Cuba (1979)

R | 124 mins | Drama | 1979

Director:

Richard Lester

Writer:

Charles Wood

Cinematographer:

David Watkin

Production Designers:

Gil Parrondo, Philip Harrison

Production Company:

Holmby Film Corporation
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HISTORY

       An opening scene identifies the year as 1959. However, the historical events depicted actually took place in late 1958 in the weeks leading up to Fidel Castro’s takeover of Cuba, which occurred during the first week of Jan 1959.
       In production notes from AMPAS library files, director Richard Lester described Cuba as “a political film within which no one spoke about politics and a love story in which no one spoke about love.”
       According to a 3 Oct 1978 HR news item, the role of “Alexandra Pulido” was first offered to singer Diana Ross.
       A 13 Dec 1978 Var brief reported that principal photography began 27 Nov 1978 in the Andalusia province of Spain. Seventy-eight locations were utilized during approximately fifty-four days of filming. The $7 million production completed shooting 26 Jan 1979, as announced in a 7 Feb 1979 Var article. Post-production work took place at Twickenham Studios in London, England.
       As described in production notes, executive producer Denis O’Dell was influential in the decision to film in Spain, where he had extensive connections. He also had first-hand knowledge of the period setting, having spent ten weeks in Havana, Cuba, at the peak of the revolution. He stated that the film’s primary locations, the cities of Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz and Seville, depicted historical Cuban architecture more accurately than present-day Havana, which had changed dramatically since the revolution. Spain also offered sugar and tobacco factories, as well as palatial homes in Jerez de la Frontera to represent the mansions of “General Bello” and “General Batista.” The script called for ... More Less

       An opening scene identifies the year as 1959. However, the historical events depicted actually took place in late 1958 in the weeks leading up to Fidel Castro’s takeover of Cuba, which occurred during the first week of Jan 1959.
       In production notes from AMPAS library files, director Richard Lester described Cuba as “a political film within which no one spoke about politics and a love story in which no one spoke about love.”
       According to a 3 Oct 1978 HR news item, the role of “Alexandra Pulido” was first offered to singer Diana Ross.
       A 13 Dec 1978 Var brief reported that principal photography began 27 Nov 1978 in the Andalusia province of Spain. Seventy-eight locations were utilized during approximately fifty-four days of filming. The $7 million production completed shooting 26 Jan 1979, as announced in a 7 Feb 1979 Var article. Post-production work took place at Twickenham Studios in London, England.
       As described in production notes, executive producer Denis O’Dell was influential in the decision to film in Spain, where he had extensive connections. He also had first-hand knowledge of the period setting, having spent ten weeks in Havana, Cuba, at the peak of the revolution. He stated that the film’s primary locations, the cities of Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz and Seville, depicted historical Cuban architecture more accurately than present-day Havana, which had changed dramatically since the revolution. Spain also offered sugar and tobacco factories, as well as palatial homes in Jerez de la Frontera to represent the mansions of “General Bello” and “General Batista.” The script called for a dilapidated hotel in Havana, which writer Charles Wood named “Hotel Roma.” Production designer Gil Parrondo found such a hotel, which by coincidence was also named Hotel Roma and required no alterations for shooting purposes. Props proved to be a greater challenge. American artifacts that were part of the Cuba landscape during the late 1950s, such as automobiles, tanks, planes, and signage, had to be found in Spain or imported.
       Cuba received mostly negative reviews from major critics, with the exception of the 18 Dec 1979 HR which praised the film’s “sense of authenticity of place” and its skillful intercutting of newsreel footage. While some critics mentioned the film’s pro-Castro stance, the HR reviewer explained that “The picture, while taking no position on Cuba today, makes appallingly clear the conditions that made Castro’s revolution inevitable.”
      End credits include the following acknowledgment: "TV commercials courtesy of Celia Nachatovitz Diamant Memorial Library of Classic Television Commercials." End credits also include the written statement: "This motion picture was filmed entirely on location in Spain."
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Hollywood Reporter
3 Oct 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Dec 1979
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
21 Dec 1979
p. 58.
New York Times
21 Dec 1979
Section C, p. 16.
Variety
13 Dec 1978.
---
Variety
7 Feb 1979.
---
Variety
19 Dec 1979
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Winitsky-Sellers Production
Produced by Holmby Film Corporation
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam asst
Cam asst
Cam asst
Stills photog
Spec stills photog
Gaffer
Cam grip
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Const mgr
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Titles by
MAKEUP
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod coord
Casting dir
Casting dir
Casting dir
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Dir's secy
Pub dir
Prod accountant
Prod accountant
Prod accountant
Flying seq performed by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
DETAILS
Release Date:
1979
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 21 December 1979
Production Date:
27 November 1978--26 January 1979 in Spain
Copyright Claimant:
United Artists Corporation
Copyright Date:
29 January 1980
Copyright Number:
PA58664
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by Technicolor®
Lenses/Prints
Cameras and lenses by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
124
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
25600
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1958, former British military officer and counter-insurgency specialist, Major Robert Dapes, arrives in Havana, Cuba, as a mercenary. He has been hired by General Bello on behalf of the military dictator General Fulgencio Batista to help the Cuban army defeat Fidel Castro’s rebellion. Arriving on the same flight is American investor, Larry Gutman, who is met outside the terminal by elegant businesswoman, Alexandra Pulido. Robert thinks he recognizes her as a former lover, but her chauffeured car drives away as he calls out to her. Captain Ramirez, Robert’s military escort, informs him that she is married to a member of Cuba’s oldest and wealthiest families, the Pulidos. From the airport, Alexandra takes Gutman to the cigar factory she manages. In her absence, Juan Pulido, Alexandra’s philandering husband, has continued his affair with factory worker, Therese Mederos, and when Alexandra returns to the office, she notices a flirtatious exchange between them. While Juan escorts Gutman through the plant, Alexandra fires Therese. To impress Gutman, Juan shows him the scope of his family’s business, encompassing tobacco, sugar, and rum, and then introduces him to his father, the tycoon Don Jose Pulido. Don Jose informs Gutman that his daughter-in-law Alexandra is the real executive of the cigar factory while his son Juan would rather be a playboy. When Alexandra announces that she dismissed Therese, Juan appears unconcerned and promises to refrain from dallying with the staff. Meanwhile, Ramirez takes Robert to a luxurious, modern hotel, but Robert chooses to stay in less conspicuous, modest accommodations. After settling in, he meets with General Bello and emphasizes that strategy rather than ... +


In 1958, former British military officer and counter-insurgency specialist, Major Robert Dapes, arrives in Havana, Cuba, as a mercenary. He has been hired by General Bello on behalf of the military dictator General Fulgencio Batista to help the Cuban army defeat Fidel Castro’s rebellion. Arriving on the same flight is American investor, Larry Gutman, who is met outside the terminal by elegant businesswoman, Alexandra Pulido. Robert thinks he recognizes her as a former lover, but her chauffeured car drives away as he calls out to her. Captain Ramirez, Robert’s military escort, informs him that she is married to a member of Cuba’s oldest and wealthiest families, the Pulidos. From the airport, Alexandra takes Gutman to the cigar factory she manages. In her absence, Juan Pulido, Alexandra’s philandering husband, has continued his affair with factory worker, Therese Mederos, and when Alexandra returns to the office, she notices a flirtatious exchange between them. While Juan escorts Gutman through the plant, Alexandra fires Therese. To impress Gutman, Juan shows him the scope of his family’s business, encompassing tobacco, sugar, and rum, and then introduces him to his father, the tycoon Don Jose Pulido. Don Jose informs Gutman that his daughter-in-law Alexandra is the real executive of the cigar factory while his son Juan would rather be a playboy. When Alexandra announces that she dismissed Therese, Juan appears unconcerned and promises to refrain from dallying with the staff. Meanwhile, Ramirez takes Robert to a luxurious, modern hotel, but Robert chooses to stay in less conspicuous, modest accommodations. After settling in, he meets with General Bello and emphasizes that strategy rather than weapons will subdue the rebels. As the general grants him exclusive security clearance, Robert warns Bello that Castro will be difficult to defeat if the people are on his side. While visiting a military barracks, Robert sees the woman from the airport again and realizes that she is “Alex.” Robert interrupts her tennis game to say hello, but she discourages his greeting, stating that she is married now. During a reconnaissance patrol, Robert helps capture a rebel soldier as well as enemy documents. Despite this small gain, Ramirez tells Robert that he might have arrived too late to help the Cuban army win the larger battle. That evening, rebels ambush a formal dinner party hosted by General Bello and kill several high-society guests. Robert and Ramirez arrive immediately after the shooting and assist the wounded until ambulances arrive. Elsewhere in the city, Julio Mederos, an ambitious young rebel fighter, prepares to kill Juan Pulido for betraying his sister, Therese, but she tries to dissuade her brother. Meanwhile, at the Flamingo nightclub, Alexandra is angry with Juan for assuming that she would share a table with Gutman’s companion, a prostitute. When Robert arrives, she joins him at the bar, recalling fond memories of their passionate affair fifteen years ago. Robert is about to warn her of the recent massacre, but is interrupted by Juan’s appearance. As Alexandra introduces the two men, Robert notices Julio aiming a gun at them, reacts quickly, and they dodge the bullet. Ramirez runs after Julio, but is unable to catch him. After assisting the police investigation, Robert returns to the nightclub and finds Alexandra waiting for him. As dawn breaks, the former lovers stroll through Havana and reminisce. After sharing a kiss, they return to Robert’s hotel room and make love. Meanwhile, Juan is busy carousing with Therese. Elsewhere in Havana, Castro’s intelligence agent, Nunez, criticizes Julio for attempting an unnecessary assassination on Pulido. The agent tells the brash rebel that if he wants to kill, he should target someone more valuable and shows a photograph of Major Dapes. That morning, Rivero Agüero, a candidate backed by Batista, is announced as the new President of Cuba. At breakfast, Alexandra informs Robert that Agüero was not elected by the Cuban people, but was chosen by Batista. Recognizing that Alexandra is unhappy in her marriage, Robert invites her to leave Cuba with him. However, she reminds Robert that she has responsibilities at the factory and that she enjoys her luxurious lifestyle. As their conversation turns into an argument, she leaves. Meanwhile, rebels call for a nationwide strike on the radio, in protest of the rigged election. At the Pulido cigar factory, Alexandra is unable to prevent workers from leaving as the streets of Havana fill with protestors. Elsewhere, Cuban army soldiers detain Julio, along with other bus passengers, at a military checkpoint. As Ramirez and Robert arrive at the same barrier, Julio withdraws his concealed gun and fires at the soldiers. During his escape, Julio aims at Robert, but kills Ramirez instead. Robert then goes to the deserted cigar factory looking for Alexandra and finds Julio with a gun to her head. Threatening to kill Alexandra, Julio orders Robert to drive the three of them to Castro’s camp where Julio hopes to prove his worth as a revolutionary by handing over valuable hostages. Along the way, Castro’s guerrillas intercept the car. Alexandra and Robert are taken to a gasoline depot controlled by rebels and are detained with Cuban army soldiers. Unlike the thug Julio, Carrillo, one of Castro’s rebel leaders, does not want to kill the captives, but instead wants to convert them and win the revolution through strategy. When General Bello and his army counterattack to regain the depot, Robert tries to aide the rebels, realizing that the revolution is on the verge of toppling Batista’s corrupt government. Later, Robert drives Alexandra home and tells Juan that he is taking her away from Cuba. However, Alexandra argues that she feels like a pawn between the two men, and declares that she wants to remain in Cuba, asking Robert to stay with her. Frustrated, Robert leaves to make arrangements for departure, hoping that Alexandra will change her mind and meet him at the airport. As Alexandra drives her sports car to escape, Juan continues to indulge and behave as if nothing will change, but Julio sneaks onto the property and shoots him dead in the swimming pool. Later, at the airport, Robert, Gutman, and other foreigners, wait in the departure lounge for the last flights out of Cuba and watch as Batista and Don Jose Pulido easily flee the country on private planes. Before boarding, Robert leaves a ticket at the gate for Alexandra. She arrives in time, but instead of joining him, she watches as his plane prepares for departure. Tearful, she returns to Havana, where a crowd of cheering Cubans welcome Castro to power. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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