Juan Gallardo (Rudolph Valentino) wants nothing more out of life than to be a famous matador, much to the dismay of his mother who would rather see him go into a less dangerous profession. He loves the sport and given that he doesn’t come from a wealthy family, he sees the glory that would come with being a famous matador as his way to a better life.
He spends his spare time fighting in small bullfights and eventually earns a reputation for being a very talented matador. It isn’t long before he becomes quite a celebrity throughout the country. He’s living out a classic “poor boy makes good” type of story. Not only is he rich and famous now, complete with his own entourage, he also marries his virtuous sweetheart Carmen (Lila Lee) and their wedding is a grand event. It isn’t long before they start a family and have a very happy home together.
Juan’s life becomes more complicated when he meets Doña Sol (Nita Naldi), a very glamorous widow. He loves Carmen very much, but the connection he has with Doña Sol is very different. She’s much vampier than Carmen and he can’t help but resist being drawn to her. They start having an affair and before long, rumors of their relationship start turning up in the gossip papers, hurting Carmen. Juan decides to end things with Doña Sol, but she isn’t about to let go so easily and tries to destroy his marriage to Carmen. In despair over what his personal life has become, Juan starts getting more careless during his fights, which eventually leads to him being fatally injured during a fight.
Whether or not you’ll enjoy Blood and Sand ultimately all comes down to how accustomed you are to silent films. If you aren’t really familiar with silent films or the styles of acting that you’ll see in them, it might seem really creaky and overly-dramatic. But if you’re used to the style of silent films, you’ll likely enjoy it more. Blood and Sand was one of Rudolph Valentino’s most famous roles and although it’s not my personal favorite movie of his, I still enjoyed it. Sure, there are plenty of other movies that deal with the trials and tribulations of fame and do so much better, but it’s easy to understand why it was a big hit when it was released and still isn’t bad today. It’s definitely one of Valentino’s best roles, which makes it essential viewing for any Valentino fan; I recommend it over The Sheik.