Saturday, April 28, 2012

Film Review: Duel in the Sun (1946)

Gregory is a bad, bad, bad man in
Duel in the Sun.
Photo Courtesy of
TCMDb: A fiery half-breed comes between a rancher's sons: one good, one bad.

     Gregory went bad, which made him all the more sexy, as Lewt McCanles in the epic Duel in the Sun. This was David O. Selznick's attempt at making another Gone with the Wind, and though it's no Gone with the Wind, it still reeks with awesomeness.
     Okay, so when one of thinks of Gregory Peck, they think of him as the embodiment of solid, understanding, and reliable leading men. As Lewt, though, he's the exact antithesis of all those fine qualities that he usually played, and he's hardly going to be Atticus Finch's best friend.
     And though I love him in those roles, I've gotta say: He makes bad look good . . . real good.
     I first saw this film about two years ago, and the whole time I was going, "Oh, Gregory. Gregory, that's just mean. Oooh, Gregory, you're gonna get in trouble." He was just so good at being bad, so good that I wish that he would have at least made one more film like this (he was bad in The Boys from Brazil when he portrayed Dr. Josef Mengele in 1978, but that's a different kind of bad--that's real bad, and I don't like that kind at all, especially if Gregory's doing it). While some may hate this film, or hate Gregory being bad, for me, Lewt was likable.
     What! She thinks Lewt McCanles (spoiler alert if you haven't seen it yet. Sorry) was likable even after he tried to rape Pearl? Well, no, I don't like he tried to do that because that's just wrong no matter who does it. I'm just saying that Gregory plays him so well, he makes him seem more human, more real. He really makes him either feel for him, good or bad, but whatever the feeling is, he's made you feel.
Gregory Peck as Lewt McCanles and Jennifer
Jones as Pearl Chavez.
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     Speaking of Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones, I've got to say, rarely have I ever seen a couple light up the screen like these two, or should I say electrify? They really are just amazing together. The moment they see each other, you know there's going to be big trouble. There's a sexual tension that you know Lewt is willing to act on anytime of  any day, anywhere; and Pearl, she wants him, but at the urging of the McCanles boys mother, Laura Belle, portrayed by the supreme Lillian Gish, she tries to be a good girl--and a good girl doesn't entice or encourage a man in a sexual manner. Lets face it, though. Pearl is a woman, a beautiful woman with needs, and she's got two handsome men that she could choose from: Lewt, the bad boy, and Jesse, the good boy played by Joseph Cotten.
     Pray tell, what is a girl to do?
Good boy Joseph Cotten and bad
boy Gregory Peck chillin' on the set of
Duel in the Sun.
Photo Courtesy of
   This is the third out of four films that Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones did together. The first being Since You Went Away, and the last being Jennie's Portrait. I really like the pairing of Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten, I thought they were a great couple, but they're not really considered as one of the great classic leading couples. Granted, only two of their four films did they actually have a romance, but nonetheless, they were great together.
Joseph and Jennifer in Love Letters (1945).
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       Teresa Wright was originally planned to play Pearl, as her husband was Niven Busch, the author of the novel by the same name, but due to pregnancy, she had to drop out. If she had not dropped out, it would have been her second film with Joseph Cotten since Hitchcock's 1943 picture, Shadow of a Doubt. As much as I like Teresa Wright, I just can't picture her as Pearl Chavez. That's not to say that she couldn't have done an amazing job as Pearl, I just have a hard time as seeing her as a fiery and lustful woman, but what do I know?
     This film has got a few faces that classic film lovers should definitely recognize. The head honcho, the patriarch of the McCanles, is portrayed by none other than Lionel Barrymore; Laura Bell, the mother, as I said before was played by Lillian Gish; Herbert Marshall is Pearl's father, Scott Chavez; Walter Huston (as in director John Huston's father); Charles Bickford; Harry Carey; and the funny, "I-don't-know-nuthin'-'bout-birthin'-no-babies" Butterfly McQueen.
Lewt and Pearl.
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     The ending of this film is one of the biggest twists I've ever seen in a film. When I first watched Duel in the Sun, I wasn't expecting anything like the way it ended. It was a fantastic surprise that had me going, Wow! It was nice to have an ending which was the exact opposite of how I thought the film would end. It stayed on my mind for quite sometime, and that's what you want whenever you read a book or watch a film, to stay on your mind, keeping you thinking.
     I definitely recommend this to anyone. It's not your normal western, but it's definitely not one that somebody should miss because of that. I give Duel in the Sun a 3.5/4 stars.


Clara said...

Oh, I didn't like this film! I found it ludicrous :) But I respect your opinion, of course!

In case you're interested, I described this film in my own words:

Great blog btw, I'm following you now :)

azw596 said...

A great film and a great review that really got me interested in it! Your choice of the word "epic" early on is a perfect description, and while it was the twist ending which had you going "Wow!", I was already saying that from the first scene, as I sensed this was going to really be something special, and it did not disappoint for a moment! Once again, my sincerest thanks!