Duel in the Sun (1946) - Rotten Tomatoes

Duel in the Sun (1946)

Duel in the Sun




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

In David O. Selznick's florid, overheated melodrama Duel in the Sun Jennifer Jones stars as half-Native American Pearl Chavez, who everyone has tagged as a "bad girl" foredoomed to an unhappy end. Her father is Scott Chavez (Herbert Marshall), an ill-fated fellow who kills his wife and her lover (Sidney Blackmer) and gets hung for it. Pearl is taken into the home of the greedy rancher McCanles (Lionel Barrymore) and his kindly wife Laura Belle (Lillian Gish), who'd once been Scott's sweetheart. McCanles's virtuous son Jesse (Joseph Cotten), befriends Pearl and ffeels some stirrings of attraction to her, though Jesse is far more taken by Helen Langford (Joan Tetzel), the daughter of a wealthy railroad tycoon (Otto Kruger). In the mean time, Pearl catches the eye of Jesse's evil brother, ne'er-do-well Lewt (Gregory Peck), who seduces her but refuses to marry her. Pearl falls for straw boss Sam Pierce (Charles Bickford), who proposes marriage, though the engagement is short-lived: Lewt learns of the couple's involvement and ends up killing Sam; then McCanles turns up and cautions Lewt to stay out of sight until things quiet down. Lewt indeed flees the premises and becomes an outlaw. Meanwhile, McCanles organizes his cattlemen into an enormous stand against Kruger and other railroad men; Jesse initially decides to aid his father but then switches sides at the last moment, and in response, McCanles disowns him. With this film, producer Selznick attempted to recreate the success of Gone with the Wind; it fell far short in terms of box office success, though Duel was critically acclaimed upon release. Many have often jokingly referred to the picture as 'Lust in the Dust,' which eventually became the actual title of a 1985 comedy western by Paul Bartel.more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Western, Drama, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Niven Busch, Oliver H.P. Garrett, David O. Selznick
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jan 19, 1999
Selznick Releasing


Jennifer Jones
as Pearl Chavez
Gregory Peck
as Lewt McCanles
Joseph Cotten
as Jesse McCanles
Lionel Barrymore
as Senator McCanles
Lillian Gish
as Laura Belle McCanles
Walter Huston
as The Sin Killer
Herbert Marshall
as Scott Chavez
Charles Bickford
as Sam Pierce
Joan Tetzel
as Helen Langford
Harry Carey
as Lem Smoot
Otto Kruger
as Mr. Langford
Sidney Blackmer
as The Lover
Tilly Losch
as Mrs. Chavez
Griff Barnett
as The Jailer
Lane Chandler
as Captain, US Cavalry
Elizabeth Lloyd Shaw
as Barbecue Caller
Si Jenks
as Dancer at Barbecue
Hank Worden
as Dancer at Barbecue
Rose Plummer
as Dancer at Barbecue
Lee Phelps
as Engineer
Al Taylor
as Man at Barbecue
Orson Welles
as Narrator
Tom Dillon
as Engineer
Bob McKenzie
as Bartender
Charles Dingle
as Sheriff Hardy
Johnny Bond
as Hand at Barbeque
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Duel in the Sun

Critic Reviews for Duel in the Sun

All Critics (21) | Top Critics (3)

Full Review… | October 20, 2008
Top Critic

Full Review… | March 25, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

It doesn't help that Jennifer Jones' accent and the skin tone of her native make-up fluctuate from scene to scene - she is strictly a force of camp that smacks every awful stereotype with a vengeance.

Full Review… | May 15, 2015

A grand scale horse opera.

Full Review… | January 8, 2008
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Many directors worked on this Western and it's impossible to tell whose signature it bears; the final, overheated shootout between the lovers (Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones), is preposterous but worth the ticket price.

Full Review… | March 31, 2007

Audience Reviews for Duel in the Sun


Originally I had no intentions of seeing this, but, due to the fact that it really angered the Catholic Church back in the day, and the fact that Martin Scorsese, known for his great taste, holds this in high regard (it was the first film he ever saw), I finally got curious and decided to give it a watch and...

...frankly this film is kind of a joke. It's a big, grand, melodramatic western romance that tries to be the western equivalent of Gone With The Wind, and doesn't quite make it there.

This is a grand and gorgeous film, but it's also an overlong, overblown, and rather silly soap opera.

The plot follows a half breed beauty named Pearl who goes to live with some wealthy relatives after her father is executed for killing his unfaithful wife. Pearl doesn't get on too well with the patriarch, but when it comes to his two sons, well, that's a different story. She falls in love with one, and in lust with the other, with the bulk of the film being a sordid love triangle that, sue, in the mid 40s probably was scandalous due to the sexual tensions and innuendos, but today comes off as tame, and really ridiculous and silly.

The film has some okay performances though, like Jennifer Jones as Pearl (though she's not really that believable as a half-breed) and Gregory Peck and Joseph Cotton as the two brothers Pearl is torn between. Lionel Barrymore and lillian Gish are also around, and they help elevate the material some, but even then this is still a bit of a mess, though at least an ambitious one.

The film does look great though, with some stunning cinematography and camera work, as well as some decent music,. Unfortunately, this is a very dated picture that's also quite boring. Maybe if this were far shorter it would be a lot better.

All in all, I can give this some respect on a technical level, and a bit in the acting area, but overall I can't say I totally liked this.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer


well, after making fun of this for years, i finally watched it and it was pretty damned entertaining. jennifer jones pulls some weird faces and tiomkin's score is too bombastic as usual, but it kept me interested throughout. i don't get the allegations of racism here. do people think no one ever used the word halfbreed? that ending is still pretty silly but easier to take in context

Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer


David O. Selznick's misguided attempt to recreate the success of GWTW in a western setting. The film has pleasures to be sure but also some woefully terrible parts. On the plus side: the cinematography is gorgeous and some of the supporting performances are good, Lillian Gish and Charles Bickford come off best. However there are some fatal flaws: a meager story to pin two and a half hours of film on and an overly earnest tone are two big deficits but what really hurts the film the most is the complete miscasting of the two leads. Gregory Peck was a fine actor but he was also an icon of resolute decency, whereas other actors with that persona like Henry Fonda could occasionally play a villain convincingly Peck could not. His casting alone would not be so bad if it wasn't paired against the absurdity of Jennifer Jones as Pearl. While I'll admit to never being a fan of hers within a limited range she could be an okay actress when the role wasn't too demanding, for instance The Towering Inferno. Pearl Chavez is far outside that scope, the part isn't really that good to begin with, even an actress as skillful as Vivien Leigh would probably been hard pressed to make her real although Ava Gardner with her raw sensuality could have made her work, but Jones mistakes over emphasis with depth and Vidor's florid style of direction doesn't help her. Part of the blame probably rests with Selznick's famed smothering control and that fact he was determined to make Jones the greatest of all stars which resulted often in putting her in material for which she was not suited and away from her strengths as a performer. The film is entertaining in an often campy way but one viewing should be enough.

jay nixon

Super Reviewer

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