We Were Strangers
|We Were Strangers|
|Directed by||John Huston|
|Produced by||Sam Spiegel|
|Written by||John Huston
Robert Sylvester (novel)
|Music by||George Antheil|
|Edited by||Al Clark|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures
In between making the classics Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) and The Asphalt Jungle (1950), John Huston made "We Were Strangers." The film was released in April 1949 at the beginning of the HUAC Committee hearings on communist infiltration in the U.S.A. It received mixed reviews, and soon vanished from theaters. American audiences were perplexed by it, its largely Hispanic cast did not resonate with white Americans, and its shocking presidential assassination theme may have offended some sensibilities.
Based on the overthrow of Cuban dictator Gerardo Machado y Morales in 1933, the story is about a group of revolutionaries who plot to bring down their corrupt government. China (pronounced Cheena) Valdez witnesses her brother's murder after he distributes leftist pamphlets and vows that she will kill his assassin. At his funeral, however, she is persuaded to join an underground group whose moves are more carefully orchestrated. China's house is next door to a cemetery and the leader of the group (John Garfield) devises a scheme to assassinate an official whose family plot is in the cemetery and detonate a bomb at the man's funeral thereby killing as many officials as possible. To do this, they must dig a tunnel from China's house to the cemetery. Much of the movie focuses on the digging of the tunnel while Garfield and Jones develop a romantic interest in each other. The film climaxes with a violent shoot-out sequence.
The supporting players include Pedro Armendariz as the corrupt police chief, and former silent stars Gilbert Roland and Ramon Novarro as members of the resistance. John Huston makes a cameo appearance as a bank teller. Many of the film's outdoor scenes were shot against rear projections, which are quite noticeable. The film, however, achieves an almost documentary-like feel with its stark black-and-white photography. The film was evidently unavailable for viewing for decades; an indication of its long "shelved" status is that it was only made available for domestic video sale in 2005, two decades after almost all of John Huston's other films were made available.
- Jennifer Jones as China Valdés
- John Garfield as John Fenner
- Pedro Armendáriz as Armando Ariete
- Gilbert Roland as Guillermo Montilla
- Ramon Novarro as Chief
- Wally Cassell as Miguel
- Tito Renaldo as Manolo Valdés
- David Bond as Ramón Sánchez
- José Pérez as Toto
- Morris Ankrum as Mr. Seymour, bank manager
Huston originally wanted to cast then-unknown Marilyn Monroe for a part.
Claimed "copycat" effect on Lee Harvey Oswald
According to Priscilla Johnson McMillan's 1977 book, Marina and Lee, a dual-biography of the fated young couple, two weeks after the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963, investigators learned that Lee Harvey Oswald had watched We Were Strangers on television in October that year, and McMillan claims that Oswald had been "greatly excited" while watching the film.
- We Were Strangers at Rotten Tomatoes
- We Were Strangers at the Internet Movie Database
- We Were Strangers at AllMovie