Moïse Simons's 1929 song, "El Manisero," achieved popularity in the United States in 1932 (a year after this film was released), when it was translated into English by L. Wolfe Gilbert and Marion Sunshine. All verses in this film were in Spanish. See more »
In the early talkie era, MGM had great faith in the movie star potential of opera star Lawrence Tibbett, starring him in four films. He could be dashing at times but also often looked like Oliver Hardy's kid brother. THE CUBAN LOVE SONG was his final MGM film, ironically it is probably his most successful effort as a film but his character is so remarkably self-centered and oblivious to the pain he causes the women in his life (the movie itself doesn't ponder this fact much either) I suspect this well-made film actually made him unappealing to the all important female audience of the day.
Tibbett stars as a Marine who has a long-suffering girlfriend back home (lovely Karen Morley) for whom he basically has only qualified affection, scarcely bothering to write her while he is away on duty, just a postcard now and then. Stationed in Cuba, he is bewitched by a beautiful local girl (Lupe Velez) but seems to be equally flippant in this second romance if more sexually aggressive toward her. Lupe is bewitched by the man in uniform and is ready to pack up and become his wife but then after a period of idyllic romance Tibbett is called to duty in the war, returning home to America with injuries and loving nursed by old love Morley. Can he get over his "true love", the girl back in Cuba?
Lupe Velez is a vision in this, and while she's given the MGM glamour treatment she's still wholly effective as the little peasant girl who gives her heart to someone who may not deserve it. I'm a Velez fan and this is one of her best film performances, yes we get to see her a bit in her famed spitfire mode but most of the time she is a tender if naive soul in a moving, well nuanced performance. Tibbett is very good too but the movies' "it's a man's world" mentality seems to avoid any criticism of an alleged "good guy" who romances one girl while engaged to another and later who willing abandons the latter in hopes of reuniting with the former. The movies' tragic ending (with a vaguely distasteful "happy" resolution) will surely jar Velez fans given her character ends up in a situation quite similar to the one Lupe found herself in in the early 1940's with even more tragic results. How sad this lovely actress didn't take a page out of her character's pre-code script.
Jimmy Durante and Ernest Torrance costar as Tibbett's rather overage Marine buddies in low-comedy characters. Karen Morley, at the beginning of her MGM career, is quite charming as the faithful American girl who gives her man frankly more than he deserves. Some of the Tibbett/Velez scenes are quite charmingly romantic though not among them is Talbott's extremely aggressive pawing in her bedroom as she tries to fight him off. This bittersweet romance is worth seeing however for Lupe Velez in one of her most effective and certainly most moving roles.
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