Weekend Viewing Roundup.. Musings on Duel in the Sun

Happy Monday, folks, hope the weekend’s been treatin’ you right.

It’s a nice mellow one for me, mellow enough to give me some time to see the animated birdie movie Rio which was quite fun, Immortals (review coming later this week) and to go huntin’ for some Gregory Peck DVDs 😀 Thanks to a good sale at Barnes & Noble, I managed to score four DVDs at 40% off, not bad at all! On top of Roman Holiday, now I’ve got Duel in the Sun, Gentlemen’s Agreement, The Keys to the Kingdom and Spellbound. I’ve only managed to watch Duel in the Sun and part of the special features for Gentlemen’s Agreement. Well let’s just say, I truly got it bad for Mr. Peck. I’ve since ordered this 6-disc collection to continue my GP marathon 😀

Duel in the Sun

I plan on doing a Gregory Peck review series when I’m done with at least ten of his films in the future, but for now I can’t seem to get Duel in the Sun out of my mind. This classic western was produced by David O. Selznick who wished it’d repeat the massive success of the Civil War epic Gone with the Wind. But it pales in comparison surely in terms of script and overall production, and I totally see what the critics were saying about it being overwrought and over-acted (especially by its star Jennifer Jones, Selznick’s own wife).

The Cain and Abel allegory of the two brothers vying for the exotic woman Pearl Chavez is pretty sexually-charged for its day, aptly dubbed as Lust in the Dust by reviewers back in the day. In fact, my research about this movie told me that this film was heavily-edited in order to please the Hays Code censors and religious review boards. Rape scenes became love scenes and the sexuality of the movie was played down (per this in-depth review). Now I’m not advocating rape scenes in any way shape or form as I can’t bear watching something like that in a film, but it seems that altering the scene basically changed the story in a major way. I mean, they made Pearl a willing participant instead of a victim.

Though Jones was no Vivien Leigh, she definitely had that fire in her eyes as a ‘half-breed’ wild cat (I hate the way they call her that, it’s so darn degrading!). Gregory Peck was pretty darn convincing as the villain. His carnal, unscrupulous Lewt McCanles made even Rhett Butler look like nothing more than a mischievous altar boy! Who knew Peck could play a bad-to-the-bone scoundrel but man, did he pull it off beautifully, if only he’d done more bad-boy roles in his career. He complemented his devilish smile with that twinkle in his eye every time he’s got his less-than-honorable designs on his girl. If I had seen this film, I’d have put him on top of this Scene-stealing Bad Boys list!

The film also boasts one of the most over-the-top yet memorable death scenes, in the guiltiest pleasure kind of way. No wonder it’s included in AMC’s Filmsite’s Best Film Death Scenes. Even with the ridiculous amount of massacre and body slashin’ in Immortals, none is quite as memorable as this one. If you’ve seen this film you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Lewt: You always said you could shoot. I never believed ya.
Pearl: Lewt, I love you. I love you.
Lewt: Oh, don’t cry, honey. Don’t cry.
Pearl: I had to do it, Lewt. I had to do it.
Lewt: Of course you did. Let me, let me hold ya.
Pearl: Just hold me. Hold me once more.
Lewt: Little bob-cat. (He died mid-kiss. She died shortly thereafter.)

I normally won’t reveal such a huge spoiler when I talk about a movie, but in this case, the knowledge of the characters’ fate didn’t really derail the film for me. If anything, it made me want to watch it even more just to see just how nuts these two lovers are. It’s definitely a twisted Romeo & Juliet story that’s sure to please hopeless romantics in all of us.

So what did you see this weekend? Do share your thoughts of Duel in the Sun and your own pick of memorable death scenes.