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USA 1946
Directed by
King Vidor
130 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Duel In The Sun

What might have been called Gone With The Wind Goes West (in certain quarters it was humourously renamed "Lust In The Dust" which eventually became the actual title of a 1985 comedy western by Paul Bartel) was written and produced by David O. Selznick in a failed attempt to repeat the success of his classic 1939 blockbuster.

In a marvel of Technicolor kitsch helped out by a lush score by Dimitri Tiomkin (the final scene is a classic of melodramatic excess) two of the most unlikely cowpokes one could find, Gregory Peck and Joseph Cotten, play brothers in love with a half-breed wench, played by Jennifer Jones. Lionel Barrymore plays their despotic cattle baron father and Lillian Gish their kindly but weak mother as in the best Hollywood tradition the family tears itself apart in a riot of erupting desires.

Selznick interfered in the production going through a number of writers and three cameramen with Vidor finally quitting and the film being completed by various directors including William Dieterle, William Cameron Menzies, Joseph Von Sternberg, several other second unit directors and even Selznick himself.  The film is not without its moments with some striking mise-en-scène and is unusually racy for its time creating a good deal of scandal (after the initial release a saucy dance by Pearl was removed from all existing prints in order to satisfy the moral majority represented by the Breen Office and the Catholic League of Decency) but unsurprisingly it lacks dramatic cohesion with neither Cotton nor Peck (as Ashley and Rhett substitutes) convincing and, rather ironically, as Selznick was deeply enamoured of her (they would eventually marry), at least from today's perspective,Jones ludicrously over-the-top as the erotic and exotic Pearl.




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