“Duel In The Sun” (1946) comes on in prime time on TCM tonight. Whether or not you consider it a good or bad movie may depend on your own personal preferences, but it’s famous as a disappointment.
You see, it’s the first epic-scale movie David O. Selznick produced after World War II, which means it was considered his followup to a movie he’d made in 1939, right before the war. You may have heard of it: “Gone With The Wind.” Obviously, anything would pale in comparison to “Gone With The Wind.”
The movie also takes some criticism for the performance of Jennifer Jones. Selznick was enamored of Jones – in fact, they were married. She was a popular classic-era star, and has her fans even today, but she doesn’t really have the charisma to carry this movie the way Vivien Leigh carried … well, you know. This movie, like GWTW, has some cheesy, over-the-top melodramatic elements. GWTW was strong enough to make you overlook those; “Duel” … isn’t, really.
The movie has a western setting as contrasted with the Civil War setting of GWTW. Jones, a mixed-race foster child, is at the center of a love triangle between two men – idealistic Joseph Cotten and nasty, self-centered criminal Gregory Peck. In a plot reminiscent of “King Lear,” father Lionel Barrymore disowns Cotten while continuing to forgive and enable Peck’s bad behavior.
Definitely worth seeing if you’ve never done so, if only for the curiosity / film history aspect of it.