starring Pola Negri
At the risk of being accused of a lack of patriotism, I am going to pin a medal on another "foreign-made" picture. Pola Negri, the Du Barry of "Passion," has gone and done it again. "Gypsy Blood" is the name of her second picture for First National. The picture is called "Gypsy Blood" because the distributors assume that the public has had three Carmens and is no longer interested in the story.
You may have seen Geraldine Farrar, Theda Bara, and Edna Purviance play the role, but until you see Pola Negri, you never have seen a real, honest-to-badness Carmen. Ernest Lubitsch, who also directed "Passion," has drawn the screen story from the novel by Prosper Merimee and not from the "doctored" libretto of Bizet's opera.
Carmen, as she is depicted on the operatic stage, is a beautiful, elegantly gowned and high-spirited gypsy girl who is just a bit of a flirt. Triana, the gypsy quarter of Seville, is a colorful but clean place. The cabaret, conducted by Lillas Pastia, looks like a modern Palais de Danse and the smugglers are like irreproachable gentlemen garbed for a fancy dress ball.
Lubitsch and Pola Negri have discarded all the tinsel and trappings. La Carmencita, as played by Miss Negri, is a disreputable, low-down and rowdy gypsy girl. Her clothes are in atrocious taste, her finery is shabby, and her morals are unquestionable. That is to say, they are unquestionably bad. Miss Negri doesn't try to look pretty, play to the camera, or attempt to be alluring. She simply gives a marvelously faithful picture of a vulgar, ignorant and wanton gypsy girl.
Triana is shown as a down-at-the-heels and filthy slum. The cabaret of Lillas Pastia is transformed into an ugly saloon, and the smugglers are a set of regular crooks. Even Don Jose is no hero. He is merely a Spanish peasant who is foolish enough to be taken in by the wiles of an elemental and primitive girl. "Gypsy Blood" isn't as beautifully finished and technically correct as our American productions, but it has fire, dash, and flashes of real inspiration.