The Selznick Studio
The star-studded movie, Duel in the Sun, was David O. Selznick’s attempt to re-capture his Gone With The Wind success. Of more interest to rail buffs, Duel featured three separate train scenes using two different steam engines and their accompanying rolling stock.
Train filming locations were near Tucson, Arizona and Cooperstown, California on the Sierra Railroad. Paramount’s Virginia & Truckee #22 (The Inyo) was trucked to Arizona for filming and redecorated as the Texas and South Western Railroad #3. Also getting the T&SW RR treatment was Sierra’s 2-8-0, #18.
Let’s just wade through 138 minutes of this Texas-sized oater and check out the train bits. Yee-ha!
Gregory Peck (as Lewt McCanles) poses with Sierra Railroad #18 before the derailment scene. This picture courtesy of Larry Jensen’s excellent book, The Movie Railroads (1981) page 27.
Gushing thick, black smoke, T&SW #3, a little 4-4-0 and work train, pushes a carload of rails up to the end-of-track. That’s Harry Carey (playing Lem Smoot) and Otto Kruger (as Mr. Langford – no relation to Francis) “riding the rails”.
Nice detail shots of the #3 as the work train churns along.
Building the new railroad by hand.
Panoramic shot as the work train arrives at the railhead. Note the fenced off land the railway intends to cross — with an armed posse heading them off at the pass!
Doing his best John Wayne impersonation, Lionel Barrymore (as landowner and big-shot Senator Jackson McCanles) tells the railroad boys to get lost! That’s Joseph Cotton who plays his son, Jesse. But wait! The cavalry rides to the rescue!
The cry of “Free drinks at the vittler’s tent!” momentarily distracts the railroad workers as they stampede for the rot gut whiskey; Nice overhead shot of #3 whistling for the workers to return to their duties. Okay, I embellished a little…
It’s a standoff. The cavalry vs. McCanles’ men; Jesse points out to dear old dad that the railroad does indeed have a legal injunction to cross the land. Thus McCanles calls off his men and disowns Jesse. Banished. Banished. Banished! The railroad can go through.
At the 91 minute mark, our second train scene occurs. Here we see old #3 with a single passenger car stopped in front of a herd of longhorn cattle;
The engineer is perplexed by this bovine blockade, so he gives ’em the whistle. Move on, little doggies!
Here we see Joseph Cotton, Joan Tetzel & Otto Kruger on the rear platform of their private car; Cotton and Tetzel embrace as the train finally escapes Big Macs on the hoof.
99 minutes into the picture is the final train scene. And it’s a beaut. Greg Peck has gone all eeee-vil by this point, and is fixing to raise a little hell. It really has nothing to do with the storyline, but there are explosions involved and that’s always a plus.
How convenient the railroad should post this message on their chalkboard at the depot where old Peck/Lewt can see it and plan his fiendish crime. Spanish Bit is the name of the McCanles cattle ranch.
Sierra Railroad #18 flashes past with a boxcar of TNT goodies.
Peck has trifled with the rail and hidden his deed with a tumbleweed; Astride his horse, Lewt has the best seat in the house as the unsuspecting train rolls by.
Too late, the hogger sees the tampered track and throws the engine in reverse.
Great view at track level as Sierra #18 slides toward disaster.
Here the model train turns over and lurches down the embankment; ba-ba-BOOOOM! The dynamite ignites in a fiery cataclysm.
The engine and tender sprawl on the embankment as Lewt surveys the carnage.
In the film’s final train view, the wreck burns brightly as Lewt (he turned me into a Lewt) rides off.
Unfortunately, the movie’s sexpot, Jennifer Jones, does not appear in ANY of the train bits. We include her here PURELY for historical context (rawr-RAWR!!!)
Some final thoughts: According to Wiki, the film became known as “Lust in the Dust” as it was considered quite controversial and naughty for its day. As if aping the movie’s story line, David O. Selznick and Jennifer Jones had an affair during the filming which destroyed both their marriages. Randy little buggers.
(Clears throat…) The two steam locomotives seen are still in existence although Sierra #18 languishes in limbo at Merrill, Oregon with the former Fred Keppner collection. On a happier note, Paramount’s #22 was sold to the State of Nevada and is in the good hands of the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City.
Here’s what IMDb has to say about Duel in the Sun:
If you have ANY information about this movie, please contact me at: