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Gregory Peck: An Agreeable Gentleman

Wednesday, June 27, 2012
7:00 p.m. Duel in the Sun
King Vidor (U.S., 1946)

Restored Print!

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.

—Juliet Clark

• Written by David O. Selznick, Oliver H. P. Garrett, suggested by the novel by Niven Busch. Photographed by Lee Garmes, Harold Rosson, Ray Rennahan. With Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotton, Lionel Barrymore, Lillian Gish. (144 mins, Color, 35mm, From Buena Vista)