4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Cesar Romero’s high-fructose performance with Carmen Miranda

A Havana musical trio

Week-End in Havana: Carmen Miranda, 1941's answer to Sofia Vergara, and a prematurely black Cesar Romero take a turn.
Week-End in Havana: Carmen Miranda, 1941's answer to Sofia Vergara, and a prematurely black Cesar Romero take a turn.

Havana watch a trio of musicals set in pre-revolutionary Cuba. Care to join me?

Week-End in Havana (1941)

Out of the 480 steamship passengers stranded on a reef, Nan Spencer (Alice Faye), a hosiery salesgirl at Macy’s, is the only one who refuses to sign a waiver. Fearing a hefty lawsuit, cruise ship tycoon Walter McCracken (George Barbier) asks his vice president (and future son-in-law) Jay Williams (John Payne) to postpone his pending nuptials and fly to Cuba to play diplomat. McCracken orders Jay to stay by her side for the entire two weeks, even if it involves his “making love” to the unmarried and man-hungry Nan. With the exception of the opening piece — a travel agency window comes to life — the rest of the production numbers (including Carmen Miranda’s novelty tunes) play like a phonograph with pictures. Much of the sightseeing is limited to the brief lap-dissolve tour that greets our arrival and a subsequent tour of a sugar cane field. The film’s sweetest spot is the high-fructose performance by Cesar Romero as gigolo Monte, Miranda’s on-again, off-again lover and manager. Monte may be broke, but he can still afford to flick individually monogrammed cigarettes. Then again, indoors or out, to the ritzy Mr. Romero, the world was his ashtray. Walter Lang directs.

Club Havana (1945)

Once you are inside Club Havana, you will never leave. You can’t. Edgar G. Ulmer, King of the B’s, could afford only one set, thanks to the lack of budget supplied him by poverty-row PRC Studios producer Leon Fromkess. (Ulmer later confessed his love of the film to Peter Bogdanovich.) The director’s reputation for inventive efficiency preceded him the day Fromkess, a man without a screenplay, called Ulmer into his office and said, “OK, you say you can do things - shoot it without a script - invent it.” Ulmer gathered around him a cast that included future Detour star Tom Neal, Margaret Lindsay, Lita Baron, Ernest Truex, Marc “Johnny Cool” Lawrence, and Gertrude Michael, knocking it over the center field fence as Hetty the all-knowing powder room attendant. The challenge was to “make something special”; the four-day shoot resulted in a 62-minute variation on the M-G-M warhorse Grand Hotel. The set isn’t a patch on Metro’s boarding house for the high-falutin, but damn if Ulmer doesn’t make the most out of every inch of it. The cinematographer credit went to Benjamin Kline (Three Smart Saps, Munster, Go Home!), but it was Eugen Schüfftan (Eyes Without a Face, The Hustler) behind the lens. Not a card-carrying member of the American Society of Cinematographers, Schüfftan was denied screen credit. Who else but Ulmer would have the stylish audacity to end the film’s opening number in the back row of the darkened nightclub? A much more engaging and personal approach to storytelling than the film that inspired it, if for no other reason than its being half the length. Club Havana, like most of Ulmer’s oeuvre, has long been in the public domain. Find it on YouTube.

Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (2004)

Before I share my thoughts on Gidget Goes Cuban, allow me a brief moment of good-for-the-soul confession: I have never seen The Karate Kid or any of its sequels, I passed on all the Nightmare(s) on Elm Street, and with the exception of Havana Nights, I wanted no part of the Dirty Dancing dynasty. Why should this installment be different from all others? Because a friend suggested that my unapologetic affection for the Step-Up series made Havana Nights the unshirkable type of kitsch that guilty pleasures are made of. She was so right. Open with a laugh: “Based on True Events.” Set in November 1958, this does for the Cuban revolution what Roller Boogie did for disco-skating. Romola Garai stars as high school senior Katey Miller, a virtuous American teen intellectual who — along with her parents (Sela Ward and John Slattery) and younger sister (Mika Boorem) — migrates to Havana in late 1958. Not only does Katey fail to fit in with her racist American counterparts, she rattles their cages by falling in love with Javier Suarez (Diego Luna): busboy, prospective dancing partner, and future revolutionary. Believe it or don’t: this was originally intended as a searing political indictment. That was before the script was rewritten to the point of unrecognizability. Original scenarist Peter Sagal told This American Life that not one line of dialogue from his initial draft. (The finished product does, however include a riff on Animal House’s “Do you mind if I dance with your date.”) Thanks to its PG-13 rating, the dancing is more lightly soiled than downright dirty. Havana Nights has the feel of a film that’s been locked in a time capsule since 1960. (Back in the day, Connie Stevens would have played perky Juliet to John “Anglo” Saxon’s Mexican Romeo.) Predictability is part of its appeal; sit back and enjoy watching as the generic regularity falls in line.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

John Ashbery: classmate to Kenneth Koch and Frank O’Hara

Poems with disjunction of syntax, a prevalence of puns, whimsy and wit
Next Article

Ryan Bowers’ posthumous collaboration with Crhymes

“His fingers kept twitching. His sweaty head was a little shaky. His lips were moving, but no words were coming out.”
Week-End in Havana: Carmen Miranda, 1941's answer to Sofia Vergara, and a prematurely black Cesar Romero take a turn.
Week-End in Havana: Carmen Miranda, 1941's answer to Sofia Vergara, and a prematurely black Cesar Romero take a turn.

Havana watch a trio of musicals set in pre-revolutionary Cuba. Care to join me?

Week-End in Havana (1941)

Out of the 480 steamship passengers stranded on a reef, Nan Spencer (Alice Faye), a hosiery salesgirl at Macy’s, is the only one who refuses to sign a waiver. Fearing a hefty lawsuit, cruise ship tycoon Walter McCracken (George Barbier) asks his vice president (and future son-in-law) Jay Williams (John Payne) to postpone his pending nuptials and fly to Cuba to play diplomat. McCracken orders Jay to stay by her side for the entire two weeks, even if it involves his “making love” to the unmarried and man-hungry Nan. With the exception of the opening piece — a travel agency window comes to life — the rest of the production numbers (including Carmen Miranda’s novelty tunes) play like a phonograph with pictures. Much of the sightseeing is limited to the brief lap-dissolve tour that greets our arrival and a subsequent tour of a sugar cane field. The film’s sweetest spot is the high-fructose performance by Cesar Romero as gigolo Monte, Miranda’s on-again, off-again lover and manager. Monte may be broke, but he can still afford to flick individually monogrammed cigarettes. Then again, indoors or out, to the ritzy Mr. Romero, the world was his ashtray. Walter Lang directs.

Club Havana (1945)

Once you are inside Club Havana, you will never leave. You can’t. Edgar G. Ulmer, King of the B’s, could afford only one set, thanks to the lack of budget supplied him by poverty-row PRC Studios producer Leon Fromkess. (Ulmer later confessed his love of the film to Peter Bogdanovich.) The director’s reputation for inventive efficiency preceded him the day Fromkess, a man without a screenplay, called Ulmer into his office and said, “OK, you say you can do things - shoot it without a script - invent it.” Ulmer gathered around him a cast that included future Detour star Tom Neal, Margaret Lindsay, Lita Baron, Ernest Truex, Marc “Johnny Cool” Lawrence, and Gertrude Michael, knocking it over the center field fence as Hetty the all-knowing powder room attendant. The challenge was to “make something special”; the four-day shoot resulted in a 62-minute variation on the M-G-M warhorse Grand Hotel. The set isn’t a patch on Metro’s boarding house for the high-falutin, but damn if Ulmer doesn’t make the most out of every inch of it. The cinematographer credit went to Benjamin Kline (Three Smart Saps, Munster, Go Home!), but it was Eugen Schüfftan (Eyes Without a Face, The Hustler) behind the lens. Not a card-carrying member of the American Society of Cinematographers, Schüfftan was denied screen credit. Who else but Ulmer would have the stylish audacity to end the film’s opening number in the back row of the darkened nightclub? A much more engaging and personal approach to storytelling than the film that inspired it, if for no other reason than its being half the length. Club Havana, like most of Ulmer’s oeuvre, has long been in the public domain. Find it on YouTube.

Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (2004)

Before I share my thoughts on Gidget Goes Cuban, allow me a brief moment of good-for-the-soul confession: I have never seen The Karate Kid or any of its sequels, I passed on all the Nightmare(s) on Elm Street, and with the exception of Havana Nights, I wanted no part of the Dirty Dancing dynasty. Why should this installment be different from all others? Because a friend suggested that my unapologetic affection for the Step-Up series made Havana Nights the unshirkable type of kitsch that guilty pleasures are made of. She was so right. Open with a laugh: “Based on True Events.” Set in November 1958, this does for the Cuban revolution what Roller Boogie did for disco-skating. Romola Garai stars as high school senior Katey Miller, a virtuous American teen intellectual who — along with her parents (Sela Ward and John Slattery) and younger sister (Mika Boorem) — migrates to Havana in late 1958. Not only does Katey fail to fit in with her racist American counterparts, she rattles their cages by falling in love with Javier Suarez (Diego Luna): busboy, prospective dancing partner, and future revolutionary. Believe it or don’t: this was originally intended as a searing political indictment. That was before the script was rewritten to the point of unrecognizability. Original scenarist Peter Sagal told This American Life that not one line of dialogue from his initial draft. (The finished product does, however include a riff on Animal House’s “Do you mind if I dance with your date.”) Thanks to its PG-13 rating, the dancing is more lightly soiled than downright dirty. Havana Nights has the feel of a film that’s been locked in a time capsule since 1960. (Back in the day, Connie Stevens would have played perky Juliet to John “Anglo” Saxon’s Mexican Romeo.) Predictability is part of its appeal; sit back and enjoy watching as the generic regularity falls in line.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Fausto Celis’ hundred-dollar documentary

"The government can tell you whatever.... But the people will do whatever they want.”
Next Article

The “radical inclusiveness” of an openly LBGTQ+ pastor

To embrace the reality that faith is about action
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close