letting the scene with Jennifer Jones as Pearl Chavez(barely clad in a blanket) and Walter Huston as the preacher Jubal Crabbe(The Sin Killer) pass. From what I’ve read, I think the censors zeroed in on what was happening between Pearl and Lewt (Gregory Peck) out at the “sump.” An erotic dance performed by Pearl was cut along with some other suggestive material. The movie makers were pushing the limit here. So the “start toward salvation” scene with Pearl and the Sin Killer may have seemed tamer in comparison. Who knows? One item about the Pearl/Sin Killer scene that may go unnoticed, because there is so much there to pay attention to, is the medal or medallion that the Sin Killer gives Pearl to help keep her “sweet and clean.” There was nothing Christian about the medallion, because it was an Egyptian Magic Coin. On the obverse side was pictured a Pharaoh seated on his throne surrounded by hieroglyphs and on the reverse is the Sphinx with pyramids and sunburst behind. Interesting?
    Is DUEL IN THE SUN a favorite of mine? No, it isn’t, but I do enjoy viewing it and I appreciate the movie history behind the making of it. Is it worth viewing? I think so.

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    • Walter, good to see you posting. I hope you’re doing fine.

      I actually didn’t know the movie was so successful. Somehow I always thought it was a financial failure because the critics panned it and many reviews made – and still make – fun of it. I’m glad it wasn’t the case.
      I think many people consider the movie a failure because of what Selznick set out to do and of course couldn’t, top his own grand success that was GWTW.

      About the censors, they must have had a field day with this movie. It clearly oozes sex from every pore.
      I never noticed the medallion the Sinkiller was wearing. Good catch! But I believe it, but then there was nothing Christian about the preacher. There are some let’s say strange vibes there, which I’m sure were not lost on the audience in 1946.

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      • “It clearly oozes sex from every pore.” That was clearly Selznick’s intention. I suggest that you check out Dimitri Tiomkin’s mini-bio on IMDB. He recounts a clash he had with Selznick about … well, check it out.

        Concerning the character of the Sinkiller, the narrator at the end of the overture intones “The character of the Sinkiller is based upon those bogus unordained evangelists, who preyed upon the hungry need for spiritual guidance and who are recognized as charlatans by the intelligent and God-fearing.” I don’t know if this was an add-on for subsequent releases or if it was part of the original theatrical release. In either case, the production company or distributor was obviously trying to head off potential criticism. I can’t imagine any actor ever having more fun with a role than Walter Huston had with the Sinkiller. He is marvelous.

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        • Frank, that exchange is very funny. 🙂

          Interesting about the narration. It’s a while since I’ve seen the movie, so I don’t recall the narration exactly. Your quote sounds about right. Colin, everybody…is that quote in every edition of the movie?
          But I bet Huston had fun playing it.

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        • Margot, yes, DUEL IN THE SUN made a lot of money, fact is probably a lot more money than is listed anywhere, which is the same for any other movie. The infamous keeping of “two books”, or “creative accounting.” After all, the making of movies is a business, which is to make money(nothing wrong with that). I’ve tried to trace how much money is actually made on particular movies, but this seems to be an impossible task. Usually you can find some figures for domestic sales(which is the USA and Canada), but put in your search engine, “How much money did DUEL IN THE SUN make in France?” What do you get? No information. I’m sure DUEL IN THE SUN made money Internationally.

          I’ve stated that DUEL IN THE SUN isn’t one of my favorite movies, but I do enjoy it and I really like reading about all the behind the scenes stories and about the confrontations with production code censors. Even though the Production Code Administration(PCA} approved the finished movie, the National Legion of Decency condemned the movie. Selznick recut the movie, but the Legion of Decency still gave it a “B” rating(objectional in parts for all). So, Selznick did a second re-edited version in May, 1947. The movie was released wide throughout the country with the added prologue and epilogue. The movie was passed by censor boards throughout the country, with the exception of Memphis, Tennessee, where it was not shown until December, 1959 during its second re-release. The movie was “Binfordized” a term used by critics of Memphis’ infamous movie censor Lloyd T. Binford. Binford would ban movies for some of the most unlikely reasons. He ruled the Memphis censor board from 1928-56. Believe you me, there was no way he was going to approve of DUEL IN THE SUN. Here is a good article about Binford and censorship, for those who are interested. https://www.memphisflyer.com/banned-in-memphis

          They don’t make movies like DUEL IN THE SUN anymore. A lush sensual Hollywood Western Epic like no other of its time or really ever since. I thank Colin for his review.

          It has been busy and hectic for me, of late. Also, I’ve been having some extreme right shoulder and arm pain. My shoulder is better, but the pain in my arm continues. I’m sitting with a heating pad on my arm right now and typing with my left hand. Margot, thank you for your concern. I always enjoy what you write.

          Take care and stay healthy. Walter S.

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            • Margot, I agree with you about censor badge wearing Lloyd T. Binford. Just think of all the movies that were banned in Memphis. In the article it said that when Mr. Binford banned Gloria Swanson’s SADIE THOMPSON(filmed 1927, released 1928), newspapers reported that 15,000 Memphians crossed the river to see it playing in West Memphis. Here is what Mr. Binford said of DUEL IN THE SUN, “The most repellent film I have seen this year. It contains all the impurities of the foulest human dross. It is sadism at its deepest level. It is the fleshpots of Pharaoh, modernized and filled to the overflowing. It is mental and physical putrefaction on the march but nearing the end of final decomposition.” I wonder how many crossed the river to see DUEL IN THE SUN?

              Actually, DUEL IN THE SUN is still being shown in Memphis. On August 26, 2021 the movie was shown at the Black Lodge Theater. It was presented by Steven J. Ross, professor emeritus at the University of Memphis. For those interested here is an article by Chris McCoy. https://www.memphisflyer.com/the-glorious-trash-of-duel-in-the-sun

              Just a thought, but what if those censored cuts from DUEL IN THE SUN still exist in someone’s storage vault somewhere out there. You never know.

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    • First, thanks very much.

      Now, regarding the medallion, I should have made at least some reference to it but the truth is it slipped my mind as I was writing. I’m not sure about the significance of the inscriptions on it but I do think it was suposed to represent Pearl’s chance to follow a more straightforward, moral path. The fact she then allowed Lewt to toss it aside represents a key moment in her gradual divergence from that path Laura Belle had been trying to map out for her.

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    • Chrisk, DUEL IN THE SUN did make a lot of money. The so-called critics, who called the movie “Lust In The Dust” didn’t have much influence on the movie going public. Though it was banned in Memphis, Tennessee by censor Lloyd T. Binford, movie banner extradinaire, the people drove across the Memphis Bridge over the Mississippi River to West Memphis, Arkansas. Here they could view the forbidden in a theater.

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  11. Some Trivia……….
    Quote AFIj Catalog……”According to a modern source, Selznick sought William Boyd to appear in the film, but Boyd declined the role.”
    Anyone, have any idea what Selznick had in mind?

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    • Could it have been Sam Pierce? If that sounds far-fetched consider that several sources claim that Cecil B. DeMille offered Boyd the part of Moses in “The Ten Commandments”. I don’t know if I believe that but that’s what IMDB and Wikipedia claim.

      Of course, Sam Piece was played perfectly by Charles Bickford. Jennifer Jones had already appeared with Bickford in “The Song of Bernadette” for which they were both nominated for Oscars with Jones winning. Apparently, they had a strong bond between them. When Jones learned of Bickford’s death on 11/9/1967, she tried to take her life. Obviously, this was a trigger for Ms. Jones as she was already having a difficult time.

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      • That’s a fair assessment regarding Bickford playing the role of Sam Pierce. I thought maybe Boyd in-place of Harry Carey as Lem Smoot as a possibility. Now, I’ve never read the novel by Niven Busch…..but, was there a character in the novel that may have been written out or even modified in the screenplay that may have been a fit for Boyd?

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  12. William Boyd was a pretty decent actor and I think he could have been good in the film though whether the Bickford or Carey roles…who knows? Interesting thought though.

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