Screen City

Screen City

In the 1940s and ’50s, Havana was a movie-mad city, reportedly boasting more movie theatres than even New York. These included countless neighborhood houses, as well as some of the most elaborate movie palaces anywhere, ranging in architectural style from the classical (the Payret; 1,800 seats) to Art Deco (the Fausto; 1,669 seats), to modernist (the Karl Marx, formerly the Blanquita: 7,000 seats). Overwhelmingly, they showed Hollywood films.

Errol Flynn’s Ghost will offer a rare glimpse of Havana’s historic movie theatres, and the fascination with American culture they once embodied.

Among our stops will be the Cine Yara (above). Originally part of the Radio Centro complex, the Yara opened in 1947 as one the earliest examples of midcentury modernist architecture on the island. The theatre was operated by Warner Bros. and known for showing films in the Cinerama widescreen format. It is still considered one of Havana’s principal movie venues.

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Actors and Aliens

Actors and Aliens

In 2013, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the release of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), the National Archives at Riverside — which maintains thousands of federal records from Southern California, Arizona, and Clark County, Nevada — published the naturalization records of the film’s two leads, Errol Flynn (Robin) and Olivia de Havilland (Maid Marian).

We reproduce them here as a reminder that Golden Age Hollywood, so adept at exporting American culture around the globe, was an immigrant community, from the Eastern European moguls who founded the studios, to the German emigre directors of the 1930s and 1940s, to numerous other continental types who found work in front of and behind the camera.

Note, by the way, Flynn’s stated profession of “actor-author.” He wrote three books: Beam Ends (1937; an autobiographical account of his sailing exploits), Showdown (1946; an adventure novel), and My Wicked, Wicked Ways (1959; considered by many to be the classic Hollywood autobiography). And, of course, there were his journalistic stints, including his coverage of the revolution in Cuba.

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Print the Legend

Print the Legend

El Instituto Cubano de Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC), the Cuban film institute, was formed soon after the revolution in 1959. As part of its mission, ICAIC presents numerous screenings of Cuban and international films every year. For each film, a unique poster by a Cuban graphic artist is commissioned. The three featured here — for Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid (1921), Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948), and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) — demonstrate not only the visual inventiveness of the artists, but the enduring popularity of Hollywood films on the island.

These posters were part of the 2011 exhibit “Cuban Film Posters: From Havana to the World” at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California.

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A Foreign Affair

Noted author and Hollywood historian Scott Eyman explains just how important foreign distribution was to the Classical Hollywood studio system in the mid-20th century, comprising as much as 40 percent of its revenue. This interview was shot in Eyman’s West Palm Beach writing den, which contains one of the greatest collections of Hollywood literature and memorabilia we’ve ever stumbled across. (Luckily, we were able to keep our balance, and the cameras rolling.) Scott Eyman is the author of numerous best-selling books, including John Wayne: The Life and Legend, Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer, and Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille.

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Flynn’s Last Fling

Flynn’s Last Fling

Errol Flynn’s Ghost is inspired in part by a story that director/producer Gaspar González penned for Cigar Aficionado magazine in 2007. Titled “Flynn’s Last Fling,” it chronicled Flynn’s Cuban exploits, from filming the noir crime thriller The Big Boodle in Havana in 1956 to his role as a war correspondent covering the Cuban revolution.

Read  “Flynn’s Last Fling.”

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An Unlikely Observer

An Unlikely Observer

In 1958, Errol Flynn, his screen career mostly behind him, traveled to Cuba as a war correspondent to cover the advance of Fidel Castro’s rebels on Havana. As he always had in the movies, he ended up in the middle of the action.

Errol Flynn’s Ghost will chronicle this little-known episode in the life of Hollywood’s most famous swashbuckler, while delving into a related, equally overlooked phenomenon: the proliferation and cultural impact of Hollywood movies in Cuba from the earliest decades of the 20th century.

Weaving together film history, cultural analysis, and the real-life adventures of this legendary leading man, Errol Flynn’s Ghost will make an important contribution to our understanding of U.S.-Cuba cultural relations.

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