08/06/2013

Blood & Sand (1941)

Following his popular starring role in The Mark Of Zorro (1940), Tyrone Power was assigned another silent remake for his next assault on the box office by Fox chief Darryl F. Zanuck. This time, Power followed in the footsteps of Rudolph Valentino to star as illiterate Spanish peasant boy Juan Gallardo, a dreamer who emerges from obscurity in Seville to become the nation's star matador. Along the way, Juan marries his childhood sweetheart Carmen (Linda Darnell), only to fall for Rita Hayworth's aristocratic vamp Doña Sol de Muira and find himself torn between the two women as his career in the bullring begins to falter.



Again working from the 1909 novel by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, Rouben Mamoulian directed this sumptuous, sweltering Technicolor epic, in which the real stars are perhaps the opulent costumes designed by Travis Banton. And of course Hayworth, cast because Carol Landis was reluctant to dye her hair red and because of her Spanish heritage and experience as a dancer, which is demonstrated to magnificent effect in an erotic tango scene with Anthony Quinn. Power has the looks and conviction for the lead and is well served by ace supporting players like Darnell (in her fourth appearance with him), Laird Cregar and John Carradine. However, the film in unquestionably overlong and suffers from its extremely tired rise-and-fall narrative structure. Despite featuring stunt work from Armillita, a real toreador, Blood & Sand's pivotal bullfighting scenes are also too often abruptly cut short at key moments, breaking the illusion and depriving us of the chance to truly understand the essence of this brutal sport. Mamoulian had never been to Spain at the time the film was made, relying on Renaissance-era painting to guide his mise-en-scène. As a result, Blood & Sand is therefore essentially a Hollywood studio fantasy depiction of the Iberian Peninsula and its Hemingway-approved pursuits, rather than an accurate recreation, doing for Spain what John Ford's The Quiet Man (1952) would do for Ireland. The locals didn't mind, however, and were actually astonished to learn the truth from Mamoulian years later, politely claiming to be entirely convinced.

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