Juan is the son of a poor widow in Seville. Against his mother's wishes he pursues a career as toreador. He rapidly gains national prominence, and takes his childhood sweetheart Carmen as his bride. He meets the Marquis' daughter Dona Sol, and finds himself in the awkward position of being in love with two women, which threatens the stability of his family and his position in society. He finds interesting parallels in the life of the infamous bandit Plumitas when they eventually meet by chance. Written by
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The film's editor was Dorothy Arzner, who would later go on to become Hollywood's first female director. Arzner impressed the producers by cannily interspersing stock bull-fighting footage with shots of Rudolph Valentino to make it look like the actor was actually in the ring with real bulls. This was quite a progressive technique in its day. See more »
The mountain bandit who is one of the principal supporting characters is an anachronism; the Guardia Civil did away with their kind during the late 19th century. See more »
Impoverished shoemaker's son Rudolph Valentino (as Juan Gallardo) wants to be a bullfighter, much to his widowed mother's dismay. Still, toreador Valentino excels in the dangerous sport; and, later, he is wealthy and famous throughout Spain. Along the way, he marries virtuous childhood sweetheart Lila Lee (as Carmen). For Valentino, temptation accompanies fame, as he falls under the spell of wicked temptress Nita Naldi (as Doña Sol), a slightly sadomasochistic bullfighting groupie. Can Valentino love two women at the same time?
Valentino performs well as an innocent ragamuffin who achieves great fame; of course, this parallels the idolization of the film's star. Moreover, the Idol proves just as attractive being seduced (herein, by Ms. Naldi) as he was the seducer (in the recent "Sheik"). Fred Niblo's "Blood and Sand" is a classic; however, the story, and disjointed bullfighting footage, do bog things down.
Great things happen, after about a quarter hour, when Valentino steps into Naldi's lair. In a neat bit of acting business, Valentino wipes a sweaty hand before greeting his seductress; then, he and Naldi's servant exchange weird looks as Valentino gets his cigarette lighted. After some crosscutting to innocent Ms. Lee, Naldi's harp-playing gets her man.
Writer June Mathis adapts well, for her star; but, the Ibáñez story should have more streamlined. Combining, or further developing, the characters played by Charles Belcher (Don Joselito) and Walter Long (Plumitas) might have helped. Mr. Belcher's character is most interesting; he collects torture devices, and choruses the film's thesis: "Happiness and prosperity built on cruelty and bloodshed cannot survive."
******* Blood and Sand (8/5/22) Fred Niblo ~ Rudolph Valentino, Lila Lee, Nita Naldi, Charles Belcher
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