Adapted from a novel by Vicente Blasco Ibanez, an illiterate bullfighter finds success following his wedding; but he is tempted by another woman.
Youngster Juan Gallardo (Rex Downing) starts a brawl after arguing with critic Natalio Curro (Laird Cregar) about his late bullfighting father. At night Juan faces a bull in a ring and is noticed by Don Jose Alvarez (Pedro de Cordoba). Juan tells young Carmen he is running away to Madrid. Juan and four other boys walk toward Madrid, and Juan stops a train.
Ten years later none can read Curro's criticism of Juan Gallardo (Tyrone Power) and are told it is praise. In Seville Juan is greeted only by his mother (Nazimova). Juan gives money to Antonio Lopez (William Montague) for a business so he can marry Juan's sister Encarnacion (Lynn Bari). Juan sees ex-bullfighter Garabato (J. Carrol Naish) begging and hires him. Juan pays a band to serenade Carmen (Linda Darnell), who reads his poor review aloud. Juan gives her a wedding dress.
Juan succeeds as a matador, and critic Curro brags how he recognized him. Nacional (John Carradine) warns of two ferocious bulls. Carmen gets Juan ready. He prays and sees Doña Sol des Muire (Rita Hayworth). In the ring she watches Juan perform with the bull. Juan is acclaimed, and she throws flowers. Nacional swears he will quit. Carmen asks Juan about Doña Sol, and Juan gets a note from Doña Sol. In her palace Juan dines with Doña Sol, who stays home with him. She sings, and he falls asleep. He wakes and finds her in bed.
Juan gives Carmen a necklace and goes riding with Doña Sol. Antonio and Encarnacion complain about Juan to Carmen, who gets angry at them. Juan's mother tells Carmen she prays he will be gored but not killed. Carmen prays Juan may retire and is jealous. Carmen calls on Doña Sol and asks for her husband. Doña Sol summons Juan, kisses him, and walks away; Carmen leaves. Juan finds the necklace on the bed. His mother tells him that Garabato left because he wasn't paid. Don Jose tells Juan that Carmen has no life left and says Doña Sol has always been spoiled. Juan complains about money, and Don Jose quits. Antonio and Encarnacion leave too. Nacional hates bull-fighting, but says Juan owes him a year's wages. Nacional warns Juan about rum and says he has become afraid. Nacional is gored and tells Juan he quits as he dies.
Manola de Palma (Anthony Quinn) is praised by Curro as a rising matador. Juan and Doña Sol order champagne. Manola joins them and dances with Doña Sol, making jealous Juan leave. Juan finds his mother scrubbing the floor, and she asks him to retire. Curro predicts Juan's downfall. Juan prays and finds Carmen has been waiting for him. He says this is his last performance. Juan does well but is gored. Garabato says the beast is the crowd, not the bull. Carmen comforts Juan, who hopes to buy a ranch but dies. Carmen tells the priest she has Juan's courage. Manola is acclaimed, but there is blood on the sand.
This colorful melodrama explores the glamorous but
brutal world of bull-fighting that symbolizes the dangerous Spanish
macho pride. Ironically Juan masters the bulls but lets a woman