Instead, the huge, grossly-expensive (almost $100-million when adjusted for inflation), two year-long production is still considered one of the most harebrained movies from Hollywood's "golden age." Director King Vidor handles Selznick's risible script with the same anvil-like touch that he would bring to The Fountainhead three years later. Vidor, by the way, was one of six directors who helmed Duel in the Sun during its lengthy inception -- or is it ejection? -- including Selznick, who, in a rare moment of lucidity, fired himself. As for the acting, there's so much ham on display that it's probably banned in Jewish and Muslim neighborhoods.
The tale of a young, half-breed trollop who causes havoc between two brothers and their racist father, Duel in the Sun intends to be spicy but winds up being tasteless. It would have fared better as a low-budget RKO black & white programmer as originally intended, but once Selznick got his Oscar-winning paws on the project, all bets were off.
|Warning: staring at this sun on a high-def |
TV for 10 straight minutes can cause
permanent eye damage.
|The difference between "prelude" |
and "overture" is 7 minutes.
Then that's followed by the credits, and that's followed by a magniloquent prologue spoken by Orson Welles (presumably to make it sound classy) before the movie finally kicks in. I guess Selznick had to do something to make it seem as long as Gone with the Wind. (Without the music folderol, Duel in the Sun runs only a little over two hours.)
|Now we know where Elvis Presley got his sneer.|
|"After we do the nasty, I'm going out to kill|
|Joseph Cotten is amused by Jennifer Jones'|
attempt at catching flies with her mouth.
|The good preacher takes a personal interest in|
|"I look like Hillary who?"|
|Lillian Gish wipes away the|
spittle from Barrymore's
An impressive sequence featuring hundreds of cowboys charging down a steep hill and across the plains is still exciting (and today would be recreated with CGI). The psilocybin-like Technicolor is wildly vivid, with fiery red sunsets and gorgeous blue skies popping out of the screen, while Tiomkin's score never, and I mean never, stops. As Bosley Crowther wrote in his New York Times review, "Oh, brother—if only the dramatics were up to the technical style!"
|D.W. Griffith visits Huston and Barrymore|
on the set of Duel in the Sun, and decides he got
out of pictures at the right time.
|Love means never having to say you're|
sorry after shooting each other to death.
Two hours and 20 minutes of non-stop music -- and I still can't remember a frigging note.
To read about John Barrymore's swansong, Playmates, go here.
To read about King Vidor's The Fountainhead, go here.