The familiar western formula reaches its highest commercialization in Duel in Sun. It is raw, sex-laden, western pulp fiction, told in 10-20-30 style. The star lineup is impressive. Vastness of the western locale is splendidly displayed in color by mobile cameras. Footage is overwhelmingly expansive, too much so at times considering its length.
Single scenes that stand out include Jennifer Jones’ peril in riding bareback on a runaway horse, filmed against the vast scope of the western scene; Gregory Peck’s taming of a sex-maddened stallion; the tremendous sweep of hundreds of mounted horsemen riding to do battle with the invading railroad.
King Vidor’s direction keeps the playing in step with production aims. He pitches the action to heights in the top moments and generally holds the overall mood desired. Sharing director credit on the mass sequences are Otto Brower and Reaves Eason.
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Plot, suggested by a novel by Niven Busch, adapted by Oliver H. P. Garrett, concerns a half-breed girl who goes to the ranch of a Texas cattle baron to live after her father has killed her adulterous mother and lover. The baron’s two sons fall for her but the unrestrained younger one captures her emotions. So strong is physical desire that he murders one man who wants to marry her and tries to kill the brother, shown in latter attempts to make the girl a lady.
Jones as the half-breed proves herself extremely capable in quieter sequences but is overly meller in others. Same is true of Peck as the virile younger Texan raised to love ’em and leave ’em. Contrasting is Joseph Cotten as the older son. Role in his hands is believable and never overdrawn.
1946: Nominations: Best Actress (Jennifer Jones), Supp. Actress (Lillian Gish)