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).
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.”
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.
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 Wife, Brigham Young, and The Mark of Zorro.
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.
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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!