Duel in the Sun (1947)

134-136 mins | Melodrama, Western | 1947

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HISTORY

Niven Busch's novel was purchased by RKO in 1944. According to a 16 Nov 1944 HR news item, the studio intended to star John Wayne and Hedy Lamarr in Busch's adaptation of his novel. A 2 Aug 1944 letter sent from MPAA head Joseph I. Breen to William Gordon at RKO included in the MPAA/PCA files at the AMPAS Library, objected to Busch's script because "it seems to be a story of illicit sex and murder for revenge, without the full compensating moral values required by the Code." Busch wanted to borrow Jennifer Jones from David O. Selznick's company, but according to modern sources, Selznick did not want Jones to appear in a film with a first-time producer. In Nov 1944, Selznick purchased the rights to the novel from RKO and enlarged the concept of the film to provide a suitable showcase for his star. He hired King Vidor to direct, and wrote the script himself from an adaptation by Oliver H. P. Garrett. According to modern sources, Selznick invented the ending in which "Pearl" and "Lewt" kill each other. In the novel, Pearl kills Lewt and then rides away to join "Jesse." Later, Selznick added the opening scenes with Tilly Losch and Herbert Marshall to "explain" Pearl's background, according to modern sources.
       Scenes were filmed on location in Tucson, AZ, and Lasky Mesa and Sonora, CA and, according to contemporary sources, inclement weather in Arizona and California interfered with filming. A strike by employees of the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees, the Screen Actors' Guild, and the Teamsters' Union interrupted the production in Apr 1945. In early Nov 1945, ... More Less

Niven Busch's novel was purchased by RKO in 1944. According to a 16 Nov 1944 HR news item, the studio intended to star John Wayne and Hedy Lamarr in Busch's adaptation of his novel. A 2 Aug 1944 letter sent from MPAA head Joseph I. Breen to William Gordon at RKO included in the MPAA/PCA files at the AMPAS Library, objected to Busch's script because "it seems to be a story of illicit sex and murder for revenge, without the full compensating moral values required by the Code." Busch wanted to borrow Jennifer Jones from David O. Selznick's company, but according to modern sources, Selznick did not want Jones to appear in a film with a first-time producer. In Nov 1944, Selznick purchased the rights to the novel from RKO and enlarged the concept of the film to provide a suitable showcase for his star. He hired King Vidor to direct, and wrote the script himself from an adaptation by Oliver H. P. Garrett. According to modern sources, Selznick invented the ending in which "Pearl" and "Lewt" kill each other. In the novel, Pearl kills Lewt and then rides away to join "Jesse." Later, Selznick added the opening scenes with Tilly Losch and Herbert Marshall to "explain" Pearl's background, according to modern sources.
       Scenes were filmed on location in Tucson, AZ, and Lasky Mesa and Sonora, CA and, according to contemporary sources, inclement weather in Arizona and California interfered with filming. A strike by employees of the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees, the Screen Actors' Guild, and the Teamsters' Union interrupted the production in Apr 1945. In early Nov 1945, the production was suspended again because of Jones's illness. Then, in Aug 1946, shortly before the end of filming, differences with Selznick forced Vidor to walk off the set. According to a 19 May 1946 NYT article, Selznick asked William Dieterle to complete the picture. Although Dieterle is credited in the program for the film's initial release with directing "a substantial number of key sequences and scenes throughout the entire picture," Selznick had decided that Vidor should receive sole screen credit for the film. The NYT article reports that Dieterle protested this decision to the Screen Directors Guild, which agreed that only Vidor should receive credit. The program also acknowledges the help of directors Josef von Sternberg, William Cameron Menzies and Chester Franklin, although the exact nature of their respective contributions was not mentioned. According to a modern source, Selznick sought William Boyd to appear in the film, but Boyd declined the role. A 6 Apr 1945 memo from Selznick to Joseph McMillan Johnson, head of Selznick's Art Department, reprinted in a modern source, indicates that von Sternberg acted as special visual consultant on the film. A 16 Aug 1945 memo from Selznick to Vidor indicates that Franklin and Menzies acted as second unit directors. A 19 Jan 1947 NYT article reports that a 1946 strike at the Technicolor plant prevented the processing of enough prints for nationwide release, and that Selznick was barely able to open the film at two theaters in Los Angeles in time to qualify for the 1946 Academy Awards.
       After Selznick sold abandoned properties to RKO and Twentieth Century-Fox, United Artists, which had agreed to release Duel in the Sun , objected that he had broken his contract with the company and refused to distribute the film, according to a 2 Dec 1946 HR report. On 18 Nov 1946, HR reported a rumor that M-G-M would release the film, which was denied by the studio. Selznick then formed his own distribution company, Selznick Releasing Organization, according to a HR article on 12 Dec 1946. On 20 Dec 1946, HR reported that Selznick intended to file a suit for damages against United Artists and co-owners Mary Pickford and Charles Chaplin for maliciously conspiring to deprive his company of a distribution agreement executed in Oct 1942. The matter was eventually settled out of court.
       Information in the MPAA/PCA files reveals that Selznick worked closely with the MPAA to ensure that the film would meet Production Code requirements. Despite the MPAA's approval of the finished picture, the National Legion of Decency condemned the film. They protested that even though the characters of Lewt and Pearl die, there is no sense that what they did was wrong. After Selznick recut the film a month later, the Legion gave it a "B" (objectional in parts for all) rating. In May 1947, a second re-edited version was released with an added prologue and epilogue. The prologue emphasized that the "Sinkiller" was not an ordained minister, in response to protests from Protestant churchmen, who felt the character made ministers appear ludicrous. The epilogue summarized the awards that the film had won and informed audiences that the main characters died because they violated the laws of God. According to a 10 Jun 1947 article in Look , a sexy dance in the "sump" scene was cut, and the scene in which Lewt forces himself on Pearl was shortened to eliminate any indication that a rape had occurred.
       On 19 Jun 1947, Mississippi Representative John E. Rankin introduced House Resolution 250, which called for the House to demand that the District of Columbia police close a theater which was showing the film because it was "filthy, debasing, and insulting to the moral instincts of decent humanity." New York Representative Emanuel Celler objected that passing the resolution would make Rankin, who had not seen the picture, the "keeper of the nation's morals" and added that the film was no longer playing in the District of Columbia. The House Resolution never emerged from the District of Columbia Committee, where it was sent for study. Eventually, the film was passed by censor boards throughout the country, with the exception of Memphis, TN, where it was not shown until 1959.
       A 7 Apr 1946 NYT article reported that, to sell the film, which cost between five and six million dollars, according to contemporary sources, Selznick spent another two million dollars on exploitation, and initiated a policy of saturation booking: Wherever the film opened, Selznick blanketed the area with multiple screenings. According to a 10 May 1947 Cue article, this was the first film to be marketed in this way. The article continued that in New York, for example, the film was shown simultaneously in fifty theaters. Lillian Gish was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of "Laura Belle" and Jennifer Jones's performance received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Feb 46
p. 40.
Cue
10-May-47
---
Daily Variety
31 Dec 46
p. 3, 16
Daily Variety
2 May 1947.
---
Film Daily
31 Dec 46
p. 4.
Harrison's Reports
25 Jan 47
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Nov 44
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Nov 45
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Dec 45
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Jan 46
p. 1, 7
Hollywood Reporter
27 Mar 46
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Nov 46
pp. 1-2.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Nov 46
p. 1, 4
Hollywood Reporter
2 Dec 46
p. 1, 8
Hollywood Reporter
12 Dec 46
, 17148
Hollywood Reporter
20 Dec 46
p. 1, 31
Hollywood Reporter
23 Dec 46
p. 1, 3
Hollywood Reporter
31 Dec 46
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jan 47
p. 2.
Look
10 Jun 1947.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Apr 1945.
---
Motion Picture Daily
31 Dec 1946.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
17 Mar 45
p. 2366.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
6 Apr 46
p. 2926.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
14 Dec 46
p. 3363.
New York News
5 Dec 1946.
---
New York Times
8 Apr 1945.
---
New York Times
19 May 1946.
---
New York Times
7 Apr 1946.
---
New York Times
19 Jan 1947.
---
New York Times
8 May 47
p. 30.
Time
17 Mar 1947.
---
Variety
1 Jan 47
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d unit dir
2d unit dir
2d unit dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Addl photog
Addl photog
Cam op
Stills
Chief elec
Chief elec
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Assoc art dir
FILM EDITORS
Supv film ed
Assoc
Assoc
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Int dec
Props mgr
Props mgr
Props on the set
COSTUMES
Ward superintendent
Ward superintendent
Ward superintendent
MUSIC
Mus wrt and cond
Mus coordinator
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Effects ed
DANCE
Solo dances created by
Group dances by
PRODUCTION MISC
Scenario asst
General mgr
Visual consultant
Prod mgr
Asst prod mgr
Unit mgr
Unit mgr
Scr clerk
Scr clerk
Scr clerk
Tech adv on ranch life details
Tech adv on ranch life details
Tech adv on 19th cent dances
Tech adv for barbeque scene
Tech adv on railroad const
Tech adv on the cavalry charge
Tech adv on barroom scenes
Tech adv on Texas dialect
Tech adv on Texas dialect
Tech adv on guns and gunplay
Research
Casting dir
Construction superintendent
Head grip
Head grip
Green man
Chief eff projectionist
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col dir
SOURCES
LITERARY
Suggested by the novel Duel in the Sun by Niven Busch (New York, 1944).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Gotta Get Me Somebody to Love," music and lyrics by Allie Wrubel
"Headin' Home," music by Dimitri Tiomkin, lyrics by Frederick Herbert.
DETAILS
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Los Angeles: 31 December 1946
New York opening: week of 8 May 1947
Production Date:
1 March 1945--September 1946
addl scenes May 1947
Copyright Claimant:
Vanguard Films, Inc.
Copyright Date:
31 December 1946
Copyright Number:
LP982
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
134-136
Length(in feet):
12,122
Country:
United States
PCA No:
11649
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Before Scott Chavez is hanged for the murder of his Indian wife and her lover, he makes his beautiful but unrefined daughter Pearl promise that she will grow up to be a lady like Laura Belle McCanles, his former sweetheart. Laura Belle offers Pearl a home on Spanish Bit, the Texas cattle ranch where she lives with her husband, "Senator" McCanles, and her two sons, Jesse and Lewt. Although McCanles, who is confined to a wheelchair, is hostile toward Pearl, her beauty immediately attracts the attentions of both Jesse and Lewt. One night, when Pearl goes to bed, Lewt forces his way into her room and kisses her. Although Pearl loves the kindhearted Jesse, she is physically drawn to the wild, handsome Lewt and, despite the prayers of preacher Jubal Crabbe, who is known as "the sinkiller," cannot resist him. When a railroad company wins the legal right to build tracks through the million-acre McCanles ranch, McCanles gathers all the ranch hands to defend the border against the railroad crew. In order to prevent bloodshed, Jesse, a lawyer, takes the side of the railroad and is banned from the ranch by his father. When Lewt returns from El Paso, he takes advantage of the deserted house to seduce Pearl. Jesse finds them together and confesses that although he loves her, he will never forget what he has seen. Pearl now pushes Lewt to marry her, but when he makes it clear that he has no intention of being tied down, she quickly becomes engaged to Sam Pierce, a much older cowhand. Lewt is overcome with jealousy and kills Sam. After a reward is posted ... +


Before Scott Chavez is hanged for the murder of his Indian wife and her lover, he makes his beautiful but unrefined daughter Pearl promise that she will grow up to be a lady like Laura Belle McCanles, his former sweetheart. Laura Belle offers Pearl a home on Spanish Bit, the Texas cattle ranch where she lives with her husband, "Senator" McCanles, and her two sons, Jesse and Lewt. Although McCanles, who is confined to a wheelchair, is hostile toward Pearl, her beauty immediately attracts the attentions of both Jesse and Lewt. One night, when Pearl goes to bed, Lewt forces his way into her room and kisses her. Although Pearl loves the kindhearted Jesse, she is physically drawn to the wild, handsome Lewt and, despite the prayers of preacher Jubal Crabbe, who is known as "the sinkiller," cannot resist him. When a railroad company wins the legal right to build tracks through the million-acre McCanles ranch, McCanles gathers all the ranch hands to defend the border against the railroad crew. In order to prevent bloodshed, Jesse, a lawyer, takes the side of the railroad and is banned from the ranch by his father. When Lewt returns from El Paso, he takes advantage of the deserted house to seduce Pearl. Jesse finds them together and confesses that although he loves her, he will never forget what he has seen. Pearl now pushes Lewt to marry her, but when he makes it clear that he has no intention of being tied down, she quickly becomes engaged to Sam Pierce, a much older cowhand. Lewt is overcome with jealousy and kills Sam. After a reward is posted for Lewt's capture, McCanles sends Lewt, his favorite son, to Mexico. Before Lewt goes into hiding, he derails a train carrying explosives that is headed for Spanish Bit. He then stops at the ranch to say goodbye to Pearl, who begs to come with him. Lewt roughly rejects her, and Pearl is left alone with McCanles and the dying Laura Belle. Faced with losing his wife so soon after losing both his sons, McCanles tells Laura Belle that although he has always blamed her for the injury he received while chasing her when he thought she was running away to join Chavez, he realizes now it was his own jealousy that was responsible. He admits that he loved her then and still loves her. After begging her husband's forgiveness, Laura Belle dies. Unaware that his mother is dead, Jesse returns to the ranch to see her. Pearl has suffered a breakdown since Laura Belle's death, and Jesse, who is now engaged to Helen Langford, the daughter of a railroad man, takes her away from the ranch. Lewt comes after Pearl and, when Jesse refuses to let him near her, shoots his brother. Jesse survives and is reconciled with his father, but Pearl understands that Lewt will eventually kill Jesse. In order to prevent that, she agrees to meet Lewt at Squaw's Head Rock, intending to kill him. Pearl's first shot wounds Lewt, who not quite dead, returns her fire, wounding her. The two dying lovers crawl toward each other and die together under the blazing sun. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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