Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fidel Castro, Movie Star

Fidel Castro and his American nemesis, Ronald Reagan, have one thing in common. Both men had a film career. Reagan's time as a movie star is well known to even the most casual of old movie fans, but Fidel's one film, one line career certainly qualifies as forgotten Hollywood history.

Havana in the 1940s and fifties was a hot spot for the Hollywood crowd. With it's proximity to the United States, favorable exchange rate, rum, cigars and pretty women, it attracted both the film elite, as well as it's hustlers. Jerry Beeker, a talent scout with Paramount, was vacationing in Havana when he spotted a tall, athletic, and still clean shaven Fidel Castro at a night club. Introducing himself, he gave the young Castro his card and invited him to the United States for a screen test.

A few weeks latter, with the blessings of his parents, Fidel Castro boarded the ferry that would take him to Key West, just ninety miles away, in Florida. After catching a train for the west coast, Fidel was soon in Jerry Beeker's Paramount office. Needing a Latin lover type to deliver a single line in the soon to be completed production, Havana After Midnight, Fidel was cast as a Cuban gigolo. And his line, "Si Yanqui. Havana has the most beautiful and hot blooded women in the world. You'll like it here."

With only a few days until wrap, Fidel took a room in one of downtown Los Angeles's transient hotels. When the studio told him that his line had been cut, he went to the office of film editor Barney Pockler and demanded to know why he had been left on the cutting room floor.

For years, before his death, Pockler would tell this story. "This guy shows up in my editing bay, yelling about how Beeker had promised him he was going to be a movie star. I said, listen Ace. I called everyone Ace back then. It wasn't my decision to cut your scene. The director looked at the dailies and decided you was a stiff. So snip, snip and you're gone. End of story. When he got to the door, the little grease ball turned around and told me that he had always loved America, but not anymore, and that we was all going to regret it. I always figured that if we hadn't cut the guys line, maybe there wouldn't have been a Bay of Pigs. I know when we all thought the Cubans was going to hit us with them Russian missiles, I kept thinking I might have killed myself."

Castro returned to Cuba. In 1953 he was arrested after his failed assault on the Moncado military barracks. Six years latter he would over throw the American backed government of Fulgencio Batista. In 1963, the CIA confiscated Castro's out takes. They haven't been seen since.

4 comments:

  1. Great story. Thanks for publishing it.

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  2. Castro has been an actor for a long time. He was close to the Batista regime by marriage.Of course he tried to overthrow his gravy train. He honeymooned for months in New York and tried out for the Washington Senators baseball club. Then he became a guerrilla jungle fighter out of the blue.Quite a story line he has and he still wears his costume while playing his part.

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  3. well he finally died, yes dead now,hallelujah finally. hope hes in hell getting poke on the butt with a hot pitch fork, for eternity. maybe now the cuban people will see democracy at work in their country.

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