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Saturday, June 7, 2008

WE WERE STRANGERS (1949)

There’s something about those Spanish speaking revolutionaries that brings out the gaseous windbag in Hollywood filmmakers. But even compared w/ JUAREZ/'39, FOR WHOM THE BELLS TOLLS/'43 and VIVA ZAPATA/'52, John Huston’s disastrous WE WERE STRANGERS is something special.* The cast would do nicely in a film about a mental sanitarium; Jennifer Jones makes a stab at an accent, Gilbert Roland gets to sing, strum and look devilishly macho, Ramon Navarro dashes through his dialogue madly and John Garfield seems to be desperately looking for an exit. Dramatically, the fine line that STRANGERS posits between terrorism and over-zealous freedom fighters is finessed in true Hollywood cop-out fashion while Huston manages to flub the modest chances for dramatic action. The film was, in every way, a complete disaster, but the next collaboration from Huston & producer S. P. Eagle (aka - Sam Spiegel) was a little thing called THE AFRICAN QUEEN/'51, which paid off everyone's bills.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Along with the rest of the world, I haven't see the recent 2-part CHE from Steven Soderburgh, but it sure sounds like it fits the pattern. And just for the record, I've got a soft spot for JUAREZ, the film that is. (Since this was posted, CHE has been added to the MAKSQUIBS archive. And, yep, it does fit the pattern.)

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: For something that breaks the pattern of talkative revolutionary grandstanding, try the flawed, but still delectable OUR MAN IN HAVANA/'60, the final Carol Reed/Graham Greene collaboration. Cuba's Communist Revolution broke out just about the time they were filming Noel Coward 'picking up' Alec Guinness in a Men's Room.

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