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Duel in the Sun (1946)

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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 5,354 users  
Reviews: 81 user | 29 critic

Beautiful half-breed Pearl Chavez becomes the ward of her dead father's first love and finds herself torn between her sons, one good and the other bad.


, (uncredited) , 5 more credits »


(screenplay), (suggested by a novel by), 2 more credits »
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Title: Duel in the Sun (1946)

Duel in the Sun (1946) on IMDb 6.9/10

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 win. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Pearl Chavez
Jesse McCanles
Sen. Jackson McCanles
Herbert Marshall ...
Scott Chavez
The Sinkiller
Sam Pierce
Lem Smoot
Joan Tetzel ...
Helen Langford
Tilly Losch ...
Mrs. Chavez
Scott McKay ...
Mr. Langford
The Lover


When her father is hanged for shooting his wife and her lover, half-breed Pearl Chavez goes to live with distant relatives in Texas. Welcomed by Laura Belle and her elder lawyer son Jesse, she meets with hostility from the ranch-owner himself, wheelchair-bound Senator Jackson McCanles, and with lustful interest from womanising, unruly younger son Lewt. Almost at once, already existing family tensions are exacerbated by her presence and the way she is physically drawn to Lewt. Written by Jeremy Perkins {J-26}

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


FURIOUS, UNFORGETTABLE LOVE! (original print media ad - all caps) See more »


Drama | Romance | Western


Unrated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

12 September 1947 (Mexico)  »

Also Known As:

King Vidor's Duel in the Sun  »

Box Office


$8,000,000 (estimated)


$20,400,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs



Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Because of its sexual content it was not released in Memphis, Tennessee until 1959. See more »


The opening scene shows saguaro cacti in the valley. The film is supposed to take place in Texas, but southern Arizona is the only place in the US with saguaro cacti. See more »


The Sinkiller: I don't really know much about Sam Pierce, oh Lord, but from what I hear, he'd be needing no introduction to you. Seeing how Sam was snatched from his loved ones' arms before they even had time to get a good grip on hm, I'm counting on you to give him a better break up yonder.
See more »


Referenced in Inside the Actors Studio: Martin Scorsese (2002) See more »


First Party Music
Arranged by Frank Perkins
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Flawed, to be sure, but what a movie!!
4 June 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I find the best films are not necessarily those considered the great classics (Citizen Kane, All About Eve, although they ARE great). There are many forgotten, maligned, critically misunderstood and perhaps flawed masterpieces out there which maybe did not reach the grand heights the artists were striving for, but achieved greater heights than most other films for trying! An example of a film which reached for the stars and instead became a disappointment in many peoples' opinion is DUEL IN THE SUN.

At first glance, it appears Jennifer Jones is woefully miscast and overacting terribly. However, as the film wears on, her performance becomes more and more believable and enthralling. You simply cannot look away from her when she is on the screen--flashing eyes and all. She did receive an Oscar nomination for the role, after all! As the character was part Native American, she was excluded from polite society of the time and her tempestuousness was a sign of her frustration. It suited the character extremely well; not overacting at all, but an expression of the primitive natural drives of a woman uneducated and uncultured.

Gregory Peck is especially fine as Lewt, who on the surface appears to be the villain of the story. Digging deeper, the story reveals his father as the primary villain--spoiling Lewt and teaching him prejudice and intolerance. Lewt was torn between his father's (Lionel Barrymore) intolerance of the half-Indian girl and his own love for her. This lead him to act out in a variety of ways which express his own frustration, including killing the man she is intended to marry after he spurns her. Jessie (Joseph Cotten) is the good brother who tries to help the girl make a better life for herself, but is opposed by Lewt who threatens his life until the girl decides to take matters into her own hands--and then we have the "duel in the sun!" The film really packs a punch. The cast is dizzyingly star-studded and effective. Especially good are Butterfly McQueen, as the lonely maid who no one ever listens to. Lillian Gish is terrific as the wife with a heart of gold, who takes the Indian girl under her wing. Barrymore, great as always, plays a very selfish, closed-minded husband, but even he turns out all right in the end.

If there is one theme which runs through the story it is frustration--sexual, romantic, and otherwise. The other two prevailing themes are, believe it or not, sexism and prejudice! Very rare for a 1946 film, to be sure, but they are everywhere. Pay close attention to the way the African American maid (Butterfly McQueen) is ignored, or the way the girl is shunned because she is half-Native American. These are all presented as roots of problems in the story. The girl's frustration is brought on primarily by the mistreatment she receives from men; she is even raped by Lewt in one scene. This brings up a theme of inequality because of sexism. When Lewt rapes her, Jessie is no longer interested. In the time the story took place, rape was unheard of really. If a woman was subject to a man's advances, she was a whore, not a victim. Of course, people were much smarter in 1946, but the theme is presented in the story through characters reactions just as if it was actually taking place in the 1800s and not more enlightened times. It is a very fascinating angle to take; rarely is a film so daring as to present an era exactly as it was in terms of social beliefs!

King Vidor was a master director. DUEL IN THE SUN definitely has the King Vidor influence. Many of his films contain that undercurrent of frustration (Beyond the Forest, for example). The film starts out slow, gains momentum and becomes more involving as the story progressing. By the time the stunning ending comes along, be prepared because the film really packs a punch! Contrived, slightly. Hokey, yeah a bit. But a great movie? Absolutely!

9 of 11 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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