DUEL IN THE SUN (1946) C 138m dir: King Vidor
w/Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, Gregory Peck, Lionel Barrymore, Lillian Gish, Walter Huston, Herbert Marshall, Charles Bickford, Joan Tetzel, Harry Carey, Otto Kruger, Sidney Blackmer, Tilly Losch, Scott McKay, Butterfly McQueen, Francis McDonald, Victor Kilian, Griff Barnett, Steve Dunhill, Lane Chandler, Lloyd Shaw, Thomas Dillon; narration by Orson Welles
Big, sprawling epic-romance about a young half-breed Indian woman (Jones) who comes to live in the home of a wealthy cattle baron and falls in love with one of his sons. Overwrought and overwhelming, which is not necessarily a detriment to FilmFrog. (This is pure melodrama, after all.) Vidor pulls out all the stops during the climactic ending, to such an extent that you may have heart palpitations.
From King Vidor by John Baxter: "The hand of [producer David O.] Selznick lies heavily but not without a sureness of touch on Duel in the Sun (1946), perhaps the greatest outdoor film of the forties. Niven Busch's novel had all Vidor's preoccupations, in particular a conflict between Man, in the person of Senator McCanles (Lionel Barrymore), a crippled monument in a wheelchair, and Nature, dramatized by his vast ranch, Spanish Bit. Industry --- in this case the railroad --- invades this empire, helped by McCanles's gentle son Jess (Joseph Cotten) but opposed, in imitation of his father, by the libidinous and violent Lewt (Gregory Peck). The innocently erotic Pearl Chavez (Jennifer Jones), an orphan half-caste billeted with the family after the execution of her father for her mother's murder, is flung from the protective Mrs. McCanles, played with a sense of gossamer and steel by Lillian Gish, to the affection of Jess and (her own preference) the satyriasis of Lewt, with whom she perishes in a demon tryst high in the mountains, both of them shot and dying together.
"It is impossible not to be exhilarated by Duel in the Sun, in which Selznick tried with typical single-mindedness to recapture the scope and vivacity of Gone With the Wind. The interference of which Vidor complained added significantly to the film's success, but Vidor felt the constant presence of Selznick on the set galling and walked out when the film was not quite completed. Selznick directed some remaining scenes, William Dieterle handled a Reinhardtesque sequence in the vast bar which opens the film, and second-unit director Otto Brower the train wreck from which Lewt rides away singing, 'I've Been Working on the Railroad.' Even [director] Josef von Sternberg [THE BLUE ANGEL, BLONDE VENUS, etc.], hired by Selznick to supervise the costume tests and, hopefully, give Jennifer Jones some of the photographic glamour of Marlene Dietrich --- Vidor used him as an assistant, having him douse the star with water in scenes requiring the appearance of sweat --- directed one brief scene of a posse searching the McCanles house. So acute was Selznick's obsession with his star that his visits to the set became embarrassing, the microphone picking up his heavy breathing as he watched her. Equally upsetting was a brief visit by D.W. Griffith [the director, known as the father of film language, of such "silent" masterpieces as THE BIRTH OF A NATION, who would die in obscurity two years later]. 'Lionel Barrymore and Lillian Gish were incapable of speaking their script, especially Barrymore. After a moment I had to ask Mr. Griffith, "Would you mind leaving the set or going behind the decor?" and he said, "I'm sorry. I've been here too long anyway, I apologize." And he left very politely.' [Vidor]."
DUEL IN THE SUN was nominated for two Oscars: Best Actress (Jones) and Supporting Actress (Gish).