Week-End in Havana (1941)
It’s films such as this one that make me wish I could have seen Havana in it’s golden days. If only life were as lovely as a Fox film inTechnicolor. The color, the music—all lovely.
I am ashamed to say in my early days of film watching, I sometimes confused Week-End in Havana with Romance on the High Seas. There’s this lovely scene in the latter that I wish was in the beginning of Havana. Doris Day’s character goes to a travel agency (clearly something she does often) and looks up various trips she can take once she’s saved enough money. Everyday it’s the same thing. It’s this scene that confused everything for me, because as both films start on a cruise ship and there the similarities end other than the lavish technicolor in both films. Still, the hopes and expectations of what a cruise would entail and potential romances aboard drives both films.
Week-End in Havana centers on Nan Spencer (Alice Faye), a clerk in the lingerie department at Macy’s, is asked to sign a waver after the cruise ship she’s on is in an accident and she’s privy to why the accident occurred. In return for her signature on a waver for Jay Williams (John Payne), Nan decides that she must be sent to Havana right away and be assured of a good time. Williams tries to entertain her the best he knows how, but realize quickly that the fellow who tried to pick her up (Cesar Romero) at a nightclub might be a more suitable choice despite his character. To make things more complicated, Monte (Romero) is involved with Rosita Rivas (Carmen Miranda) who becomes jealous of the blonde. Jay Williams should be in New York getting married, but finds himself tied up in Havana a bit longer than he had bargained for.
Alice Faye generally plays women who are modest though peppy, but Nan Spencer wants to have fun. It’s not all fun and games though, because she’s got the timing for comebacks that Ginger Rogers does in this film. John Payne steps out of character a bit from his roles where he plays the fellow always trying to get ahead at the cost of others, to a man always trying to get ahead at the loss of his personality—always hiding behind a pair of reading glasses. Alice made five films with John Payne within four years. The first, was Tin Pan Alley, was released in 1940, Week-End in Havana and The Great American Broadcast found release dates in 1941 and The Gang’s All Here and Hello, Frisco, Hello came out in 1943. Payne switched off a bit as a leading man with Don Ameche.
Carmen and Cesar add the prescribed Latin flavor to the film. The dialogue is lovely though tainted with American views of Latin culture at times. It’s fairly easy to forgive when Cesar Romero and Carmen Miranda have their battles. I cringe at the thought of Carmen butchering the English language for show so when in reality she was a very intelligent woman—one of the top money makers in the business. Bananas ‘is’ her business. They’re lovable characters you really want to like in the end.
The music is lovely. Carmen Miranda has four solo numbers, quite a lot considering this was only her second film and her second film with a substantial part. Substantial enough to give her billing above the title along with Alice Faye, John Payne, and Cesar Romero. Week-End in Havana was released the same year That Night in Rio and where she played a similar role—jealous nightclub singer, still—it works. She sings “Week-End in Havana,” “Rebola a Bola (Embolada),” “When I Love, I Love,” “The Ñango,” and a short reprise with the main cast members.
Alice Faye has two songs and a reprise or tw0—her solos are “Romance and Rhumba” and “Tropical Magic.” The latter she does as a duet with John Payne later in the film. Alice’s version of “The Man with the Lollypop Song” was left on the cutting room floor, but the footage still exists and is included on the DVD.
Everything about this film is luscious in grand 20th Century Fox style. Great music makes it enjoyable to watch on a rainy day when you want to be transported to beautiful Havana. Fox has remastered the film beautifully, as it seems to take great care with all of it’s Alice Faye films. It is much appreciated by fans such as myself and it only makes it that much easier to spend a few hours in Hollywood-ized Havana of yore in the midst of Romero, Miranda, Payne and Faye.