We Were Strangers

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We Were Strangers
We Were Strangers poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by John Huston
Produced by Sam Spiegel
Written by John Huston
Peter Viertel
Based on China Valdez
1948 novel Rough Sketch 
by Robert Sylvester
Starring Jennifer Jones
John Garfield
Pedro Armendáriz
Gilbert Roland
Music by George Antheil
Cinematography Russell Metty
Edited by Al Clark
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Horizon Pictures
Release dates
  • April 27, 1949 (1949-04-27)
Running time
106 minutes
Country United States
Language English

We Were Strangers is a 1949 adventuredrama film directed by John Huston and starring Jennifer Jones and John Garfield.

The film, set in 1933, concerns a group of revolutionaries attempting to overthrow the Cuban regime. The story is based loosely on Robert Sylvester's novel Rough Sketch.[1]

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.[citation needed] American audiences were perplexed by it[citation needed], its largely Hispanic cast did not resonate with white Americans[citation needed], and its shocking presidential assassination theme may have offended some sensibilities[citation needed].


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 (Jennifer Jones) 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 Fenner (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.


Huston originally wanted to cast then-unknown Marilyn Monroe for a part.

Production notes[edit]

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.

Claimed "copycat" effect on Lee Harvey Oswald[edit]

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.[citation needed]


External links[edit]