Archive for the ‘Gregory Peck’ Category

Duel In The Sun

17 Sep

Duel In The Sun. Directed by King Vidor and William Dieterle. A half-breed girl is taken into a King Ranch type family in Texas and drives the boys wild. 2 hours 28 minutes Color 1946.

* * * *

It isn’t beautiful but it is gorgeous. Never have you seen Technicolor used so lavishly, or actors throw themselves, not exactly into their roles but all around their roles. You would think Gregory Peck would be miscast as a sexy male, and he is, but he’s surprisingly good as a prick. And Pearl Chavez, played by producer David O. Selznick’s wife, Jennifer Jones, you would think would be written shrewder, but she’s not, she’s just dopey. She throws herself around like a bag of onions and never really proves to the watching world why she was so sexy that Selznick ran off with her into the chaparral. So we take the lickerousness for granted, although she does convincingly writhe on the floor in an agony of sexual conflict. Lionel Barrymore consumes scenery by the platter, and he’s really wonderful as the grandee rancher because the character is so rude, but Lillian Gish as his wife is unable to overcome the character’s failure to get Pearl out of those slouching blouses and into a proper dress, which would have ended the picture right there. I saw it when it came out. I thought it was going to be a dirty movie, but it was just silly. Of course it’s greatly silly. And not sexy, because Lewt is mean, which Peck does well, and Pearl is stupid, which Jones probably was. The film is supposed to vindicate the itch between them, and so achieve a Phaedra-like stature, but its lust falls in the dust flat. Joseph Cotton’s easy-come-easy-go style as the good brother provides no sexual competition for Peck’s bad brother. Charles Bickford is touching as one of Pearl’s swains. Walter Huston makes hay of the fire and brimstone preacher (Huston is sexy, though old, because sexuality seethes through him; Peck isn’t because it doesn’t.). And Herbert Marshall is lovely as Pearl’s doomed father. The film is written like a Perils Of Pauline serial, in chapters and chunks, none which liaison into each other. It proceeds with a very badly written scene of misidentification, which is beautifully directed and shot, and so it goes, with one badly written scene after another beautifully presented. Selznick was so intrusive, reshooting everything, such that the film cost a lot more than his Gone With The Wind (Butterfly McQueen has a much larger part here); Selznick even has his name as the sole screen credit. So King Vidor quit when it was three quarters done, and the film was finished by commonplace director William Dieterle. But never have you seen such sunsets, as though the sun were having the duel with itself. King Vidor’s strong sense of things puts it on all four burners and a pot bellied stove besides. Why are you holding back? You must see it. It is the greatest bad movie ever made.





The Bravados

25 Mar

The Bravados – directed by Henry King – a western in which three loathsome bank robbers and their guide are pursued by a man bent on revenge – 98 minutes color 1958.

* * * *

This western looks like one of those movies aging movie stars engage in to prop up their work. But Gregory Peck was always an aging movie star. His chosen gravity caused no public alarm – but it also conveyed no mystery. So we have the case of a man of persistent and unvarying solemn righteousness tracking down three killers, led by a man far more fascinating than himself, the lusciously talented Stephen Boyd. Boyd was my reason to rent this film, and doing so was worth every scene he appears in. The direction is made one step past competent by the filming of the remarkable landscapes through which the pursuit ranges. These pictorial delights keep us away from the common face of Joan Collins, who is present as the old flame from New Orleans, although one cannot imagine Gregory Peck ever having lit a flame of his own sufficient to ignite her ever-ready tinder or having ever drifted into New Orleans to do it. She has all the aura of a not-quite-first-class call girl, and so one wonders at the possibility of His Righteousness getting down with her at the end. She is the sort of girl one does not bring home to meet your mother for fear your father would drag her up into the attic, and that she would prefer to go. She isn’t even pretty; merely beautiful, so beautiful she is grotesque: her eyes are more wide-spaced than her ears. No. Best look rather at the witty visage of Stephen Boyd whose gifts hold the screen like nobody’s business. He has a truly lecherous eye and a nastiness meant to lead even stiffs like Charlton Heston into hot water. What fun! What an actor! But, to turn back to Peck. His acting choice to be unvarying in his relentlessness is unabated by any inner doubt or struggle. So the entire conflict of the piece comes at the last moment, which he performs well, mind you, but, until then we have no outer or inner back-and-forth, and, worse, no humor in him, so the movie holds our interest but he does not. Imagine what Spencer Tracy would have done with this situation, and you’ll see what I mean. Peck looks to be one of those great big dismissible stars riding out their careers on the donkey of a chosen persona – like Robert Mitchum, Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas. However! There was an actor inside Peck, and maybe even a great one, and it is visible once and once only, so far as I know, in and as the remarkable Old Gringo. Here Peck’s dull mania for justice is finally abandoned. Here he is willing to be no longer popular. It is the greatest swan song any major actor ever performed, and so, after all these years of respectability, one finally has to respect him.


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