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Bullfighter Juan Gallardo falls for socialite Dona Sol, turning from the faithful Carmen who nevertheless stands by her man as he continues to face real danger in the bullring. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
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Directed by Rouben Mamoulian, 1941's "Blood and Sand" is based on the Ibanez novel and a remake of the 1922 film starring Rudolph Valentino. Darryl F. Zanuck remade "The Mark of Zorro" and "Blood and Sand" for his top star, Tyrone Power. Despite a comment here that this film established Power as a star, he had been a star since 1936 and a superstar since 1939. But with the success of Zorro and this film, Power's fate as a swashbuckling hero was sealed. He wouldn't break out of the box until the mid-'50s.
"Blood and Sand" tells the story of Juan Gallardo, son of a famous bullfighter killed in the ring, who aspires against his mother's wishes to be a bullfighter himself. He becomes a star of the ring, marries his sweetheart, is seduced by a temptress, falls into disrepute and turns to drink. Woman has been the downfall of man since Adam and Eve, so the story goes - a constant theme of novelists.
The cinematography is incredible. Some of the shots resemble old paintings - Juan's cuadrilla in a line praying in church while Juan is at the altar; the final shot of Nacional's dead body in a bed under a crucifix; the blood symbols: a woman in her excitement over Juan's triumph smearing her lipstick as she runs her hand across her mouth; Dona Sol's red lips and scarlet fingernails; the cool, magnificent beauty of Dona Sol's elaborate home; the pasodoble Dona Sol dances in an incredible rose-colored gown with up and coming matador Manolo; Juan turning from the bull as he drags his cape behind him - all breathtaking, and more than worthy of its Oscar for Best Cinematography. Mamoulian's direction is flawless, telling the story through the actions of the characters. In one scene, Juan falls asleep on Dona Sol's patio; he wakes alone and walks through the house, seeking an exit; he opens a door and it's Dona Sol's bedroom, where she lays sleeping...In the next scene, Juan wears the ring she put on her finger after it was returned by her last suitor (George Reeves). Mamoulian tells us the affair has begun by showing us a ring.
Power was established before "Blood and Sand," - Rita Hayworth wasn't, but as the sadistic Dona Sol, gloriously photographed and gorgeous beyond belief, superstardom was hers once this film was released. Watching Tyrone Power as Juan is frustrating because he is so good. Why he never received the credit for his acting that he deserved can only be attributed to his impossible beauty. By the time of this film, he is past his pretty stage and just entering handsomeness. A sweet, humble, perfect gentleman in real life, Tyrone Power's Juan Gallardo lumbers through Dona Sol's house, eats with the manners of a cave man, chews with his mouth open, wears smelly fragrance and is both arrogant and uneducated. When doing a film, the actor had to shave three times a day; here, in order to make him look seedier as time passes, he begins to sport a faint 5 o'clock shadow. There was a comment made that Power hadn't yet had dental work. Power never had cosmetic dental work. Like the model Lauren Hutton, he had a small space between two teeth and, like Lauren Hutton, he had a piece of enamel to place there. For this role, he didn't use it. He didn't care about his looks and in fact, came to resent them. Space between two teeth and slicked down hair or not, his huge eyes, framed by the world's longest eyelashes, practically smolder through the camera.
Power's performance is simply fantastic - especially when you consider that attending a real bullfight, he became nauseous. His wife had to say she was sick so they could leave! All of the acting is marvelous, but besides Power, there are several standouts - Alla Nazimova is brilliant as Juan's pessimistic mother, her performance making the role seem even larger; Hayworth's beauty is mind-boggling and she gives Dona Sol not only sexiness and sensuality but coldness. According to Power's stand-in, all the actor did off-camera was stare at Hayworth. Gee, wonder why. Linda Darnell, another underrated actress, is sweet as Juan's loving wife. John Carradine, as the socially-conscious Nacional, is excellent as one of the cuadrilla; and as a turncoat, Laird Cregar gives an appropriately bombastic performance. Ambitious Manolo is played by a young, attractive Anthony Quinn, who is perfect in this film, and his small, showy role portends fabulous things to come from him. The only criticism from me would be that the little boys playing Juan and the cuadrilla in the beginning of the film are too American. Before anyone says anything about the lack of accents, I will repeat the convention - if you're playing a character in a country where English is not spoken, then you're not speaking English -you're speaking the language of the country. Therefore, no accents are used. Spaniards don't walk around Spain all day speaking English with a Spanish accent to other Spaniards.
This film is a curiosity - there is an aura of impending death as predicted by the Nazimova character, and in fact, many of the fine actors appearing in the movie came to early and/or tragic ends. Tyrone Power died 17 years later, at the age of 44, of a heart attack while making the film "Solomon and Sheba" and didn't live to see his only son; Linda Darnell would die in a fire when she was 41; Laird Cregar only lived 3 more years, to age 30, succumbing from a heart attack. The saddest is Rita Hayworth, a true goddess. After abuse and great unhappiness, she developed Alzheimer's in the early 1960s and died in 1987. But what wonderful legacies they left us.
"Blood and Sand" is a jewel in the Twentieth Century Fox crown, a great achievement in acting, directing, and cinematography.
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