The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse are coming! Thus proclaimed Vicente Blasco Ibáñez in his 1916 novel of the same name. By the time Hollywood came calling to adapt the bestselling book about two families united by marriage, but divided by WWI to film, Vicente Blasco Ibáñez was already an established and admired novelist in Spain and living in self-exile in France. At the beginning of his career, Blasco Ibáñez was known primarily for his stories of daily life in rural Valencia, such as that in his first serious work, Arroz y tartana (Airs and Graces) published in 1894 which recounts the tale of a widow who keeps up appearances while maneuvering to find suitable husbands for her daughters. In his youth the writer earned a reputation for his fiery support of the Republican cause, and his newspaper El Pueblo courted controversy, so much so that Blasco Ibáñez was shot and almost killed by a member of the opposition. But this incident didn’t deter him, and he went on to write popular novels that depicted life in Spain’s country side that fell into the Costumbrist movement, and then naturalistic works such as Entre naranjos (Between the Orange Trees) from 1900 that took on a more overt political tone, calling for peasant farmers to join forces and rise up against their oppressors.
Perhaps his most famous work was Sangre y arena (Blood and Sand), an epic tale that reflects the fire and passion of Spain as told through the story of the handsome and determined, yet naïve, Juan Gallardo who rises from sheer poverty to incredible riches as he becomes Spain’s most famous and loved matador. But, at his core his is a man after all, and he falls under the of the fiery succubus Dona Sol, who takes all she can get from him, causing the once heroic Gallardo fall – and fall hard. Other films were made of Blasco Ibáñez’s sweeping novels, but it is the stand-out is the 1941 adaptation of Blood and Sand starring the incredibly handsome Tyrone Power, the innocent Linda Darnell, and one of the most sultry screen sirens there ever was – Rita Hayworth.
Blasco Ibáñez died at a relatively young age of 60 in Menton, France and his body was repatriated to Valencia, but his legacy and muscular writing style lives on.