DESIRE IN THE DUST (director: William F. Claxton; screenwriters: Charles Lang/based on the novel by Harry Whittington; cinematographer: Lucien Ballard; editor: Richard W. Farrell; music: Paul Dunlap; cast: Raymond Burr (Col. Ben Marquand), Martha Hyer (Melinda Marquand), Ken Scott (Lonnie Wilson), Joan Bennett (Mrs. Marquand), Anne Helm (Cass Wilson, younger sister), Jack Ging (Peter Marquand), Brett Halsey (Dr. Ned Thomas), Edward Binns (Luke Connett), Rex Ingram (Burt Crane), Kelly Thordsen (Sheriff Otis Wheaton), Robert Earle (Virgil), Douglas Fowley (Zuba Wilson, father), Maggie Mahoney (Maude Wilson, older sister); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William F. Claxton; Twentieth Century-Fox; 1960)
“Stilted soaper that features heavy breathing throughout.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
William F. Claxton (“Night of the lepus”/”Half Past Midnight”/”Young and Dangerous”) helms this stilted soaper that features heavy breathing throughout. The story is set in the Deep South. It aches to emulate Tennessee Williams in angst and desire and Southern mores. It’s based on the novel by Harry Whittington and written by Charles Lang.
Sharecropper Lonnie Wilson (Ken Scott) returns to his father Zuba’s farm in the small town of Clinton, Louisiana after serving six years in prison for manslaughter. The catch is that Lonnie took the murder rap for the daughter of Col. Ben Marquand (Raymond Burr), the wealthy Southern patriarch, who is now running for governor. The auto accident that killed the colonel’s young son Davey and devastated his mother (Joan Bennett) to such a point that she became mentally unstable, was actually caused by the colonel’s pretty daughter Melinda (Martha Hyer), the girlfriend of Lonnie’s. The enraged Lonnie, on his return, finds Melinda married to the respected Dr. Ned Thomas (Brett Halsey), who is treating her mother. The colonel’s scheme goes awry to buy the silence of the ex-con by offering him the deed to the farm his family sharecrops on. Local publisher Luke Connett (Edward Binns) knows that the corrupt and sinister colonel is not fit for that high office and can’t wait to expose him when he hears Lonnie’s story.
The other subplot has the colonel’s weak-willed older son Peter (Jack Ging) chasing after the pretty sharecropper Cass (Anne Helm), the younger sister of Lonnie, but is ordered by dad to stay away from his true love until he gets up enough courage to rebel.
REVIEWED ON 2/28/2009 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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