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Saturday, December 7, 2013

We Were Strangers (1949)

In 1933 Cuba, a group of revolutionaries (or terrorists depending on your point of view) use guerrilla tactics in an attempt to overthrow the repressive government of the Cuban dictator Gerardo Machado Y Morales. They include a Cuban born American (John Garfield), a bank clerk (Jennifer Jones), a dock worker (Gilbert Roland) and a student (David Bond). One of director John Huston's least known films, it came out at the wrong time. Its realistic and gritty (for 1949 Hollywood) portrait of underground rebels systematically targeting government officials in an attempt to topple the government didn't resonate too favorably with a nation where the House Of Un-American Activities was hauling people (including the film's star John Garfield) before them to testify their allegiance. The film has some nice attention to the little details (as days pass, the men actually get face stubble) which makes up for some of the poor rear projection though the lensing by the great Russell Metty (TOUCH OF EVIL) is quite good. Jones does nicely with a Cuban accent but most of the cast like Roland, Pedro Armendariz, Tito Renaldo, Jose Perez and Ramon Novarro are actually Hispanic which lends authenticity. The score is by George Antheil. Kennedy's assassin Lee Harvey Oswald watched this film twice the month before he shot Kennedy. Make of that what you will.

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