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 Duel in the Sun (King Vidor, David O. Selznick/ 1946)

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korano
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PostSubject: Duel in the Sun (King Vidor, David O. Selznick/ 1946)   Tue Jun 01, 2010 12:01 am

*Director(s): King Vidor, Uncredited: David O. Selznick, Josef Von Sternberg, Otto Bower, William Dieterle, William Cameron Menzies, Sidney Franklin
*Music: Dimitri Tiomkin
*Cast: Jennifer Jones, Gregory Peck, Joseph Cotten, Lionel Barrrymore, Lillian Gish, Charles Bickford, Herbert Marshall, Walter Huston, Harrey Carrey, Butterfly McQueen


What started out as an "arty little Western" became not only one of the biggest, most overblown, over acted, over budgeted, over produced Westerns of all time, but was also the most financially successful Western of all time. But the story is well known and none too surprising when you know that one of Hollywood's most famous producers was at the fore front of creating the epic romance Western. David O. Selznick, who had been dreaming of reliving his success of Gone With the Wind, chose this film (based on a novel by the talented part time screenwriter, Niven Busch) to fulfill that dream. Yet despite the harsh criticism from some critics and religious groups, his dream came true.


Pearle Chavez, a young half Mexican woman, is sent to live with her Father's second Cousin, Laurabelle, after he is hung for the murder of his wife and her lover. Laurabelle is married to a powerful yet bitter old cripple, Senator Jackson McCanles. Not only is Pearle living with the elderly couple. but their sons as well. Mild mannered, upright, and noble Jesse, and wild, mean, spoiled, yet charming younger brother Lewt. Both brothers vie for the affections of Pearle in their own ways. Lewt's are more forceful while Jesse's are adult and meaningful. Ultimatley, Pearle gives in to Lewt (only partly on her own will) and so begins the quintessential love hate relationship as the two "lovers" face mutual hatred, murder, chauvinism, racism, and law and order.


This film is many things. It is epic, violent, emotional, and controversial. But it most certainley isn't subtle in any sense of the word. So if you're looking for a nice little film to sit down and enjoy, avoid this one. As this film seems to give the feeling as if it is lifting you from your seat and chasing you around. It isn't too long compared to other epics but it is about 130 minutes of pure camp, which tends to feel kind of heavy on the viewer (especially the epic proportions we get) so it does feel long. It is very good at involving the viewer as it draws clear lines as to who you know to like and not to like. You don't have to think too much but it's still involving. The main character's moral dillema is probably what involves us the most. It is an intriguing romance yet extremely illogical.


This film succeeds most at being epic. There are entire sequences devoted to show off the huge budget ($6,000,000 + $2,000,000 on promotions alone!). The first scene is a giant, roman like Casino with extremely high ceilings, a wrap around bar/dance floor, chandeliers, made entirely of stone. We then get the large McCanles ranch with it's own unique gate opening system that looks as if it were deisgned by Freddy from Scooby Doo. Their is ofvcourse large riding scenes with hundreds of men. and the quintessential railroad construction crane shot seen in ever single western involving railroad construction. But without these expenses, the film would stand bare as a boring love story. It is the budget that makes this film. Like Avatar, the film is cliched, and barely original but manages to easily entertain the viewer with these great set pieces.


Not only does the production design catch the eye, so does the color photography. Shot by no less than 3 DP's (Harold Rosson, Ray Rennahan, Lee Garmes). The film is one of, if no the most beautifully shot color films of the 40's. Every lighting effect created naturally is accentuated to the extremes. The sunsets are deep red, the interior lighting is orange, and in the barbeque scene, even some purples show up. It's is very colorful movie that stands as a visual masterpiece.


Production notoriously troubled. In his capacity as producer and creator of this monstrous film, Selznick was on set every day and often took over direction from Vidor. Demanding numerous retakes, reshoots, studio shots, and changes of sets. Joseph Cotten remembers filming one "unncecessay" in atleast 5 different locations. While filming the mountain top climax, Selznick's constant demands finally irritated enough for Vidor to quite. Telling Selznick "You can take this picture and shove it up your ass!" As Vidor drove away in his limo, Selznick broke the akward silence with "That's all for today." Most of the people involved in the film claim that the finished film was made mostly of retakes and reshoots. The numerous other directors involved were mostly second unit or assistant directors with the famed Joseph Von Sternberg hired as "lighting consultant" for studio reshoots of close ups of Jennifer Jones.


As to be expected from a big budget Hollywood Epic, most of the scenes in the film are big and well filmed with a careful eye on detail. On that level, the film is well directed. But the performances are so over the top that it is hard to give credit to the directors for turning in realistic performances from the cast. They succeed mostly in showcasing the budget. Though to their credit, they did care enough to hire historical consultants to check the sets for exact authenticity.


The cast turn in some interesting performances. Jones got the same attention from Selznick that Jane Russell got from Howard Hughes (attention mostly to their beauty). So she is as sultry and sexy as she can be (she looks too cold and mean for my taste) and turns in an extremely over the top performance which did, however, garner her an Academy Award nomination (which she didn't win). Gregory Peck has cited the character of Lewt McCanles as one of his most favorite characters he every played (as well as the film being one of the funnest film experiences for him.) Who could blame him as this is one of the few characters he got to play against type. His roguish charm and sadistic nature are brilliantly accentuated by Peck. Though his nastiness and charm make him a truly hate-able character. Joseph Cotten remembers his performance less fondly. He admitted that he really didn't have much substance with his character and was strictly a good guy. But to his credit, he turns in the films best performance in a rather restrained manner. Lionel Barrymore has many of the qualities that Orson Welles would later assume for his role in Touch of Evil, fat, crippled, racist, mean, and all around bad natured. The performance is almsot pure hate and world weariness and is very flat. Gish is rather good in her role as Laurabelle, one of the only redeemable characters in the film. Though she hardly gets any screen time with Peck and Jones chewing up the scenery. Walter Huston shows up for a 3 scene cameo as "The Sin Killer", a gunfighting priest. The performance is best called a "Huston" performance (fast talking and deliberate, like both father and son.)


Dimitri Tiomkin's score is of the standard Hollywood epic variety. Nothing particularly Western about it but very grandiose. It is also showcased in a prelude and overture (on the Roadshow edition).


It is an entertaining film but heavily flawed and not exactly classy. But it is visually stunning, engaging, and interesting. worth a look.
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PostSubject: Re: Duel in the Sun (King Vidor, David O. Selznick/ 1946)   Tue Jun 01, 2010 9:20 am

Thanks for the review Korano and welcome to the forum!
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PostSubject: Re: Duel in the Sun (King Vidor, David O. Selznick/ 1946)   Tue Jun 01, 2010 9:36 am

Is it just me, or is this avatar of korano E-NOR-MOUS everywhere?
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PostSubject: Re: Duel in the Sun (King Vidor, David O. Selznick/ 1946)   Tue Jun 01, 2010 9:39 am

No it's my mistake, I have chosen that as a default avatar!
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PostSubject: Re: Duel in the Sun (King Vidor, David O. Selznick/ 1946)   Tue Jun 01, 2010 10:05 am

A very balenced review. Personally, I love it. It's a hugely enjoyable piece of High Camp.
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PostSubject: Re: Duel in the Sun (King Vidor, David O. Selznick/ 1946)   Tue Jun 01, 2010 11:29 am

I like it until halfway, then it becomes too much of a melodrama to be totally convincing
But it is not a bad movie, very daring (eroticism, violence) for the time of making
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PostSubject: Re: Duel in the Sun (King Vidor, David O. Selznick/ 1946)   Wed Jun 02, 2010 12:11 pm

I really like the ending in this one. The two lovers blowing each other to bits on the rocks. Great stuff!
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