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Western films, from silent to today

Duel in the Sun (1946)

Duel in the Sun (1946) posterJennifer Jones plays Pearl Chavez; she’s orphaned when her father kills her mother and her mother’s lover in a fit of jealous rage and is then hanged for his crime.

She goes to live on the Texas ranch of her father’s second cousin — Laura Bell McCanles — with whom the father was once in love. The McCanles ranch covers 1 million acres, and Sen. Jackson McCanles rules it like an empire.

Laura Bell wants to teach Pearl to become a young lady; Jackson would rather not have the half-breed around. But it’s their two sons — Jesse (Joseph Cotton) and Lewton (Gregory Peck) who have the biggest impact on Pearl.

Jesse, the sensible and educated son, falls for Pearl and wouldn’t mind helping groom her to be a lady and his wife. Lewton, the wild and reckless son, wants her too, but more as just another pretty plaything.

She eventually falls prey to his charms. They eventually fall in love. But Lewton has promised his father not to bring a half-breed into the family, though he also can’t stand to see Pearl in another man’s arms.

Rating 5 out of 6Review:

Overblown? For sure, after all, David O. Selznick was trying to make another “Gone with the Wind.” But this is also a film full of memorable scenes and memorable characters.

The scenes: They include Lewt winning over Pearl’s affections with a trick horse named Dice and later forcing her to spend most of the night in a pool of water because she won’t come out from bathing while he’s watching.

More majestic is the scene in which the crippled Jackson McCanles has himself strapped to a horse so he can lead an army of cowboys in a showdown against the railroad.

More prophetic is the scene in which a sinkiller warns Pearl that resisting temptation is going to be tougher for her because she’s “a full-blossomed woman built by the devil to drive men crazy.”

And, then of course, there’s that ending. Oh, what an ending. But viewers aren’t likely to forget it.

The film earned Academy Award nominations for Lilian Gish and Jennifer Jones, though neither won.

Gregory Peck as Lewton McCanles and Jennifer Jones as Pearl Chavez in "Duel in the Sun" (1946)Directed by:
King Vidor

Jennifer Jones … Pearl Chavez
Joseph Cotton … Jesse McCanles
Gregory Peck … Lewt McCanles
Lionel Barrymore … Jackson McCanles
Herbert Marshall … Scott Chavez
Lillian Gish … Laura Belle McCanles
Walter Huston … Jubal Crabbe (Sinkiller)
Charles Bickford … Sam Pierce
Harry Carey … Lem Smoot
Joan Tetzel … Helen Langford
Tilly Losch … Mrs. Chavez
Butterfly McQueen … Vashti
Scott McKay … Sid
Otto Kruger … Mr. Langford

Runtime: 129 min.

Memorable lines:

Jesse McCanles: “A million acres of McCanles empire.”
Pearl Chavez: “Empire? Isn’t this still Texas?”
Jesse: “Yes, but the senator doesn’t always acknowledge that. Look, he puts his seal of ownership on everything. It’s on his sons, too, I suppose. In fact, I’m sure my brother Lewt and I are the senator’s favorite property.”

Laura Belle McCanles to Pearl: “I’m afraid neither your father or I found happiness, child. I hope you will.”

Jackson McCanles: “Pearl? How’d they come to name you Pearl?”
Pearl: “I don’t know, sir.”
McCanles: “Couldn’t have had much eye for color, could they?” He laughs. “Might have better called you Pocahontas … ain’t that right?”

Jesse McCanles: “As one civilized man to another — if that isn’t insulting you — I have a little suggestion to make.”
Lewt McCanles: “Alright, let’s have it.”
Jesse: “Why don’t you leave this one (Pearl) alone. She may do very nicely if given half a chance.”

Jubal Crabbe: “You call her (Pearl) a child, Laura Belle? Under that heathen blanket there’s a full-blossomed woman built by the devil to drive men crazy.”

Jubal Crabbe: “Pearl, you can be a woman of sin or a woman of God. Which is it to be?”
Pearl: “I want to be a good girl.”
Jubal: “Pearl, you’re curved in the flesh of temptation. Resistin’ goin’ to be a darn sight harder for you than females protected by the shape of sows. Yes, sir, you’ve gotta sweeten yourself with prayer. Pray til you sweat and you’ll save yourself from eternal hellfire.”

Jesse McCanles: “You mean to shoot down unarmed men?”
Jackson McCanles: “Just like rattlesnakes if they cross this (property) line.”
Jesse, crossing to join the railroaders: “I think I’d rather be on the side of the victims than the murderers.”

Jackson McCanles, discussing Pearl with Lewt: “I haven’t been working on this place for 30 years to turn it into no Indian reservation.”

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