Rita Hayworth in “Blood and Sand”

Rita Hayworth was the classic bombshell of a woman in the 40’s and 50’s.  She was, by most every source I could find, one of the most popular pinup girls of WWII.  Maybe even the most popular.  Every soldier’s barracks had at least one pinup of her.

She came by her acting and dancing abilities naturally.  She was born in Brooklyn to an acting family.  Born Margarita Cansino, she was the daughter of two vaudeville dancers, Eduardo and Volga Cansino.  She originally appeared in films as “Rita Cansino” (from 1926-37), but the powers that be objected that the name would be too limiting because of its Spanish descent.  She took the stage name Hayworth which was her mother’s maiden name.  Volga was of Irish descent, which accounts for the astoundingly beautiful river of red hair Rita sported.

Blood and Sand (1941):

In Spain, the national sport is bullfighting.  That’s just the way it has always been.  Every poor young boy in Spain has dreams of being a grand matador in the ring, the ultimate in status symbol.  Little Juan Gallardo (played by Rex Downing) has dreams of being the premiere matador of Spain.

His father had been one of the top bullfighters, but he had been killed in the ring several years before.  So Juan’s mother (Alla Nazimova) is very discouraging of her son’s ambitions.  But Juan is determined.  In a brawl in the cantina, Juan bashes snobby fight critic Curro (Laird Creagar) in the head with a wine bottle because Curro said Juan’s father was a third rate matador at the best.  Juan tells his sweetheart Carmen (played by Ann Todd) that he is going to runaway to Madrid to learn the craft of bullfighting.  He is under the impression that he is in imminent danger locally because he thinks the blow he delivered to Curro killed the man.

Ten years later, Juan (Tyrone Power), now a consummate professional returns to his home.  He thinks he is coming home to acclaim, because an article in the newspaper read to him by a fellow passenger claims that even Curro thinks he’s hot stuff.  Unfortunately, Juan can’t read and the passenger made up the praise, rather than read the actual article.  Curro did not die after all from the head shot Juan delivered and is still as ever the same snobby critic.  He really had written that Juan was no matador and that he would end up dying in the ring just like his father.

When Juan hears the real content of the article he becomes even more driven to become the premiere matador.  And eventually, of course, he does.  Which makes Curro claim that he knew all along that Juan would be big.  You will probably end up just hating this smarmy character, just like me.  Cregar, whom I never really warmed up to as an actor before, managed to pull off a character that doesn’t really seem all that cardboard, although it could have ended up that way.

Juan has married his sweetheart Carmen (Linda Darnell) and life is going well for him.  But he attracts the attention of Dona Sol (Rita Hayworth), a woman who goes through lovers like a woman changing clothes.  She itches her current lover for Juan, signified by a matching ring set, one of which she wears and the other which she gives to her current man of the moment.

The effect of Dona Sol on Juan is dramatic.  His attention to her detracts from his love for Carmen, although he still proclaims his love for her.  It also tends to make him less adept in the ring, as his practice sessions decline in favor of more time spent in the arms of his secret lover.  Eventually Carmen discovers his illicit affair and leaves him.  It takes about two minutes for Juan to realize that he has lost the only true passion he ever had.  So he leaves Dona Sol, who has already set her sights on her next conquest anyway, and finds Carmen.  He promises her after his next bullfight he will leave the ring forever and buy a ranch and settle down with her.

How all this works out I will leave to you to watch the film.

Jim Brymer, AKA Quiggy, runs the movie blog The Midnite Drive-In, check it out for more insights on other classic films.