Tragedy seems to follow Pearl Chavez (Jennifer Jones) everywhere she goes. After a domestic dispute results in the death of both of her parents, Pearl moves in with her aunt, Laura Belle (Lillian Gish), on an expansive farm. When Pearl notices Laura Belle’s son, the fiery Lewt, life on the ranch erupts into chaos. The two have a brief courtship, but Lewt abruptly ends the relationship. When Pearl tries to move on, Lewt’s jealousy leads to a climactic gun battle between the former lovers.
Duel in the Sun (nicknamed Lust in the Dust) is a 1946 American psychological Western film directed by King Vidor, produced and written by David O. Selznick, which tells the story of a Mestiza (half-Native American) girl who goes to live with her white relatives, becoming involved in prejudice and forbidden love. The Technicolor film stars Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, Gregory Peck, Lillian Gish and Lionel Barrymore.
|Duel in the Sun|
|Directed by||King Vidor|
|Written by||Oliver H.P. Garrett (adaptation)|
David O. Selznick (screenplay)
Ben Hecht (uncredited)
|Based on||Duel in the Sun|
by Niven Busch
|Produced by||David O. Selznick|
|Narrated by||Orson Welles|
|Edited by||John D. Faure|
Charles L. Freeman
William H. Ziegler
|Music by||Dimitri Tiomkin|
|Distributed by||Selznick Releasing Organization|
|Release date||December 30, 1946|
|Running time||145 minutes|
|Box office||$20.4 million|
Pearl Chavez is orphaned after her father Scott Chavez kills her mother, having caught her with a lover. Before Scott Chavez is executed as a punishment for killing his wife, he arranges for his daughter Pearl to live with his second cousin and old sweetheart, Laura Belle in Texas.
Arriving by stagecoach, Pearl is met by Jesse McCanles, one of Laura Belle’s two grown sons. He takes her to Spanish Bit, their enormous cattle ranch. The gentle and gracious Laura Belle is happy to welcome her to their home, but not so her husband, the Senator Jackson McCanles, who uses a wheelchair. He calls Pearl “a half-breed” and jealously despises Pearl’s father.
The second son, Lewt, is a ladies’ man with a personality quite unlike that of his gentlemanly brother Jesse. He expresses his interest in Pearl in direct terms and she takes a strong dislike to him. Laura Belle calls in Mr. Jubal Crabbe, the “Sinkiller”, a gun-toting preacher, to counsel Pearl on how to avoid the evils of temptation. Pearl is determined to remain “a good girl.”
When she submits to Lewt’s aggressive advances one night, Pearl is angry with him and ashamed of her own behavior. But she also cannot help but be flattered by his lust and attentions. Jesse, meanwhile, is ostracized by his father and no longer welcome at the ranch after siding with railroad men, headed by Mr. Langford, against the Senator’s personal interests. Jesse is in love with Pearl but he leaves for Austin to pursue a political career and becomes engaged to Helen Langford, Langford’s daughter.
Offended when Lewt reneges on a promise to marry her, Pearl takes up with Sam Pierce, a neighboring rancher who is smitten with her. She does not love him but says yes to his proposal. Before they can be married, however, Lewt picks a fight with Pierce in a saloon and guns him down. He insists that Pearl can belong only to him. Lewt becomes a wanted man.
On the run from the law, Lewt finds time to derail a train and occasionally drop by the ranch late at night and press his attentions on Pearl. She cannot resist her desire for him and lies for Lewt to the law, hiding him in her room. Afterward, however, he walks out on her, despite her pleas that she loves him.
Laura Belle’s health takes a turn for the worse and the Senator admits his love for her before she dies. Jesse returns to visit but is too late; his mother is dead. The Senator continues to shun him, as does Lewt, their family feud finally resulting in a showdown. Lewt tosses a gun to his unarmed brother but Jesse stands his ground without attempting to pick it up. Jesse warns that Lewt will eventually be hanged as a murderer, and Lewt responds by shooting Jesse.
The Senator’s old friend, Lem Smoot tells him that Jesse’s wound is not mortal and the old man softens up towards his son and reconciles. Pearl is relieved that Jesse is going to survive. When Helen arrives, she invites Pearl to leave Spanish Bit forever and come live with them in Austin. Pearl agrees, but when she is tipped off by one of the Spanish Bit hands that Lewt intends to come after Jesse again, she arms herself and engages in a shootout with Lewt in the desert. They die in each other’s arms.