DUEL IN THE SUN (King Vidor et al., 1946)

From Niven Busch’s novel, this extravagant western, produced by David O. Selznick, upon its original release was condemned as immoral and mocked by being dubbed Lust in the Dust. King Vidor signed it as the last director standing; parts were directed by Josef von Sternberg, William Dieterle, Sidney Franklin, William Cameron Menzies and Selznick himself.
     Thin, garish, poorly acted without exception (it contains Lillian Gish’s only bad performance), it is a spectacle without sense or soul, and it’s racist to boot. The protagonist is Pearl Chavez, who in late nineteenth-century Texas is loved by two brothers, one stiff and virtuous, the other stiff, obscene and murderously mean. It is the non-white side of the “half-breed” Pearl, the film implies, that is the source of the moral weakness that makes her become bad boy Lewt’s mistress, and her white, Christian side that excites self-loathing, which reaches an hilarious apogee when Pearl provides the ultimate description of herself: “Trash, trash, trash.”
     Jennifer Jones, Selznick’s own mistress at the time, plays Pearl. Even in a career inundated with dreadful acting, this is a ridiculous performance.

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