dontate now

Join Email List

Facebook  Become a Fan on Facebook
twitter  Follow Us on Twitter

329 West 18th Street Suite #610
Chicago, Illinois 60616
(312) 243-1808

Search Collections

Guns and Castanets [1939, Chicago, Great Northern Theatre]

Bookmark and Share
Film Identifier: F.2011-05-0126
Run Time
0h 27m 37s
Date Produced
"Guns and Castanets" is an adaptation of "Carmen" in which the events are transported to Civil War Spain. Ruth Page has staged at least 4 versions of Carmen, all set to Georges Bizet's original opera music. The first version was choreographed and performed in 1926 at the Ravinia Opera. The version depicted in this film is a dress rehearsal (without music) of the second version, which was choreographed by Ruth Page and Bentley Stone as co-directors of the Dance Section of the Chicago Federal Theatre Project of the Work Projects Administration (WPA). It was premiered in Chicago at the Great Northern Theatre on February 1, 1939 by the Page-Stone Ballet (also sometimes referred to as the Federal Ballet). Bizet's original music was selected and adapted by Jerome Moross for small orchestra; songs were selected from the poems of Federico García Lorca, translated by A. L. Lloyd. Libretto by Ruth Page, after the novel by Prosper Mérimée; scenery by Clive Rickabaugh; costumes by John Pratt. Additional versions appeared in 1959, 1960, 1962, 1972, and 1976.
The film opens with a shot of a stage with mountainous sets surrounding what appears to be a town square, on which a group of women dances in place on one side and another group of women poses on the other; a lone figure stands "on" one of the mountains. A man carrying a large box (of ammunition) enters almost immediately and he is followed by several others, who stream across the stage as the groups of women perform simple choreography. The lone figure, in a cape, then descends from the mountain and dances a brief solo along the two groups of women, dressed in what appear to be modified army uniforms. More men with boxes cross the stage, after which the cloaked figure brings down two more men from the mountain and three women (perhaps nuns) enter as well--one of them then dances a brief solo. This is followed by a bit of commotion onstage; soon one of the men from the mountain, apparently a soldier, steps forward dramatically and begins a solo of his own. He is at first accompanied by the soldier-like women, and then by a group of men in all black. Next, a group of women in flamenco-style dresses enters and dances more flamboyantly, encouraging others in their surround to join; they are soon surrounded by soldier-couples. Amidst all this dancing, a more elaborately-dressed woman (perhaps Carmen?) is carried onstage; the rest fall still to watch her solo, which begins slowly but then riles up and involves the crowd. She then actively flirts with a particular soldier on the sidelines before the group carries her offstage. While this soldier attempts to regain his wits, a woman in demure white (perhaps his betrothed), accompanied by three others, enters and soon begins dancing with him. The other three move slowly around the couple's periphery before all but the soldier exit suddenly. The soldier scurries up a mountain as Carmen returns, chased by other women trying to restrain her--apparently from seeking him out. He intervenes and sends them away before initiating a somewhat formal dance with her. When it is complete, the two seem to realize a strong affection for each other, which they express in a more intimate pas de deux while others reenter; they then retire up the mountain together while two other couples and a young girl dance down below. Carmen returns as they exit, and while she is alone, arms wave over the mountainside. She seems to think it a hallucination at first, but seems to understand them as an omen over the course of a pained solo. Afterwards, the betrothed woman enters and Carmen shrinks into the background, watching her perform a contrastingly beautiful solo. However, it is cut short by an apparent volley of gunfire; the women of the town square scurry about and attempt to escape the bullets, but the young girl who danced earlier is struck down. Carmen soon reenters, confused, and encounters an imposing soldier in black. She watches him dance a rigid solo that scares off the other women in the square. Carmen ventures forth in an attempt to dance with him, and though he is harsh at first, she manages to win him over. He dances with her roughly, and her previous lover enters in the middle of their dance. The two men immediately begin to fight but Carmen tries to cut in with a pistol. Her new lover disappears, and the scorned man wrestles the pistol from her and shoots her in a rage. He is immediately shocked by what he has done and she dances a dying solo. Others soon enter, startled, while he holds her corpse. Then a group of men in black enter and begin to march, accompanied by the women in uniform from earlier. The ballet apparently ends here, as the camera cuts to a credit shot reading "Produced by Zenith Cinema Service, Chicago," and briefly, "THE END."
Main Credits
Zenith Cinema Service (corporate name)
Additional Credit
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)
Stone, Bentley (is choreographer)
Related Place
Chicago (production location of)