We Were Strangers (1949)

105-106 mins | Drama | May 1949

Director:

John Huston

Producer:

Sam Spiegel

Cinematographer:

Russell Metty

Editor:

Al Clark

Production Designer:

Cary Odell

Production Company:

Horizon Pictures
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HISTORY

The film's working title was Rough Sketch . When the film was released, some viewers protested that the picture was Communist propaganda. The HR review called it "the heaviest dish of Red theory ever served to an audience outside the Soviet" and "a shameful handbook of Marxian dialectics." In a 12 May 1949 LAEx article, the Los Angeles district of the Federation of Women's Clubs is quoted as saying to Columbia head Harry Cohn that the film "can certainly be interpreted as a call to direct action by revolution against today's governments that are friendly to the United States." Modern sources report a rumor that Gene Kelly was slated to star in the film. Director John Huston and producer Sam Spiegel, whose pseudonym was S. P. Eagle, were partners in Horizon ... More Less

The film's working title was Rough Sketch . When the film was released, some viewers protested that the picture was Communist propaganda. The HR review called it "the heaviest dish of Red theory ever served to an audience outside the Soviet" and "a shameful handbook of Marxian dialectics." In a 12 May 1949 LAEx article, the Los Angeles district of the Federation of Women's Clubs is quoted as saying to Columbia head Harry Cohn that the film "can certainly be interpreted as a call to direct action by revolution against today's governments that are friendly to the United States." Modern sources report a rumor that Gene Kelly was slated to star in the film. Director John Huston and producer Sam Spiegel, whose pseudonym was S. P. Eagle, were partners in Horizon Pictures. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
7 May 1949.
---
Daily Variety
22 Apr 49
p. 3.
Film Daily
21 Apr 49
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Apr 49
pp. 3-4.
Los Angeles Examiner
12 May 1949.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
30 Apr 49
p. 4589.
New York Times
28 Apr 49
p. 28.
Variety
27 Apr 49
p. 11.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCERS
Prod, Prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Miss Jones' cost by
MUSIC
Mus score
Mus dir
SOUND
Sd eng
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec scenes
MAKEUP
Hair styles
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the episode "China Valdez" by Robert Sylvester in his novel Rough Sketch (New York, 1948).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Rough Sketch
Release Date:
May 1949
Production Date:
30 August--26 October 1948
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
2 May 1949
Copyright Number:
LP2310
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
105-106
Country:
United States
PCA No:
13563
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1933, Cuba has suffered seven years of terror perpetrated by a regime of corrupt politicians led by President Gerardo Machado. Threatened by a growing revolutionary underground, the senate passes a bill making all public gatherings a crime. One day a group of students, including Manolo Valdes, is caught distributing anti-government leaflets and chased by the political police called the Porra. Manolo escapes, but one student is shot and captured. Manolo, fearful that his identity will be revealed, goes into hiding, but first arranges with his sister China to signal him if the police do not come for him. The following day, China indicates that all is well, but as Manolo enters the university, he is killed by the police while China watches in horror. Later, China joins the underground, determined to take revenge on her brother's killer. At one of the group's meetings, she meets Tony Fenner, an American, and volunteers to participate in his plan to assassinate the Cuban leadership. Her first assignment is to withdraw money from Tony's account at the bank where she works. That same day at the bank, Porra agent Armando Ariete asks to examine all American accounts. China recognizes him as the man who killed Manolo, but maintains her composure. Later, Tony reveals his plan: The volunteers, consisting of Guillermo Mantilla, Ramón Sánchez, Toto Berenguer and Miguel, will tunnel from China's house to the cemetery. Tony will then assassinate a popular member of the government, and while all the other government officials attend his funeral, will explode a bomb underground, killing all of them. China warns Tony that because Contreras, ... +


In 1933, Cuba has suffered seven years of terror perpetrated by a regime of corrupt politicians led by President Gerardo Machado. Threatened by a growing revolutionary underground, the senate passes a bill making all public gatherings a crime. One day a group of students, including Manolo Valdes, is caught distributing anti-government leaflets and chased by the political police called the Porra. Manolo escapes, but one student is shot and captured. Manolo, fearful that his identity will be revealed, goes into hiding, but first arranges with his sister China to signal him if the police do not come for him. The following day, China indicates that all is well, but as Manolo enters the university, he is killed by the police while China watches in horror. Later, China joins the underground, determined to take revenge on her brother's killer. At one of the group's meetings, she meets Tony Fenner, an American, and volunteers to participate in his plan to assassinate the Cuban leadership. Her first assignment is to withdraw money from Tony's account at the bank where she works. That same day at the bank, Porra agent Armando Ariete asks to examine all American accounts. China recognizes him as the man who killed Manolo, but maintains her composure. Later, Tony reveals his plan: The volunteers, consisting of Guillermo Mantilla, Ramón Sánchez, Toto Berenguer and Miguel, will tunnel from China's house to the cemetery. Tony will then assassinate a popular member of the government, and while all the other government officials attend his funeral, will explode a bomb underground, killing all of them. China warns Tony that because Contreras, the man he intends to kill, has a reputation for being better than the rest of the government, some members may object to his murder, but Tony will not make another choice. After the meeting, China and Tony, who have begun to fall in love, have breakfast and are seen by Ariete, who recognizes Tony's name from the bank. While work begins secretly on the tunnel, Ariete keeps close watch on China. One night, Ariete arrives at China's house, bringing food and flowers. Under the influence of too much rum, Ariete plays Russian roulette and then begs China to make love to him. Although Tony is prepared to intervene, Ariete passes out. As the digging continues, Ramon, a student, has second thoughts about killing Contreras when he remembers how, as a small boy, he used to play with his son. He becomes increasingly disturbed and wanders around the streets, begging people to prevent the murder. China and Guillermo find him, but he breaks away from them and is hit by a truck and killed. Later, at the bank, Ariete questions China about Tony, whose family was Cuban, and threatens to arrest her if she does not turn him in. Finally, the tunnel is completed, and Contreras is killed. Tony's plans fail, however, when Contreras' family decides to bury his body at a different cemetery. China offers to withdraw Tony's money from the bank so that he can leave the country, even though Tony, who is angry at his failure, does not want to leave. When China cashes Tony's check, she is fired, but before she leaves, she secretly gives the money to another employee to deliver to Tony. When she returns home, however, Tony is waiting for her, and when China tells him that Ariete is outside, he decides to die fighting and a gunfight ensues. Using dynamite that was intended for the bomb, Tony and China are able to drive the police away, but Tony is fatally wounded in the battle. Before he dies, however, he hears the city bells ringing, indicating that the revolution has begun. +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.