DeMille masterpiece was intended as a musical version of George Bizet’s opera Carmen, but it was under copyright so DeMille instructed his screenwriter brother William to base his scenario on the Public Domain novella Carmen written by Prosper Mérimée. The novella’s Carmen was more deliberate and manipulative than the opera version. For instance it included a cigarette factory fight scene from the book which was not found in the opera.
The story is centered around Carmen, a gypsy girl who seduces Don José, an officer of the law. Carmen uses Don José to facilitate her clan’s smuggling activities. Don José becomes obsessed and violent as he tries to keep her attention.