Glenn Ford becomes seriously unhinged over Rita Hayworth in “The Loves of Carmen,” a 1948 retelling of the Georges Bizet opera without the music. Ford plays Don José, a nobleman, and a corporal in the army. His assignment in Seville begins with a lecture by the Colonel about the lure of the Gypsies, who will tempt him with liquor and sex. The Colonel tells Don José to walk around Seville for a couple of days to get to know the seductions of the town before he starts his serious work as a soldier. Unfortunately, he quickly meets a beautiful gypsy named Carmen (Hayward) with amazing charisma and power to get men to do what she wants. She’s also a notorious thief and a prostitute.
The Colonel’s warning doesn’t dissuade Don José from falling for Carmen, and we quickly surmise that the feeling is mutual. Carmen pulls a knife in a fight with another woman and is arrested by Don José, but she convinces him to let her go. The Colonel punishes Don José with extra guard duty, but he continues to pursue Carmen. Eventually, Don José kills the Colonel in a swordfight, and he escapes to the desert with Carmen to live as a bandit.
The story then resembles a western, as Don José joins a group of bandits headed by the ruthless Garcia (Victor Jory). Watching it, I tried to imagine a Latin character in this role such as Ricardo Montalban or Cesar Romera — but this Garcia is not suave like those actors, although he is Carmen’s husband. This enrages Don José and amuses both Garcia and Carmen. All that military training received by Don José influences him to follow Garcia as the leader, even though he intensely dislikes him.
Carmen seductively pushes Don José to fight Garcia, and the showdown comes when Garcia arrives to find Carmen eating chicken with Don José at his campsite. Neither of the men figures out how Carmen plays them, even though Luther Adler as Dancaire, Garcia’s henchman, continuously theorizes about the danger of Carmen’s seductive charm. Don José becomes a very successful bandit, robbing coaches while leaving Carmen alone tending the gang’s campsite. Her boredom leads her back to town, where she strikes up a relationship with a handsome bull fighter named Lucas (John Baragrey). This relationship leads to the inevitable and tragic ending.
Charles “King” Vidor also directed Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth in “Gilda (1946).” For The Loves of Carmen, he takes a much simpler story and gives it the same gritty edge. Although just having Hayworth in a movie makes it worthwhile, Vidor’s visual mastery and the lush color treatment of Hayworth adds interest. Vidor also directed the pair in 1940’s “The Lady in Question.”