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Archive for the ‘DIRECTED BY Rouben Mamoulian’ Category

Blood and Sand

15 Jan

Blood And Sand — directed by Reuben Mamoulian. Sports-drama — 125 minutes. 1941.
★★★★★
The Story: The son of a renowned matador becomes a renowned matador, marries his childhood sweetheart, and throws it all away.
~

Blood And Sand, for its cinemaphotography, won Academy Awards for Ernest Palmer and Ray Rennahan. The film became famous for its beautiful appearance, so general curiosity arose as to how it was done. In a bonus, Richard Crudo, a president of the American Society of Cinemaphotographers teaches us how. Fascinating. Make sure you watch.

This famous film earns five stars because of the bonus accompanying it.

What I learned was how the cinemaphotographers ran the shooting and direction of such films and a lot of what we eventually see. I was ignorant of these matters. I had seen Blood And Sand when it came out in 1941 and years later, and again now, and still I did not notice, and I was not meant to.

I was not meant to notice the color scheme which confines itself to blue and yellow and red, and when the big arena in Mexico City was rented and filled with extras, and whenever these extras are seen in groups, still there are the grades of yellow in what they wear, the blues of suits and mantillas, the stab of red. Green lashes out to startle as does a pair of purple gloves on the female star’s hands. We are led to pay attention to the blue backgrounds of scenes, the yellow walls of others. The Production Designer and Cinemaphotographer put their heads together and created sets and backdrops for love scenes that do not disappoint, although the film as a whole may disappoint.

For it is less about blood and sand, than the lust and luxury they lead to. One would not go to this film for the perilous gore of bullfighting spectacle, as I did when I saw it for the second time in my 30s. But the film does not stint the sumptuousness which underlies and defines its narrative which is erotic.

At its center three of the great beauties of the screen move around one another, embrace, and enflame. These three are young. It is not hard to watch them. Everything in the film encourages us. Linda Darnell is eighteen when she plays the young wife. She is untouched, touching, and open. The ravishing Rita Hayworth is twenty-two. She plays sin with an open smile. Tyrone Power is twenty-six. No more sumptuous male beauty ever graced the screen.

For those were the days of matinée idols. Save perhaps for George Clooney and Robert Redford, we don’t have them anymore. But in the ‘30s we had Ronald Coleman, Erroll Flynn, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Joel McCrea, Gary Cooper, Randolph Scott, John Payne, John Wayne, and Tyrone Power, men whose beauty permitted them everything. Even being miscast.

Is Tyrone Power miscast as a ragged, illiterate Spanish peon? You bet he is. Tyrone Power was a gent — but who cares? He had played Zorro and would do other Latin action heroes and be a big star South Of The Border. You buy Power in Blood And Sand simply because he’s there doing it. In those days Black Irish as Hispanic was as good as Spanish.

If his acting here is inconsistent, so is the acting as a whole. The child actors are dreadful. Other actors, such as Laird Cregar, either digest the scenery whole or on their own manage to make dialogue which is poor sound real. This means that, although the story has carrying power, Mamoulian creates no sense of performance style, nor could he. This is not Garbo in his Queen Christina, but Fox in a limousine left behind under Valentino’s porte-cochere.

John Carradine, an actor of old-time vocal stage technique, gets by as he always does with direct subtextless presentation that one accepts because of silent respect for its outdated fashion. Who would so mean as to scold him? He is that rare thing, the completely unembarrassed actor.

Watch J. Carroll Naish pay attention as Power’s hairdresser. Watch the details. He is one of many characters who flare through and do good work: Lynn Bari as the termagant sister-in-law, George Reeves as one of Rita Hayworth’s discards, Russell Hicks as the grandee who houses her.

Anthony Quinn steals all his scenes starting with his first in which he blows tiny smoke rings as we accompany the now young men to their fates in the bull ring. You feel he knows he would be better than Power in the leading role, and he would be — but, so what, his envy feeds his role. And, boy, is he sexy. He can’t help it. At the end of their film lives, he and Rita Hayworth would act again in The Rover and as an old man his sexiness still vibrates. Quinn, like Warren Beatty, seems to have possessed sexual confidence from birth. He oozed it. His assurance gave him the ability to appear stupid, always an advantage for an actor, since stupidity does not mean want of cunning.

And, of course, Blood And Sand provides us with the rare opportunity to experience the art of the incontestable Nazimova. Watch her as she plays the old mother on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor. Mamoulian had directed her on the stage before, and Pauline Kael said that Nazimova’s Hedda Gabler was the greatest performance she had ever seen. And here she is, so watch and learn.

Everything she is does is exactly the right size. No bum line louses her up. She came from Stanislavski’s Moscow Arts theatre and she knew how to embody a part, even an ill-written one, such that everything becomes natural. She never emotes. She never lies or steals a scene. She is content to represent the moral and narrative center of the story, no fuss. Watch the moment when she discards what Power hands her.

Rita Hayworth is different, because her training was dance. She is a fine actress because of it. Dance gives Rita Hayworth her marvelous carriage and the necessity for physical responsiveness — plus the nobility of her walk and the inherent sense of rhythm in everything she says and does. When she seduces, she seduces not with her guitar or her song — she seduces with the bare movement of her shoulders which house the most exquisite porte de bras in the world. Hermes Pan, who later taught her the dances he choreographed for her and Fred Astaire, said she had the most beautiful hands he had ever seen.

These are wonderful attributes for a star — which this film made her — including her inherent propriety which becomes a platform of response. In her, the flame and stillness of flamenco is alert at every moment. Did any movie actor love life so freely and fiercely and openly as Rita Hayworth when she danced?

Here she dances cruelly with Anthony Quinn. It is the first time we see her like this, full of self-esteem, fun, and arranque. Rita Hayworth on screen writes her own rules — and you’ve got to agree with her. Rita Hayworth had spent her youth Spanish dancing in night clubs’ floorshows with Eduardo Cansino, her father. She knew exactly how to do all this from the time she was twelve. It was her doom and delight.

Here the cherry on the Sundae lies in the bonus of Ricard Crudo’s teaching on what made so much of this film so beautiful. What the technique was. How it was prepared in advance by the directors of photography in cahoots with the art direction by Richard Day and Joseph C. Wright, with the set decoration by Thomas Little, and the blend of costumes by Travis Banton.

Why should we care?

All I know is they were beautiful and young, and this was their moment 80 years ago.

Many talented young actresses appear in films nowadays. Many are beautiful. Rita Hayworth is gone — vanished into the archives or emergent in the immortal immoral momentary masochism of Gilda. Many young actresses star in films nowadays, and many are worth seeing and more than once. Their material is more contemporary. Their attack on their roles more schooled. Some have a rare authority. Some surprise us. Many give delight and deserve the admiration they inspire. But what can this celestial banquet be compared to now? Where will you find her? Where is the feast and the fete? Useless to look. You won’t find what is not there. Next to Rita Hayworth, the movie actresses of today are potato chips. Next to Rita Hayworth they are snacks.

 

Blood And Sand [1941]

22 Dec

Blood And Sand [1941] — directed by Rouben Mamoulian. Sports Drama. 125 minutes Color 1941.

★★★★★

The Story: A poor illiterate boy from Seville becomes Spain’s greatest matador, marries his beautiful childhood sweetheart, and then meets Rita Hayworth.

~

The lipstick on her mouth is the slash of death. As soon as she appears in purple, you know Tyrone Power is in Dutch. Anyone would be.

She’s 22 but she plays a woman of marked sophistication and massively confident sexual greed. She is never dressed down but always up and never less than to kill. Like gold coins, men move through what her choreographer Hermes Pan called the most beautiful fingers in the world. The part made her a star.

Even here, you can see what a good actress she is, her gift dependent upon her responsiveness. Just watch her in the big confrontation scene with Linda Darnell; watch how everything Darnell says to her hits her and what Hayworth does with it.  She has a natural inbred Meisner technique.

There are many attributes that made Hayworth a star, but let’s just notice one of them: her beautiful carriage. You’d have to wait until Cyd Charisse to meet her match. Look how the shoulders and hands are carried as she dances. She has three dances here, one sitting down playing a guitar in which she moves only her shoulders, one where she turns Power into a bull of her bidding, and one in full upright fornication which she does with Anthony Quinn.

Quinn, when young, is sexier than Power. His eyes burn with the hatred of an Italian whore; nothing could be hotter. And then we have Linda Darnell who is 17 years old here and unutterably touching. These film stars have such natural gifts. Darnell has the power to inhale with her eyes. It’s not a trick. She simply does it as an attribute of what she is. To witness such things is to cause wonder.

The weak link in all of this is Power himself who never has a hardon as the matador. He never investigates the character; he misses the eager brash guttersnipe of that scampering scamp of a boy he began as. You never feel his love of the sport, upon which the story depends. Of course, as in all bullfight movies, you cannot show the actor actually fighting the bull. If it were football, it would be different.

Blood And Sand is renowned for its color scheme of gold, ice blue, and blood red which the director imposed on it, and its Special Features contains a commentary by a modern cameraman Richard Crudo, a tutorial on the cumbersome challenge of Technicolor, which here is thick, rich, and saturated.

Mamoulian paints with film, right from the start with an all-but-naked adolescent boy racing through a blue moonlit countryside. He spray- paints Hayworth’s banquet flowers black. He spray paints John Carradine’s deathbed sheets grey. Darnell’s dresses are always white, black, or true blue. And Mamoulian dyed Hayworth’s hair auburn, which it remained for the rest of her career.

The backstage work of bullfighting is arresting, and we are treated to a supporting cast of considerable strength: Carradine as Power’s faithful friend, J. Carroll Naish as a wise fellow matador; Laird Cregar as louche journalist full of himself; as Power’s mother, storied actress Ala Nazimova. The movie is a lot of different sorts of fun: its camera work, color schemes, bright casting, two gorgeous young women. Although, as a whole, as you will see to your amusement and forgiveness, lead does not add weight to melodrama.

 

 

Blood And Sand [1941]

27 Jan

Blood And Sand — directed by Rouben Mamoulian. Sports Drama. 125 minutes Color 1941.

★★★★★

The Story: A poor illiterate boy from Seville becomes Spain’s greatest matador, marries his beautiful childhood sweetheart, and then meets Rita Hayworth.

~

The lipstick on her mouth is the slash of death. As soon as she appears in purple, you know Tyrone Power is in Dutch. Anyone would be.

She’s 22 but she plays a woman of marked sophistication and massively confident sexual greed. She is never dressed down but always up and never less than to kill. Like gold coins, men move through what Hermes Pan her choreographer called the most beautiful fingers in the world. The part made her a star.

Even here, you can see what a good actress she is, her gift dependent upon her responsiveness. Just watch her in the big confrontation scene with Linda Darnell; watch how everything Darnell says to her hits her and what she does with it.  She has a natural inbred Meisner technique.

There are many attributes that made Hayworth a star, but let’s just notice one of them: she has the most beautiful carriage. You’d have to wait until Cyd Charisse to meet her match. Look how the shoulders and hands are carried as she dances. She has three of these, one sitting down playing a guitar in which she moves only her shoulders, one where she subjects Power into a bull of her bidding, and one of full upright fornication which she does with Anthony Quinn.

Quinn, when young, is sexier than Power. His eyes burn with the hatred of an Italian whore; nothing could be hotter. And then we have Linda Darnell who is 17 years old here and unutterably touching. These film stars have such natural gifts. Darnell has the power to inhale with her eyes. It’s not a trick. She simply does it as an attribute of what she is. To witness such things is to cause wonder in us.

The weak link in all of this is Power himself who never has a hardon as the matador. He never investigates the character; he misses the eager brash guttersnipe of that scampering scamp of a boy he began as. You never feel his love of the sport, upon which the story depends. Of course, as in all bullfight movies, you cannot show the actor actually fighting the bull. If it were football, it would be different.

Blood And Sand is renowned for its color scheme of gold, ice blue, and blood red which the director imposed on it, and its Special Features contains a commentary by a modern cameraman Richard Crudo, a tutorial on the cumbersome challenge of Technicolor, which here is thick, rich, and saturated. Mamoulian paints with film, right from the start with an all-but-naked adolescent boy racing through a blue moonlit countryside. He spray paints Hayworth’s banquet flowers black. He spray paints John Carradine’s deathbed sheets grey. Darnell’s dresses are always white, black, or true blue. And Mamoulian dyed Hayworth’s hair auburn, which it remained for the rest of her career.

The backstage work of bullfighting is arresting, and we are treated to a supporting cast of considerable strength: John Carradine as Power’s faithful friend, J. Carroll Naish as a wise fellow matador; Laird Cregar as louche journalist full of himself; as Power’s mother, storied actress Ala Nazimova. The movie is a lot of different sorts of fun: its camera work, color schemes, bright casting, two gorgeous young women, although, as you will see to your amusement and forgiveness, lead does not add weight to melodrama.

 

 
 
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