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Young Juan Gallardo sneaks out of his room to survey the Seville nightlife and goes to a cantina, where noted bullfight critic Natalio Curro is praising Garabato, the current favorite of the ring. When Curro disparages Juan's father, a matador who died fighting, the youngster hits him over the head with a bottle and starts a brawl. Escaping the cantina, Juan goes to the ranch owned by Don Jose Alvarez, where he practices fighting one of the bulls. Don Jose is impressed by the boy's courage, but his servant, Pedro Espinosa, is angry, having warned Juan before about tiring the bulls. Juan accepts Don Jose's praise, then goes to see Pedro's daughter Carmen. Juan tells his sweetheart that he is leaving the next day for Madrid with his friends, Manolo de Palma, Pablo Gomez, Luis Potaje and Sebastian, to learn to be a matador. Juan promises to return to marry Carmen, and the next day, takes leave of his mother, Señora Augustias, who denounces Juan's dangerous aspirations. Juan and his friends travel to Madrid, where they spend the next ten years training as bullfighters. On the train returning to Seville, Sebastian, who is now known as Nacional, bemoans the fact that he and his friends are illiterate and uneducated, while Manolo jealously declares that Juan has taken most of the glory and money for himself. After a fiesta celebrating his return, Juan is approached by Garabato, who is now destitute. Juan hires Garabato as a servant, then finds Carmen and gives her a wedding dress. The couple are married, and during the next two years, Juan becomes a great matador. On the day Juan makes his first formal appearance in Seville, the audience contains a beautiful and infamous temptress, Doña Sol de Muira, about whom Curro declares: If bullfighting "is death in the afternoon, she is death in the evening." The doña is excited by Juan's style, and he is so captivated by her that he throws her his mantera. The next evening, Juan dines at Doña Sol's house, and Captain Pierre Lauren, her current favorite, realizes that he has been replaced in her affections and returns her ring. Juan spends the night with the doña, and the next morning, when he gives Carmen a necklace and tells her that she is "the only true one in the world," he is wearing the doña's ring. Soon it becomes obvious to everyone that Juan has fallen under Doña Sol's spell as he neglects Carmen and his training. Although Carmen defends her husband against his detractors, she leaves him after she visits the doña to discuss the situation and sees Juan kissing her. Soon Juan's dissipation increases and he loses both Garabato, who goes to work for Manolo, and Don Jose, who quits as his manager. Nacional sticks by his boyhood friend even though he says that Doña Sol has stolen his killer instinct, and at Juan's next fight, his incompetence results in Nacional's death. As Juan's fortunes decline, Manolo's star rises, and one day, Juan and the doña see him in the cantina. Doña Sol, attracted by Manolo's brutish charm, dances with him, and Juan angrily throws away her ring, realizing that he has lost her. Just before his next fight, Juan sees Carmen praying in the arena chapel. The devoted wife tells Juan that she has never stopped loving him, and only left to wait for his sickness to pass. Re-energized by Carmen's love, Juan promises that this will be his last fight and that the two of them will then settle down on a ranch. Juan fights with his old fire, and the crowd shouts its approval. He removes his attention from the bull too soon, however, and is gored. Carmen waits in the chapel as Juan is brought in and comforts him as he dies, then tells the priest that Juan's courage will always be with her. In the arena, the crowd has already forgotten Juan and is wildly cheering Manolo, who takes his bows near a stain of Juan's blood in the sand.