Last night I went to see Carol Reed and Graham Greene‘s Our Man in Havana (’59) at the Aero. A dryly amusing, mild-mannered timepiece. Intelligently written by Greene, pleasantly assembled. Handsomely shot in widescreen black-and-white (those old cobblestoned streets of Havana look wonderful under streetlights), although everyone is unfortunately affected with the CinemaScope mumps. It was filmed in Havana two months after Fulgencio Batista was overthrown by Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution. (Warning: Trailers From Hell tour guide John Landis says it was shot during Batista’s regime and that Batista visited the shoot — in fact Castro and Che Guevara visited.) Alec Guinness in his prime, Ernie Kovacs, Noel Coward, Maureen O’Hara, Ralph Richardson, Burl Ives, etc. The sort of light-hearted, old-school, mid 20th Century film that was all but eradicated by the cultural upheavals and radical passions of the ’60s and all that followed.
Original author and screenwriter Graham Greene: “The book did me little good with the new rulers in Havana. In poking fun at the British Secret Service, I had minimized the terror of Batista’s rule. I had not wanted too black a background for a light-hearted comedy, but those who suffered during the years of dictatorship could hardly be expected to appreciate that my real subject was the absurdity of the British agent and not the justice of a revolution.”