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BLOOD AND SAND(director: Rouben Mamoulian; screenwriter: based on the novel Sangre y arena by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez/Jo Swerling; cinematographers: Ernest Palmer/Ray Rennahan; editor: Robert Bischoff; music: Alfred Newman; cast: Tyrone Power (Juan Gallardo), Linda Darnell (Carmen Espinosa), Rita Hayworth (Dona Sol), Laird Cregar (Natalio Curro), Nazimova (Senora Augustias Gallardo), Anthony Quinn (Manola de Palma), J. Carrol Naish (Garabato), Fortunio Bonanova (Pedro Espinosa), John Carradine (Nacional), William Montague (Antonio López), Rex Downing (Juan Gallardo), Ann Todd (Carmen as a Child), Lynn Bari (Encarnacion), Pedro deCordoba (Don Jóse Álvarez), George Reeves (Captain Pierre Lauren); Runtime: 125; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Darryl F. Zanuck; Twentieth Century-Fox; 1941)
“Mamoulian’s excellent execution of the mise en scène gives the film an unexpected vigor.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Rouben Mamoulian (“The Mark of Zorro” 1940/”Silk Stockings” 1957) directs this romantic melodrama remake of Valentino’s 1922 original silent version. Nazimova, a contemporary of Valentino’s, plays Tyrone Power’s mom. Future Superman George Reeves plays the suitor of Rita Hayworth who loses out to Tyrone Power. It’s based on the novel Sangre y arena by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez and penned by Jo Swerling. It plays as a straightforward bullfight story that bores with its insipid melodramatics, but to counter that Mamoulian stunningly drenches it beautifully with lush colorings from Spanish masters Goya, Velasquez and El Greco and filters in the rich classical guitar music for additional authentic flavorings. Future great director Budd Boetticher was the technical adviser on the bullfight sequences. The film’s story follows the rise from poverty of aspiring, cocky young bullfighter Juan Gallardo (played as a youth by Rex Downing) to success as a great matador (played by Tyrone Power), but who can’t handle his women and the sophisticates as well as he can the bulls.

The cocky teenager Juan leaves his impoverished household with a few friends to go to Madrid to become a bullfighter like his dad, who was killed in the bullring. Before leaving he exchanges love vows with his aristocratic virgin sweetheart Carmen Espinosa (played as a youth by Ann Todd) and promises to return some day when he’s a success to marry her.

Ten years later in Seville Juan reacquaints himself with his glum scrubwoman mother (Nazimova) and gives money to Antonio Lopez (William Montague) for a business so he can marry Juan’s sister Encarnacion (Lynn Bari). Juan hires ex-bullfighter Garabato (J. Carrol Naish) as a servant after he sees him begging in the street. The pretty Carmen (Linda Darnell) reads to the illiterate Juan his poor review from pompous newspaper critic Curro (Laird Cregar) aloud, after he was told by others they were praises. The still unrecognized bullfighter Juan and Carmen marry, and he slowly but surely finds success in the bullring and goes on to become Spain’s most famous and acclaimed matador. The fickle critic Curro now boasts he discovered Juan and heaps outlandish praises on the country boy, who can’t handle things outside the bullring as he’s torn between his loyal and pious wife and the sultry socialite vamp temptress Doña Sol des Muire (Rita Hayworth). Curro says of Doña Sol: If bullfighting “is death in the afternoon, she is death in the evening.” Led astray by the vamp to the point of neglecting his training, Juan declines from his great heights as a bullfighter and loses all his friends, his manager Don Jóse (Pedro deCordoba) and wife. The new matador on the rise is Juan’s main rival from childhood Manolo de Palma (Anthony Quinn), who steals the doña away from him and now receives the praises of Curro as the next great Spanish bullfighter. In the end, Juan rejects the doña and reconciles with his wife and promises he will go in the ring only one more time. Winning the crowd over with his brave performance, Juan is gored by the charging bull and is comforted by Carmen before he dies. It’s duly noted by Garabato that the crowd is the beast, as they quickly forget Juan to cheer for Manolo’s magnificent performance as he takes his bows near Juan’s blood stain in the sand.

The anti-bullfighting story is no big deal, but lush Technical visuals and Mamoulian’s excellent execution of the mise en scène gives the film an unexpected vigor. It should be noted that the sexy Hayworth was on her way to stardom and becoming America’s sex goddess after this film showcased her many attributes.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”