David O Selznick’s grand folly of a western (nicknamed ‘Lust in the Dust’ by critics) stars Jennifer Jones as Pearl Chavez, a half-breed who becomes caught between warring brothers Gregory Peck and Joseph Cotten. Despite its troubled production history (with uncredited direction from Josef von Sternberg, William Dieterle and William Cameron Menzies) and a difficult reception from the censors, Duel in the Sun stands as an unclassifiable, delirious melodrama. —BFI
King Wallis Vidor (February 8, 1894 – November 1, 1982) was an acclaimed American film director whose career spanned nearly seven decades.
He was born in Galveston, Texas, where he survived the great Galveston Hurricane of 1900. His grandfather, Charles Vidor, was a refugee of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 who settled in Galveston in the early 1850s.
A freelance newsreel cameraman and cinema projectionist, he made his debut as a director in 1913 with Hurricane in Galveston. In Hollywood from 1915, he worked on a variety of film-related jobs before directing a feature film, The Turn in the Road, in 1919. A successful mounting of Peg o’ My Heart in 1922 got him a long term contract with Goldwyn Studios, later to be absorbed into MGM. Three years later he made The Big Parade, among the most acclaimed war films of the silent era, and a tremendous commercial success. This success established him as one of MGM’s top studio directors for the next decade. In 1928, Vidor received… read more
William Dieterle was the youngest of nine children of parents Jacob and Berthe Dieterle. They lived in poverty, and when he was old enough, William earned money as a carpenter and a scrap dealer. But he dreamed of better things. Theater caught his eye as a teen, and by the age of sixteen, he had joined a traveling theater company. He was ambitious and handsome, both of which opened the door to leading romantic roles in theater productions. Though he had acted in his first movie by 1913, not until 1919 did he move back into film. In that year, he was noticed by producer/director/designer/impresario Max Reinhardt, the most influential proponent of expressionism in theater; while in Berlin, Reinhardt hired him as an actor for his productions. Dieterle resumed German film acting in 1920, becoming a popular and successful romantic lead and featured character actor in the mix of German expressionist/Gothic and nature/romanticism genres that imbued much of the German cinema in the silent era… read more
Sidney Franklin was a Hollywood director, producer, screenwriter and actor who became one of MGM’s top directors and producers. At age 20, Franklin got his start in the industry as an assistant cameraman and eventually he and his brother, Chester M. Franklin, co-directed a number of comedy shorts and features for children, including “Gretchen the Greenhorn” (1916) with Dorothy Gish. He went to work at MGM in 1926 and directed and produced a number of sophisticated comedies and dramas. He had a close relationship with Irving Thalberg, the studio’s “Boy Wonder” production executive, and directed Thalberg’s wife, Norma Shearer, in several films, including “The Actress” (1928), “Smilin’ Through” (1932) and “The Barretts of Wimpole Street” (1934). He also directed Greta Garbo in “Wild Orchids” (1929) and guided Luise Rainer to an Academy Award in “The Good Earth” (1937), for which he earned an Oscar nomination. He left directing after completing “The Good Earth” and went on to produce some… read more
William Cameron Menzies was born in New Haven, Connecticut on 29 July 1896 to Scots immigrant parents. He studied at Yale and the University of Edinburgh, and after serving in the US Army during World War I he attended the New York Art Student League, then joined Famous Players-Lasky (later to evolve into Paramount) working in special effects and design. He went independent in 1923 to work with prominent directors of the period such as Allan Dwan, Raoul Walsh and Fred Niblo, and soon made a name for himself as one of the most individual and gifted of cinematic designers. His status was confirmed at the first-ever Academy Awards ceremony, when he won Best Art Direction Oscar for The Dove (d. Roland West, 1927) and Tempest (d. Sam Taylor, 1928).
In 1931 Menzies took up direction, and made half-a-dozen pictures – but always as co-director. The art director Lyle Wheeler, who worked with him later at Fox, felt that Menzies was “no damn good as a director… He wanted to photograph ceilings… read more
The scion of a film-producing family, David O. Selznick was one of the forerunners of the modern independent producer. As a studio executive during the first half of the 1930s, he was responsible for the making of such classics as King Kong (1933) at RKO and A Tale of Two Cities (1935) at MGM. As an independent producer from 1936 until 1957, Selznick made a small but substantial body of dramas, comedies, and thrillers, 18 films in all, many of which are cited among the best films of their era in their respective genres. In most of these films — excepting the thrillers — he had as much (or more) to say about their content than their officially credited directors. In that regard, Selznick also probably had a keener understanding and appreciation of movies as art than any of his rival film moguls of the mid-20th century.
David Oliver Selznick was the younger son of Lewis Selznick, a film producer in his own right until bankruptcy forced him out of business in 1923; the family’s older… read more
Born in Vienna, director Joseph von Sternberg spent much of his youth in New York; his entrée into show business was as a film repairer for the World Film Company of Fort Lee, NJ. After returning to Austria to complete his education, he joined the U.S. Signal Corps as a photographer in 1917, then took assistant director jobs after the end of World War I. It was either actor Elliot Dexter or an anonymous producer who suggested that Sternberg would go farther in the industry if he affixed a “von” to his last name, à la Erich von Stroheim. Von Sternberg went whole hog in creating a “genius” veneer, adopting a strutting, imperious attitude, dressing in regulation beret and puttees, and even growing an obnoxious little mustache so he would be certain to be hated and feared. This posturing tended to obscure his genuine cinematic gifts, especially in the field of photographic lighting and composition (at one point, he was the only director permitted to carry an American Society of Cinematographers… read more
This film is so flagrant in its racism and disregard for women that it's hard not to find it funny. I couldn't take it seriously enough to be offended. Also, Gregory Peck makes a very sexy cowboy, even if his character was an arch-asshole.
Critic and filmmaker Luc Moullet looks at the tremendous final sequences of two King Vidor films.
Odes to psycho-sexual fixation: Images: Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones in King Vidor et al.'s Duel in the Sun (1946);