Duel in the Sun Reviews
Pearl Chavez is a half breed at a time of native American mixed children were frowned upon; however, Pearl is beautiful and adopted by a man with two sons. The sons grow up one good and one bad and both in love with Pearl. The bad one gets her, and the good one moves away; but when things go bad for Pearl, hopefully the good brother will save her.
"Act like I'm not even here. Act like we never even met."
King Vidor, director of War and Peace, The Citadel, The Fountainhead, Lightening Strikes Twice, The Big Parade, Three Wise Fools, and Dusk to Dawn (1922), delivers Duel in the Sun. The storyline for this film is very good and was intense in several scenes. The acting was astronomically good and the cast contains Gregory peck, Joseph Cotton, Lionel Barrymore, Jennifer Jones, Lillian Gish, Harry Carey, Otto Kruger, and Butterfly McQueen.
"I should have done that to you years ago."
This was a surprisingly good western where Peck delivered a magnificent villain role. His performance was so wiry, loose, and unpredictable. His character had a ruthless swagger that gripped the picture and didn't let go till the final scene. This is a must see for fans of Peck and a very unique role for him.
"I bet I can hit that ding dong straight on."
...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.
I think it's a better film than given credit for and it's also not terribly melodramatic. I've read that this was the first film Martin Scorsese ever saw and as I was watching its conclusion I realized it's one of the films Jean-Luc Godard talks about in his monumental "Histoire(s) du cinéma."
So he hired director King Vidor,tampered with the screenplay and ramped everything up to 11 in the hope he could capture lightning in a bottle as he had done in 1939.
The result was Vidor walked when Selznick started directing over his shoulder and the producer cast his mistress in the lead role and by doing that scuppered any chances of making this film a masterpiece
So the final result has a kind of over the top grandieur which is let down by Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten being so drippy in there roles and only Gregory Peck delivering the kind of perfomance which matches the producers grand vision.
The film looks great and there are plenty of memorable set pieces which only a classic Hollywood film can provide.
But as i pointed out the two leads are dull Jones cant really act halfbreed and Cotten is lumbered with a boring good guy part while Peck steals the film from both of them.
Martin Scorsese has pointed out that the film is flawed and i am inclined to agree with him and its a long way from the best films that Vidor made for the studio system.
An interesting failiure and a good film to watch alongside the equally flawed Heavens Gate.