Blood and Sand (1922)
Sunday October, 29 2017 at 12:00 PM
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20th Century-Fox chief Darryl Zanuck had a success with The Mark of Zorro (1940), putting Tyrone Power behind the mask worn by Douglas Fairbanks in the silent version. For a follow up, why not another remake of a silent classic? This time Power would don a matador costume to take on the role made famous by Rudolph Valentino in Blood and Sand (1922).
The 1941 Blood and Sand would not only have sound but color as well and to get the very best look, Zanuck hired Rouben Mamoulian, the director of the first three-strip Technicolor movie Becky Sharp (1935). Mamoulian had not had a chance to work with color since and was anxious to use this opportunity to push color photography to a new level. Each sequence in the movie would be modeled after the look of a great painter; the bullring scenes in the manner of Goya, the matador's dressing room after Titian, etc. If the set did not feature the right colors, Mamoulian kept a paint-filled spray can nearby for touch-ups. As Mamoulian recalled about a hospital scene, "I thought if El Greco had painted it, it wouldn't look white, it would look green and gray, so I sprayed all the sheets and painted shadows on the walls. It looked absolutely appalling to the eye, and it really shook me because I thought I'd really ruined the set, but it came out beautifully." For his efforts Blood and Sand took the 1942 Academy Award for Best Color Cinematography.
Color also had an effect on casting and accidentally created a new star. Zanuck wanted to cast Carole Landis, star of the prehistoric adventure movie One Million B.C. (1940), as Dona Sol, the temptress that leads the matador astray. Mamoulian, however, was insisting that Dona Sol's hair be red to represent her lustfulness. Landis, fearing a dye job would ruin her reputation as a blonde bombshell, refused the part and, after the testing of many actresses, the part went to 22-year old Rita Hayworth. Best known then for a supporting role in The Strawberry Blonde (1941), Hayworth got the role for her dancing skills, an important detail as a sexy tango was a central part of the film. She seemed shy off screen, but on screen in this new vamp role, her sexuality made her electrifying. As choreographer Hermes Pan recalled, "At the time I thought it would be Tyrone Power and Linda Darnell's movie, because he was the star and Linda was under contract to Fox, but when Rita came on she was just dynamite. You couldn't believe the excitement when we saw the rushes."
For her partner in the tango, Hayworth was paired with a fellow character actor rising to stardom, Anthony Quinn, who before this had primarily played small roles as thugs and criminals. In his autobiography, One Man Tango, the actor recalled that "Blood and Sand was a breakthrough mostly in that it released me from the dark-skinned gangster characters that had become my routine...As the rival matador, I was left to wait in the wings for the bulk of the picture, and my first and best chance to show what I could do came in a memorable dance scene with Rita Hayworth. I had always been able to maneuver around a dance floor, and Miss Hayworth was a facile partner. She rode my hip like it was an extension of her own body. Together we moved like lovers - which, in fact, we were, by the time we wrapped the picture."
While shooting scenes in Mexico City, Mamoulian made another discovery, a young American training to be a matador, and brought him into the production both to choreograph an authentic tango and to teach Power how to convincingly battle a bull in an arena. The young man, Budd Boetticher, would later direct several Randolph Scott Westerns which are considered superior examples of the genre (Seven Men From Now (1956), Comanche Station, 1960). Boetticher said, "I showed Tyrone Power how to do the capework but he never actually got near a bull! He wanted to but the studio wouldn't let him. They said he was too valuable a property." Unlike all these newcomers on their way up, one member of the cast was on her way out. Alla Nazimova, who had starred opposite Valentino in a version of Camille (1921), played one of her last roles in the small part of the matador's peasant mother.
Blood and Sand went on to become one of 20th Century-Fox's biggest hits of 1941 but Mamoulian later got a recognition he did not expect. "I had never been to Spain and although we actually did some filming in Mexico City, I was never really sure I had captured a true Spanish authenticity until I actually went to Spain many years later. I was most pleased to discover it looked exactly the way the Spanish masters had painted it and that it was as I had imagined it would be. People in Spain who had seen and loved the film did not believe I had never visited the country before making the film."
Director: Rouben Mamoulian
Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck
Screenplay: Jo Swerling based on the novel Sangre y arena by Vicente Blasco Ibanez
Cinematography: Ernest Palmer, Ray Rennahan
Art Direction: Richard Day, Joseph C. Wright
Music: Alfred Newman
Editing: Robert Bischoff
Cast: Tyrone Power (Juan Gallardo), Linda Darnell (Carmen Espinosa), Rita Hayworth (Dona Sol), Nazimova (Senora Augustias Gallardo), Anthony Quinn (Manola de Palma), J. Carrol Naish (Garabato).
by Brian Cady