Cast & Crew
Before Scott Chavez is hanged for the murder of his Indian wife and her lover, he makes his beautiful but unrefined daughter Pearl promise that she will grow up to be a lady like Laura Belle McCanles, his former sweetheart. Laura Belle offers Pearl a home on Spanish Bit, the Texas cattle ranch where she lives with her husband, "Senator" McCanles, and her two sons, Jesse and Lewt. Although McCanles, who is confined to a wheelchair, is hostile toward Pearl, her beauty immediately attracts the attentions of both Jesse and Lewt. One night, when Pearl goes to bed, Lewt forces his way into her room and kisses her. Although Pearl loves the kindhearted Jesse, she is physically drawn to the wild, handsome Lewt and, despite the prayers of preacher Jubal Crabbe, who is known as "the sinkiller," cannot resist him. When a railroad company wins the legal right to build tracks through the million-acre McCanles ranch, McCanles gathers all the ranch hands to defend the border against the railroad crew. In order to prevent bloodshed, Jesse, a lawyer, takes the side of the railroad and is banned from the ranch by his father. When Lewt returns from El Paso, he takes advantage of the deserted house to seduce Pearl. Jesse finds them together and confesses that although he loves her, he will never forget what he has seen. Pearl now pushes Lewt to marry her, but when he makes it clear that he has no intention of being tied down, she quickly becomes engaged to Sam Pierce, a much older cowhand. Lewt is overcome with jealousy and kills Sam. After a reward is posted for Lewt's capture, McCanles sends Lewt, his favorite son, to Mexico. Before Lewt goes into hiding, he derails a train carrying explosives that is headed for Spanish Bit. He then stops at the ranch to say goodbye to Pearl, who begs to come with him. Lewt roughly rejects her, and Pearl is left alone with McCanles and the dying Laura Belle. Faced with losing his wife so soon after losing both his sons, McCanles tells Laura Belle that although he has always blamed her for the injury he received while chasing her when he thought she was running away to join Chavez, he realizes now it was his own jealousy that was responsible. He admits that he loved her then and still loves her. After begging her husband's forgiveness, Laura Belle dies. Unaware that his mother is dead, Jesse returns to the ranch to see her. Pearl has suffered a breakdown since Laura Belle's death, and Jesse, who is now engaged to Helen Langford, the daughter of a railroad man, takes her away from the ranch. Lewt comes after Pearl and, when Jesse refuses to let him near her, shoots his brother. Jesse survives and is reconciled with his father, but Pearl understands that Lewt will eventually kill Jesse. In order to prevent that, she agrees to meet Lewt at Squaw's Head Rock, intending to kill him. Pearl's first shot wounds Lewt, who not quite dead, returns her fire, wounding her. The two dying lovers crawl toward each other and die together under the blazing sun.
Charles P. Boyle
Richard De Weese
Captain Charles Ellison
Lowell J. Farrell
Edward P. Fitzgerald
Charles L. Freeman
Oliver H. P. Garrett
Charles L. Glett
J. T. Harris
Wayland M. Hendry
J. Mcmillan Johnson
Hal C. Kern
Maj. Philip J. Kieffer
Roy A. Mclaughlin
William Cameron Menzies
David O. Selznick
David O. Selznick
Al St. Hilaire
Josef Von Sternberg
James G. Stewart
Best Supporting Actress
Duel in the Sun - Duel in the Sun
The story was born in another man's attempt to influence the career of the actress he loved. Niven Busch wrote the novel, then pitched it to RKO with himself as producer in hopes that it would provide a career-changing role for his wife, Teresa Wright, who was typed in "good girl" roles. When Wright got pregnant, however, the studio had to find another leading lady, particularly since they'd already signed John Wayne to play Lewt. When their second choice, Hedy Lamarr, turned down the role because she, too, was pregnant, studio head Charles Koerner tried to borrow Jones, who was under contract to Selznick's production company. The choice was unconventional -- Jones was primarily identified with her Oscar®-winning role as St. Bernadette of Lourdes -- but it appealed to Selznick, who was having an affair with her at the time. But the deal was never closed. Complaining that Wayne didn't have the sex appeal for the male lead and a first-time producer like Busch couldn't make the film important enough for Jones, he refused the loan out. When RKO lost interest in the project, he bought the rights himself. Not only did he ink Jones to play Pearl, but he cast two other actors whose contracts he held -- Gregory Peck and Joseph Cotten -- as Lewt and his honorable half-brother, Jesse, respectively.
Selznick first considered William Dieterle as director because Jones had just had a good experience working with him on Love Letters (1945), but then decided he'd put too much emphasis on the romance. Instead he chose King Vidor, who'd excelled with westerns and other outdoor films like Billy the Kid (1930) and Northwest Passage (1940), but had also directed strong women's pictures like Stella Dallas (1937). Initially, he offered Vidor the chance to serve as his own producer, saying he was too busy to spend a lot of time on the picture.
As he worked on the script, however, Selznick's attitude changed. He started seeing the opportunity for spectacle and became increasingly intrigued at the thought of presenting Jones to the filmgoing public in a new, sexier image. By the time the film went on location in Arizona, Selznick insisted on approving every setup and was re-writing the script daily. Some of his revisions were incredibly picky; he would change only a single line of dialogue or, in one case, the position of Cotten's arm as he sat on a sofa. One day he arrived on the set after Cotten had been released for the day with a new version of the scene they'd just shot. To get one minor line change in, he had Cotten called back and kept him shooting until midnight.
He also had various additional directors -- including Dieterle, Joseph von Sternberg and William Cameron Menzies -- on hand to shoot additional scenes or serve as consultants. He even tried to shoot a few scenes himself when Vidor fell ill. At least that meant there was somebody handy when Selznick's interference and on-set tantrums finally led Vidor to walk off the film. Ostensibly there were only two days left, and Selznick got Dieterle to fill in. Then as the film was being cut, Selznick kept adding scenes that dragged the production out for almost a year and tripled the budget.
Among the new scenes were a prologue, in which Pearl's father kills her mother for cheating on him, and a sexy dance Pearl performs for Lewt. The latter posed special problems for Jones, who had little confidence in her dancing abilities and was already uncomfortable with the character's sexual nature. It didn't help that the sequence had to be shot three times to get past the Production Code. After the film was released, Selznick had to cut it entirely to appease the Catholic Church's Legion of Decency and avoid a boycott of the film.
The entire process was grueling for Jones. On location in February and March, she had to endure snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures. In the final scene, Pearl and Lewt shoot each other, then she crawls through a jagged canyon so they can die together. For this sequence, Vidor wanted to use padding to protect Jones from the rough terrain. But Selznick insisted that it wouldn't look natural. By the time they were done shooting, the actress was covered with welts and bruises. The film was emotionally trying, too. Her relationship with Selznick had already contributed to the breakup of her marriage to actor Robert Walker. Shortly before production began, Selznick told his wife about Jones. Throughout filming and postproduction, he vacillated between leaving his wife for her and then trying to break things off to save his marriage. Shortly after the film was finally finished, Jones even attempted suicide, in despair over the state of her relationship with Selznick. Some of that emotional turmoil made it onto the screen. Pearl Chavez is now considered one of her best performances, and she still amazes audiences with the passion and commitment of her work in the film.
Further production delays were caused by a series of strikes, including one at Technicolor that almost kept the film from opening in time for the 1946 Academy Awards®. On the day of its premiere, a freshly struck print was rushed to Loew's Egyptian. Selznick also ran into trouble with his usual distributor, United Artists, partly over the film's sexual nature. Faced with their refusal to distribute Duel in the Sun, he created his own distribution company, Selznick Releasing Organization. Because all of his money was tied up in the film, he took a chance on a new releasing pattern, opening the film in hundreds of theaters around the country rather than starting slowly in a few first-run houses in the major cities, as was then the custom. Opening the film wide was decades ahead of its time, but proved a box-office bonanza as audiences, prodded by a $2 million publicity campaign, raced to see the film wherever it played. Despite pretty awful reviews, the picture grossed $10 million, making it the second-highest-grossing film of the year (behind The Best Years of Our Lives).
At the time, Selznick was stung by the poor reviews, jokes about "Lust in the Dust," as the film was dubbed, and even complaints in Congress about the picture's unbridled sexuality. He even instructed his publicity department to find a way to salvage his image. He didn't have to worry. MGM's re-issue of Gone With the Wind later in 1947 reminded critics and audiences of just how great a producer he was. In recent years, Duel in the Sun has been re-evaluated by critics, most notably director Martin Scorsese, who consider the work ahead of its time. In an era in which filmmakers are expected to put their personal visions and obsessions on screen, Duel in the Sun stands as a testament to Selznick and Vidor's ability to use the western as a vehicle for artistic expression.
Producer: David O. Selznick
Director: King Vidor
Screenplay: Oliver H.P. Garrett
Based on the novel by Niven Busch Cinematography: Lee Garmes, Harold Rosson, Ray Rennahan
Art Direction: J. McMillan Johnson
Music: Dimitri Tiomkin
Cast: Jennifer Jones (Pearl Chavez), Joseph Cotten (Jesse McCanles), Gergory Peck (Lewt McCanles), Lionel Barrymore (Sen. McCanles), Lillian Gish (Laura Belle McCanles), Herbert Marshall (Scott Chavez), Charles Bickford (Sam Pierce), Harry Carey (Len Smoot), Tilly Losch (Mrs. Chavez), Butterfly McQueen (Vashti).
C-145m. Closed captioning.
by Frank Miller
Duel in the Sun - Duel in the Sun
You're a full-blown woman built by the devil to drive men crazy.- The Sinkiller
I don't really know much about Sam Pierce, oh Lord, but from what I hear, he'd be needing no introduction to you. Seeing how Sam was snatched from his loved ones' arms before they even had time to get a good grip on hm, I'm counting on you to give him a better break up yonder.- The Sinkiller
You double-crossin' bobcat.- Lewt McCanles
Trash, trash, trash, trash, trash...- Pearl Chavez
Oh Vashti, why are you so slow?- Pearl Chavez
I don't rightly know Miss Pearl except I always have so much to remember.- Vashti
And this is what the legend says - a flower, known nowhere else, grows from out of the desperate crags where Pearl vanished. Pearl - who was herself a wild flower sprung from the hard clay, quick to blossom and early to die.- Narrator
Jennifer Jones scraped and cut herself quite badly during the scene where she crawls over the rocks and dirt.
The film was nicknamed "Lust in the Dust", which would later serve as the inspiration for the filmLust in the Dust (1985).
The role of Pearl was originally written for 'Teresa Wright' , as a departure from her girl-next-door image. However pregnancy forced her to drop out.
David O. Selznick reportedly spent $2,000,000.00, an unheard of sum in 1946, on the promotion of this film.
Niven Busch's novel was purchased by RKO in 1944. According to a November 16, 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item, the studio intended to star John Wayne and Hedy Lamarr in Busch's adaptation of his novel. A August 2, 1944 letter sent from MPAA head Joseph I. Breen to William Gordon at RKO included in the MPAA/PCA files at the AMPAS Library, objected to Busch's script because "it seems to be a story of illicit sex and murder for revenge, without the full compensating moral values required by the Code." Busch wanted to borrow Jennifer Jones from David O. Selznick's company, but according to modern sources, Selznick did not want Jones to appear in a film with a first-time producer. In November 1944, Selznick purchased the rights to the novel from RKO and enlarged the concept of the film to provide a suitable showcase for his star. He hired King Vidor to direct, and wrote the script himself from an adaptation by Oliver H. P. Garrett. According to modern sources, Selznick invented the ending in which "Pearl" and "Lewt" kill each other. In the novel, Pearl kills Lewt and then rides away to join "Jesse." Later, Selznick added the opening scenes with Tilly Losch and Herbert Marshall to "explain" Pearl's background, according to modern sources.
Scenes were filmed on location in Tucson, AZ, and Lasky Mesa and Sonora, CA and, according to contemporary sources, inclement weather in Arizona and California interfered with filming. A strike by employees of the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees, the Screen Actors' Guild, and the Teamsters' Union interrupted the production in April 1945. In early November 1945, the production was suspended again because of Jones's illness. Then, in August 1946, shortly before the end of filming, differences with Selznick forced Vidor to walk off the set. According to a May 19, 1946 New York Times article, Selznick asked William Dieterle to complete the picture. Although Dieterle is credited in the program for the film's initial release with directing "a substantial number of key sequences and scenes throughout the entire picture," Selznick had decided that Vidor should receive sole screen credit for the film. The New York Times article reports that Dieterle protested this decision to the Screen Directors Guild, which agreed that only Vidor should receive credit. The program also acknowledges the help of directors Josef von Sternberg, William Cameron Menzies and Chester Franklin, although the exact nature of their respective contributions was not mentioned. According to a modern source, Selznick sought William Boyd to appear in the film, but Boyd declined the role. A April 6, 1945 memo from Selznick to Joseph McMillan Johnson, head of Selznick's Art Department, reprinted in a modern source, indicates that von Sternberg acted as special visual consultant on the film. A August 16, 1945 memo from Selznick to Vidor indicates that Franklin and Menzies acted as second unit directors. A January 19, 1947 New York Times article reports that a 1946 strike at the Technicolor plant prevented the processing of enough prints for nationwide release, and that Selznick was barely able to open the film at two theaters in Los Angeles in time to qualify for the 1946 Academy Awards.
After Selznick sold abandoned properties to RKO and Twentieth Century-Fox, United Artists, which had agreed to release Duel in the Sun, objected that he had broken his contract with the company and refused to distribute the film, according to a December 2, 1946 Hollywood Reporter report. On November 18, 1946, Hollywood Reporter reported a rumor that M-G-M would release the film, which was denied by the studio. Selznick then formed his own distribution company, Selznick Releasing Organization, according to a Hollywood Reporter article on December 12, 1946. On December 20, 1946, Hollywood Reporter reported that Selznick intended to file a suit for damages against United Artists and co-owners Mary Pickford and Charles Chaplin for maliciously conspiring to deprive his company of a distribution agreement executed in October 1942. The matter was eventually settled out of court.
Information in the MPAA/PCA files reveals that Selznick worked closely with the MPAA to ensure that the film would meet Production Code requirements. Despite the MPAA's approval of the finished picture, the National Legion of Decency condemned the film. They protested that even though the characters of Lewt and Pearl die, there is no sense that what they did was wrong. After Selznick recut the film a month later, the Legion gave it a "B" (objectional in parts for all) rating. In May 1947, a second re-edited version was released with an added prologue and epilogue. The prologue emphasized that the "Sinkiller" was not an ordained minister, in response to protests from Protestant churchmen, who felt the character made ministers appear ludicrous. The epilogue summarized the awards that the film had won and informed audiences that the main characters died because they violated the laws of God. According to a June 10, 1947 article in Look, a sexy dance in the "sump" scene was cut, and the scene in which Lewt forces himself on Pearl was shortened to eliminate any indication that a rape had occurred.
On June 19, 1947, Mississippi Representative John E. Rankin introduced House Resolution 250, which called for the House to demand that the District of Columbia police close a theater which was showing the film because it was "filthy, debasing, and insulting to the moral instincts of decent humanity." New York Representative Emanuel Celler objected that passing the resolution would make Rankin, who had not seen the picture, the "keeper of the nation's morals" and added that the film was no longer playing in the District of Columbia. The House Resolution never emerged from the District of Columbia Committee, where it was sent for study. Eventually, the film was passed by censor boards throughout the country, with the exception of Memphis, TN, where it was not shown until 1959.
A April 7, 1946 New York Times article reported that, to sell the film, which cost between five and six million dollars, according to contemporary sources, Selznick spent another two million dollars on exploitation, and initiated a policy of saturation booking: Wherever the film opened, Selznick blanketed the area with multiple screenings. According to a May 10, 1947 Cue article, this was the first film to be marketed in this way. The article continued that in New York, for example, the film was shown simultaneously in fifty theaters. Lillian Gish was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of "Laura Belle" and Jennifer Jones's performance received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
Released in United States June 1989
Released in United States March 1976
Released in United States Spring March 1947
Shown at Film Forum in New York City June 10 & 11, 1989.
Released in USA on video.
Released in United States Spring March 1947
Released in United States March 1976 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (The 48-Hour Cowboy Movie Marathon) March 18-31, 1976.)
Released in United States June 1989 (Shown at Film Forum in New York City June 10 & 11, 1989.)