Steam Heat: The Loves of Carmen (1948)
In honor of Valentine's Day, this month we’re examining notoriously sexy films from various decades. Rodney and Samantha watched The Loves of Carmen.
SAMANTHA: Carmen is an old story that has been told many times. It is about a gypsy woman who lures a soldier away from his post and ruins his life. We showed the 1918 version starring Pola Negri at Cinevent in 2017, but this version is infinitely more interesting and more beautifully shot.
RODNEY: I missed the Negri version, and have indeed missed any other versions of Carmen. Not by design, but it just happens to have turned out that way. Maybe because I'm not much of an opera fan?
S: There is another silent version from 1915 starring Geraldine Farrar, a bonafide opera star who made several films with Cecil B. DeMille. We tend to think of opera as being very hoity-toity and old-fashioned, but in 1948 when this version was made, the story of Carmen would have been well-known to the average person.
R: I am a Rita Hayworth fan, and never pass up the opportunity to see her in glorious Technicolor. This is a beautiful film, and not just due to the star.
S: The fight scene between Carmen and the new bride is pretty intense. It started out as a hair-pulling cat fight but quickly progressed to something much more violent. I liked that they showed Carmen was legitimately dangerous, not just because of her intense sexuality.
R: That was especially jarring wasn't it? I was surprised at just how violent it was and it definitely added another dimension to Carmen. This is not someone you want to mess with!
S: We also get to see what brought Hayworth to Hollywood in the first place, her skill as a dancer. The dancing must have been pretty intense because you can spot her pit stains in some of the shots where she lifts her arms. I sort of wish they had let her go back to her natural dark hair color for this movie; it would have worked well.
R: This was Hayworth's first film under her own production company, as part of a four picture deal with Columbia. She brought in her father, Eduardo Cansino, to choreograph the Spanish dances, and it does add a sense of authenticity to the proceedings, well, as much authenticity as we can expect from 1948 Hollywood. It's always fun to watch Rita dance, and this is no exception.
S: In this sequence, there is a cute shot of little girls dancing. One has her back to the camera and you can see the woman playing her mother encouraging her to turn around.
Glenn Ford is especially handsome with long-ish curly hair. Apparently Rita Hayworth thought so too, because according to Ford's son Peter, she and Ford reignited their on-again off-again affair during the shooting of this movie, and she got pregnant then subsequently had an abortion.
R: I kind of get the impression that the casting of Ford was an attempt to rekindle some of the magic of Gilda, but it doesn't really work as well as in that film, and how could it? Gig Young apparently tested for the role, and while he's always good, there's something comfortable about seeing Hayworth and Ford together. Movie magic.
S: Although this is a visually striking film, I didn't really like the characters. Carmen is an opportunist, maybe her only option for survival in a world that hates her because she is a gypsy, but I disliked her for it. Don Jose knew better than to get involved with her but he did it anyway. His impulsiveness got him his just desserts. 3 stars.
S: I tend to agree with you here. A beautiful film about terrible people. Don Jose is kind of a dope, continually digging a hole for himself, when anyone with any sense would've bowed out of this one sided relationship at the first sign of her antics. Without the scenery and Rita's beauty, there's not much to see here. That's enough, but it could've been so much more. The 1927 version starring Delores Del Rio is currently being restored, and I'd love to see that one. In the meantime, Rita's version gets 3 stars from me as well.