Duel in the Sun

Ablaze with Technicolor passions, Duel in the Sun is a delirious testament to inexplicable obsession, both on- and off-screen. Producer David O. Selznick constructed (and, in the course of production, compulsively reworked) the picture as a shrine-or sacrificial altar-to his personal love idol Jennifer Jones, who stars in bronzy makeup as sultry “half-breed” Pearl Chavez. Gregory Peck is cruelly self-contained and ultimately explosive as Lewt, a rich rancher's son whose attentions reduce the proud Pearl to a debased creature dragging herself across the (literally) painted desert. Meanwhile, Lewt's family-good-guy brother Joseph Cotten, bigoted father Lionel Barrymore, long-suffering mother Lillian Gish-cracks apart like so much sun-baked clay. Mocked as “Lust in the Dust” and revered by the likes of Martin Scorsese, replete with pathetic fallacy (libidinous lightning storms, red-lit warning skies), Duel inhabits a border zone between artistic ambition and exploitation, sleaze and sincere madness.

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