Duel in the Sun

Lust in the Dust…oops, I mean Duel in the Sun…

..is my entry into The 4th Annual Sex! (Now that I have your attention) Blogathon. I’ve been at a bit of a loss as to what movie to write about for MovieMovieBlogBlog‘s Blogathon (whom I’m sure had given up hope on receiving an entry from me despite my promise to submit ūüėČ ). I’d picked a movie, yet wasn’t quite convinced…and then it hit me…how could this Blogathon not have a post on Duel in the Sun (1946)? It is suggestive from the very beginning…and never really lets up…

Just look at the very first image we see…

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Come on…it gives such a clear indication of what is yet to come…before it has even started.

So, while many don’t like it (even I have a love-hate relationship with it), it did receive two Oscar nominations (for Jennifer Jones (Best Actress in a Leading Role) and Lillian Gish (Best Actress in a Supporting Role)). But it’s quite the story…loaded with sexual innuendo throughout. The introduction of the movie (during the Overture section), gives us hints…”Duel in the Sun, 2 years in the making, is a saga of Texas in the 1880s. When primitive passions rode the raw frontier of an expanding nation.” Maybe I’m looking too deeply into it (and things were interpreted on a more innocent level way back then) but the words “primitive passion” and “raw frontier”, for me, are as provocative as anything.

Once the movie starts we see Pearl (Jennifer Jones), who the narrator describes as “quick to blossom” (need I elaborate?) dancing, supposedly innocently, but we soon see the sultry side to it (after seeing the actions of her mother as well as the comment made by an acquaintance “Like mother like daughter….I like the daughter better”). At this stage, and often throughout the movie, I think she is sometimes ignorant of what her subconscious really wants. Or…she knows.

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Maybe she is still naive at the early stages of the movie (the unstated undertones are definitely there though)…she’s quite happy to change into a green dress for the “good son” Jesse (Joseph Cotton) right there and then on the wagon as they ride home from town. And she’s only known him for a few hours, if that.

But of course, it all gets steamy when we meet (for me, the ultimate bad boy), Lewton/Lewt (Gregory Peck). First thing he does, before his mother even has a chance to introduce him properly, is look Pearl up and down. And boy is this a looking up and down. No words can explain. Things are already heated up and he hasn’t even said anything. As for their simple phrases “Pleased to meet you Lewton.”

and “Pleased to meet you (pause)…Pearl.” – never have introductions been so steamy. Totally confirmed as she drops her eyes to the floor. And we know he’s just desperate to get to know her when mother Laura Belle (Lillian Gish) shows Pearl to her room telling her that she and Lewt will have plenty of time to get to know each other later. “I’m sure we will” utters Lewt out of the ladies’ earshot. Yes Lewt, I’m also sure you will.

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Oh my…the screen is sizzling.

And I don’t think it is only Lewt who has some ideas about Pearl. Nice boy Jesse just doesn’t make it as obvious. He’s the lawyer after all. There are expectations in society. Read between the lines when he tells her “I think you’d better go to bed. Like a good little girl.” moments after this:

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But fear not…he might send her off to preserve their dignity but Lewt has no problem with showing his desires. He just doesn’t give a damn. He’s waiting for her:

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And as she closes her bedroom door after telling him “good night” (while he’s still outside), her gaze to the door tells us she probably does want him coming to visit. She’s intrigued.

Duel in the Sun if filled with such scenes. Nothing romantic (well, not for me), they are purely about lust. Even Lewt “innocently” showing off his horse is simply a different approach to his one goal. One that is visually confirmed in the scene where he chases after her on horseback. Never have two horses galloping had more sexual meaning.

But make no mistake. Pearl isn’t so innocent in all of this. Those swaying hips and fluttering eyelashes don’t help the situation. It doesn’t even go unnoticed by the other cowboys working on the ranch. There’s bound to be trouble at some point. And yes, plenty there is.

I could go on and on about the endless scenes, but by now I think it is very clear what this one is about. Possibly this it isn’t the best movie out there but it is undeniably sensual. And you thought no western could be that, didn’t you? No wonder it was nicknamed “Lust in the Dust”. And if you don’t believe it…once you’re done watching the final dusty and sweaty scene, there won’t be much doubt in your mind.

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For my entries into this Blogathon for 2016 and 2017 (and a lighter more romantic movie), head on over here (for Subtly Sexy Pride & Prejudice) and…oh no!!!! I’ve just realised I covered the same movie here last year…well, I honestly hadn’t checked what I’d covered before…promise. Right this minute, as I was finalising and about to publish (while adding the links) I see my entry from last year…gosh, should have stuck with my original choice for this year. Oh well, so, totally new material today, just the same movie as last year (Heated Lust with Duel in the Sun). MovieMovieBlogBlog, I’ll make it up to you in The 5th Annual version of this Blogathon (too late to write a new post now). I guess it pays to know what you’ve written about in the past. Spreadsheet, here we come…

 

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Heated Lust РDuel in the Sun 

Of course writing about Gregory Peck is going to come with a certain amount of bias from my side. But, hey…whatever…

The 3rd Annual Sex! (now that I have your attention) Blogathon asks for movies that imply rather than show. And not just a single sex scene (there are loads of movies with those) but oozing (maybe that’s not such a sexy word) sex appeal right through. While many movies fit the bill in a scene or two, I think Duel in the Sun¬†(1946) is filled with sexual tension from beginning to end. So much so that it was apparently referred to as “Lust in the Dust” by critics.

Flirtatious dancing by Pearl‘s mother in the very first scene sets expectations for what is to come. Disguised as a western, we know this is going to be more than that. Circumstances have Pearl (Jennifer Jones) move to the McCanles ranch. She’s met in town by responsible Jesse (Joseph Cotton) and not a few miles later she’s already fluttering her eyelashes at him. She even offers to change her dark clothes right there and then. Admittedly, I doubt she knows the hormones she inadvertantly stirs by just suggesting this. Or maybe she does, as she does boldly ask¬†Jesse if his brother is as nice as he is with almost dreamy eyes. Little does she know about the other, less gentlemanly brother waiting at the ranch. That he’s the one who would love nothing better than have her change clothes right there and then.

That’s where the real sizzling tension is. The bad, bad, baaaaad boy Lewt (Gregory Peck).¬†But, make no mistake, he’s not all to blame. Pearl is just as guilty, for sashing around, fluttering more eyelashes and generally holding a tantalising posture and stirring wild dreams in the poor cowboys on the McCanles ranch.

Most of the time she acts as if she doesn’t want anything to do with Lewt but we know exactly that she does. He unsettles her but she likes it and she definitely wants more of that feeling. She denies it, oh, but she wants it. It is so obvious during the scene where she is helping count food stock – her mind is clearly elsewhere. And, what does she ¬†expect to happen cleaning her bedroom floor on hands and knees with the door wide open? She slaps Lewt alright…but…well…that slap…it is more sex than the ensuing kiss and the lightning storm outside tells us all we need to know.

Even Jesse has his eye on Pearl and while he’s less direct and definitely less mean (Lewt lets her freeze in a pond just because he’d love to see her get out naked) there’s definitely a gesture here and a look there to show he has the same ideas as his brother.

There are so many scenes that I could write about but ultimately, they only make sense in context of the visuals. Besides, I’d hate to spoil this horrid but oh so good (don’t ask, I can’t explain) movie by giving away more than I already have. Let me just say…you haven’t seen bad boy until you’ve seen Lewt

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From the Gruff to the Sweet – Lionel and Drew Barrymore

I only “know” two members of the Barrymore family: Drew, who has been on screens since I was a little girl and E.T. came out and hence I’m more familiar with her roles. Lionel, on the other hand, I’ve only seen in one movie (but what a list of talents he has to his name) and so that role is how I tend to see him – interesting is that he apparently played grouchy characters in his later years.

I’ve never really watched Duel in the Sun (1946) with a focus on Lionel Barrymore‘s character Senator Jackson McCanles. The various relationships between Pearl (Jennifer Jones), Lewt (Gregory Peck) and Jesse (Joseph Cotten) have always been at the forefront of the story and let’s face it, this is what drives the story. However, LionelBarrymore2Senator Jackson McCanles might just be the most important character here. He’s a large influence as to why his sons have turned out the way they have; Jesse the good boy who does everything right (supposedly) whereas Lewt is the total opposite, the (really, really) bad boy. McCanles conveniently blames his wife for their sons’ behaviour when it suits him and doesn’t hesitate to speak his mind, mostly critically, to anyone and everyone. Lionel Barrymore does a stellar job of being this wheelchair-bound patriarch and employer with a mean temper. I can’t imagine it’s easy having a role like this but he successfully brings across to the viewer such intense anger and hostility that one almost expects him to forget he’s in a wheelchair and leap out at whoever might just have angered him again (or more). No wonder he’s won an Oscar for acting. I found a quote on IMDB of¬† which this is a portion “…When you act, you move millions of people, shape their lives, give them a sense of exaltation…”. I honestly thinks he does just this – his role moves the viewer – I always find it uncomfortable watching how he lashes out at his sons, wife and those around him.

DrewBarrymoreIn contrast, we have Drew Barrymore as the sweet-natured and kind Danielle in Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998). She’s the girl who’s fortunes likewise haven’t been in her favour yet she makes the best of the situation, generally being happy and always helpful. She puts on a brave front when things aren’t going so well or when she’s struggling through a tough day and refrains from lashing out at those around her. With or without a prince she vows she will not give up on herself and moves forward with her life, standing up for herself where need be. Drew Barrymore brings a lovely innocence and freshness, yet not helplessness, to the Cinderella-role. Although, I think back in those days she was known to be a bit of a wild child…I may be mistaken. That’s the thing with great artists, they utterly convince you of their character. She’s got just enough sweetness and oomph to make her perfect in this role. Although never nominated for an Oscar, I see she’s won a Golden Globe and had two additional nominations.

So, hats off to both Lionel and Drew who are able to pull the audience in with their believable performances.

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