In 1930's Cuba, a bank clerk and an American mercenary assist a revolutionary group in a plan to kill the President but the Cuban Secret Police chief and the dictator's military complicate the plan's execution.
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1932. The tyrannical and despotic government of President Machado has headed Cuba for seven years. The latest measure of that tyranny is the outlawing of public gatherings of more than four people, such acts the government deeming treasonous. China Valdés, a young woman who works in an American bank in Havana, is generally non-political. However, she decides to join the revolutionary forces to avenge the murder of her activist brother Manolo - a murder she witnessed - at the hands of the government, the trigger pulled by a police officer she will eventually learn is named Armando Ariete. Her goal is to kill Ariete. Another of the revolutionaries, an American entertainment promoter named Tony Fenner, convinces her to hold off on her assassination, as he believes he has come up with a plan that can wipe out all the major government leaders in one fell swoop. Along with China and Tony, the Chief of the revolutionaries amasses a team of four non-related men - Guillermo, Ramón, Miguel and ...Written by
John Huston wanted a then almost-unknown Marilyn Monroe for a part in this movie. He made it about Cuban rebels at the time Monroe had a contract with Columbia. But producer Sam Spiegel didn't want to spend money for a screen test of Monroe. See more »
This story takes place during the presidency of Gerardo Machado, which ended in 1933; however, China wears torpedo bras, which did not come into fashion until World War II; likewise China's hair style and clothing are also strictly 1949, not 1932-1933. See more »
Pro-revolutionary film that slipped between the cracks
Though directed by John Huston, written by Huston and Peter Viertel, and starring Jennifer Jones, John Garfield, Pedro Armandariz and Gilbert Roland, 1949's "We Were Strangers" is a largely unknown film. It is, however, an important one in the history of Hollywood as it was bankrolled by Sam Spiegel for Huston's new production company. Impressed with Huston, Spiegel went on to bankroll "The African Queen." Commercially unsuccessful at the time of its release, the story concerns the White Terror of the Fascist government in Cuba from 1925-1933. When her brother, a member of the resistance, is killed, China (Jones) joins the fight to overthrow the government. A plan is concocted by Tony Fenner, an American born in Cuba who is posing as a talent agent. The idea is to assassinate a high-ranking official and then set off a bomb at the funeral, killing the top people in the government.
The best scene in the film is between Jones and Pedro Armendariz, who plays a secret policeman, Ariete. He is deeply suspicious of Fenner and is sure that China is his lover. While the revolutionaries hide outside in the rain, he eats and bullies, threatens, and flirts with China, who is terrified but tries to keep calm. A taut, excellent scene. All of the acting is excellent - Jones, wearing darker makeup and sporting an accent, is very good as well as beautiful. Garfield does a good job as Fenner, and Gilbert Roland is a standout. The last 15 minutes of the film are very exciting, with the last scene being poetic but failing to be upbeat, which was perhaps the intention. It's a downer.
A very good movie that for some reason didn't get everyone in it in trouble and accused of being a Communist - surprisingly, Garfield's appearance in the movie had nothing to do with his eventual blacklisting. I guess "We Were Strangers" was too obscure.
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