The Power-Mad Blogathon: Blood and Sand (1941)

When I heard that Lady Eve’s Reel Life and They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To were hosting a one-day blogathon in honor of Tyrone Power’s 100th birthday, I wanted in. But Power, whose screen career started in the late 1930s, just missed the pre-Code era, and his great noir offering – Nightmare Alley (1947) – was already taken. What to do?!?

I decided to go out on a (very shaky) limb and select Blood and Sand (1941). Although it’s in Technicolor and set in Spain, I thought I could make a case for this film having a few noir-like aspects to it. As it turned out, it had even more than I’d hoped. The film tells of the rise and fall of a famed bullfighter, Juan Gallardo (Power), whose life both inside and outside of the ring is destroyed by a beautiful, cold-hearted woman. Plus it features Rita Hayworth, one of the iconic femmes of the noir era. Shadowy enough for you? Let’s explore more of this noirish non-noir.

We are first introduced to Power’s character as a young boy, played by Rex Downing (you might also recognize him from Wuthering Heights, where he played Heathcliff as a child). A full 25 minutes pass, in fact, before Tyrone Power makes his first appearance on screen. Meanwhile, the feature provides a leisurely and thorough representation of the character of Juan Gallardo, showing his impoverished beginnings as the proud son of a bullfighter who was killed in the ring, and introducing the characters in his circle – his childhood love, Carmen Espinosa (Linda Darnell); his embittered, longtime rival, Manolo dePalma (Anthony Quinn); his loyal friend-to-the-end, Nacional (John Carradine); and the bombastic critic who quotes himself incessantly, seeming to start each sentence with “I, Curro . . .” (Laird Cregar).

Poor Linda.

Poor Linda.

The film follows Juan’s gradual rise to fame and fortune in the bull ring, which is complemented by his happiness at home with his devoted wife, Carmen. But at the peak of his success, he encounters and is entranced by Dona Sol (Rita Hayworth), the beautiful niece of the town’s wealthiest landowner; according to one character, “There’s nothing in the world that she can hold onto for long – nothing. When she was a little girl, she used to tire of all her toys and throw them away while they were still new.”

Juan and his faithful friend, Nacional.

Juan and his faithful friend, Nacional.

Once he falls under the spell of Dona Sol, Juan’s life seems to go into a tailspin – his wife leaves him, as does his assistant (J. Carrol Naish) and his manager (Pedro de Cordoba) – he’s even abandoned by his sister and her husband. As he sinks ever lower, Juan neglects his training and even begins drinking; his longtime friend, Nacional tries to warn him: “You were born to very little, like the rest of us. But one thing you had that was real and pure – you were a born killer of bulls, a matador! She took it away from you. Now when you face the bull with a sword, you’re drained, empty. There’s nothing left of you but fear.”

Like real friends usually do, Nacional spoke the truth. But in case you’ve never seen this picture, I won’t spoil it for you. Suffice it to say that, despite the film’s Technicolor appearance and its decidedly non-urban setting, the ending of Blood and Sand is a pure tribute to noir.

Power and Darnell in The Mark of Zorro.

Power and Darnell in The Mark of Zorro.

And if that isn’t enough, here are a few more “Power-Mad” tidbits for you…

Blood and Sand was directed by Rouben Mamoullian, who helmed a wide variety of first rate features during his career, including City Streets (1931), Queen Christina (1933), Golden Boy (1939), and The Mark of Zorro (1940) which, incidentally, also starred Tyrone Power and Linda Darnell.

This feature marked the fourth and final screen teaming of Tyrone Power and Linda Darnell. The two had previously appeared in Daytime WifeBrigham Young, and The Mark of Zorro.

Lynn Bari had good taste.

Lynn Bari had good taste.

Lynn Bari was one of the many actresses considered for the part played by Rita Hayworth, Dona Sol. Bari, who wound up being cast as Tyrone Power’s sister, later admitted that she had a huge crush on the actor. (Who didn’t?)

Tyrone Power’s mother was played by Alla Nazimova, an actress whose career began in the silent era. She leased a mansion on Sunset Boulevard known as “The Garden of Alla,” bought the property in 1919, and converted it into a hotel in 1927. She eventually sold it, and by 1930, it had been purchased by Central Holding Corporation, which changed the name to the Garden of Allah Hotel. Nazimova rented a villa in the hotel beginning in 1938, and lived there until her death in 1945.

The young Carmen was played by actress Ann Todd, who played Tyrone Power’s little sister the year before in Brigham Young.

If you’ve never checked out Tyrone Power’s performance in Blood and Sand (1941), put it on your list of must-sees. You only owe it to yourself.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

This post is part of The Power-Mad Blogathon, hosted by Lady Eve’s Reel Life and They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To. Visit either of these sites to check out the many great posts of being presented as part of this event! 

 

~ by shadowsandsatin on May 4, 2014.

19 Responses to “The Power-Mad Blogathon: Blood and Sand (1941)”

  1. I’ve been wanting to see this, because I really liked the original, which stars Rudolph Valentino. From your review, it looks like this is a pretty faithful remake, and now I’m even more eager to see it! Good addition to the blogathon!

  2. Nice! A little extension of that great Spanish setting in the beginning of THE MARK OF ZORRO…I really enjoyed that. I’ve no yet seen this one, but again with the lovely duo that Power and Darnell make, how could one possibly resist? …a bit sexier setting and story than BRIGHAM YOUNG, wot? 🙂

    Thanks for the great ideer…it’s on my list as of…now.

  3. The Technicolor cinematography of Blood and Sand is magnificent, especially the near black and white Technicolor employed in the night scenes at Dona Sol’s mansion. And Linda Darnell was very different in Blood and Sand than she was in the noirs later in the 40s. Poor Tyrone..having to choose between Darnell and Hayworth!

  4. You made an excellent (if, on the surface, unusual) selection for the blogathon, Karen, and make a strong case for its noir credentials. Blood and Sand was one of Tyrone Power’s three or four favorites of his own films – Nightmare Alley (which is the one he screened for his friends) and Witness for the Prosecution were two others – so it seems he had an appreciation for darker, more complex material and preferred more challenging roles.

    Glad you went out on that limb!

    • Thanks, Eve — I didn’t know that Blood and Sand was one of Power’s favorites, but I can certainly see why. He definitely seemed to like — and excel in — these deeper characters, rather than just the painfully handsome swashbuckling hero. I’m so glad y’all thought of this blogathon!

  5. BLOOD AND SAND is one of the most beautiful color films ever made. I enjoyed your noir-ish take on it. Something to consider the next time I watch it.

    • Thank you, Kevin — I could definitely see turning this into a full-fledged noir, with just a few tweaks here and there! I agree that the color is absolutely gorgeous.

  6. Thanks so much for taking part in the blogathon. “Blood and Sand” is really a beautiful, lavish film, one which I think was absolutely essential for inclusion in this 100th birthday celebration. For me, it’s one of my 5 favorite of Power’s films.

    I’m glad “Nightmare Alley” was taken and that you had to make the case for noir with “Blood and Sand.” Next time, I watch it—thanks to your terrific article—I’ll be watching it through your noir-ish eyes.

    • Thanks, Patti — truth be told, I’m glad Nightmare Alley was taken, too! I hadn’t seen Blood and Sand in YEARS — it was so much fun rediscovering it, and recalling why it had such a fond place in my memory!

  7. Thanks for covering this film–it would be intriguing to see how the Powers version measures up to Valentino’s Blood and Sand. And Nazimova being in the cast is intriguing as well, since she helped Valentino’s wife Natasha with her career. Six Degrees of Nazimova, lemme tellya! (And let’s not forget Stan Laurel’s Mud and Sand.)

    • I definitely want to see the Valentino version — have you seen it? And I was fascinated by Nazimova — I’d heard and read about her, but never saw her before!

  8. Yes, I have Blood and Sand–not a bad film, although there are others of Valentino’s that I like better. The Eagle is very good. Ah yes, Nazimova…her films are definitely your typical Artsy Lookit Me Art Films and interesting to watch for that reason (there are beautiful stills from them). They maaaaybe haven’t aged that well, but that is a simply splendid reason to watch them in my opinion! 😀 Her Salome (1924) is a good starter film if you want to see her artsiness in full flower. And her Camille (1921) co-stars Valentino, although the poor guy doesn’t have much to do!

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