Capriciousness can become cruelty.  It does with Carmen in Charles Vidor’s The Loves of Carmen (1948) based, like the opera, on the Prosper Merimee story.

The gypsies in the film, of whom beautiful Carmen is one, are truly thieves.  Carmen’s Spanish lover, who finds out too late that Carmen is married, becomes one too, after the husband’s death.  Will Carmen stay with the man?

This pretty-looking but often cornball and obvious period piece is rescued by the charisma and fire and gorgeousness of Rita Hayworth (Carmen).  Glenn Ford is miscast as the Spanish lover, Don Jose, but Hayworth makes doggone sure she isn’t miscast.  She’s even good in a fight scene with another woman, and her general energy complements the suitably staged physical conflicts between men.  Artificial as it is, the movie confirms what it means for an actress to be a star in a way Jane Fonda or Debra Winger or Michelle Pfeiffer never was.

Carmen itself is flawed if rather entertaining.  In any case, it offers something better than the fake spirituality of another Hayworth film, Salome.

Cover of "The Loves of Carmen"

Cover of The Loves of Carmen