In the 1959 film, Cuban Rebel Girls, Errol Flynn (playing himself) flies down to Cuba. The time is shortly before the Cuban Revolution. (From a cinematic point of view, Flynn is in Havana at the same time as Hyman Roth and Michael and Fredo Corleone in The Godfather, Part II.) Flynn has been hired by the Hearst newspaper syndicate to go down to Cuba and do a report on Fidel Castro. Flynn narrates the film and tells us that he was very sympathetic to Castro and his cause….
OH MY GOD, ERROL FLYNN WAS A COMMUNIST!
Well, maybe not. If you actually go back and read contemporary reports about the Cuban Revolution, you’ll see that a lot of Americans had a romanticized view of Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries. Everyone seemed to agree that the president of Cuba, Batista, was a dictator and he needed to be forced out of power. Castro, himself, didn’t fully and openly declare himself to be a hardline communist until after he had already taken over Cuba. In Cuban Rebel Girls, someone mentions that Fidel was “always looking out for the little guy” and that’s the attitude that this film takes. At the time the film was made, it can legitimately be said that Flynn had no way of knowing that Fidel Castro would eventually reveal himself to be despotic dictator. (For more infuriating, to me, are the people who have continued to defend the Castros up until this day.)
Fidel Castro, himself, doesn’t actually appear until the very end of Cuban Rebel Girls and, even then, it’s just newsreel footage of him riding a tank through Havana. (Che Guevara does not show up at all. He may have been busy shopping for berets, I don’t know.) That said, the film was actually shot in Cuba and it does feature footage of Errol Flynn meeting actual Cuban rebels. This was also Errol Flynn’s last film and, for the most part, he looks terrible. Though the film’s poster may feature a suave-looking Errol Flynn holding a gun, the film actually features a noticeably overweight and often out-of-breath Errol Flynn who really doesn’t do much other than sit around and listen to other people talk.
(That said, Flynn’s voice over narration does have the occasional moment of charm. When he meets one of the rebel girls of the title and he kisses her hand, he jokes that he was relieved to see that he hadn’t totally lost “the Flynn touch.” Flynn delivers the line with just enough self-depreciation that it’s charming rather than creepy.)
The majority of the film doesn’t actually involve Flynn. Instead, it involves two girls from New York — Beverly (Beverly Aadland) and Jacqueline Dominguez (Jackie Jackler) — who want to help out the revolution. Jacqueline is from Cuba, went to high school with Fidel, and her brother is currently a part of the revolution. Beverly, meanwhile, is convinced that she’ll find the man that she loves in jungles of Cuba. Beverly explains that she doesn’t know much about Castro or Batista. That’s for others to worry about! Jacqueline assures her that, even in high school, “the big jerk” was always looking out for people.
Anyway, Beverly and Jacqueline raise some money from their friends and then decide to smuggle it into Cuba so that the guerrillas can use it to buy weapons. What follows is a lot of intrigue and sneaking around as Beverly and Jackie try to avoid Batista’s secret police and help out the guerrillas. And, of course, when I say “a lot,” what I actually mean is “next to none.” For two people who don’t really come across as being particularly smart, Jacqueline and Beverly certainly don’t have much trouble sneaking around Cuba.
(That said, there are enough references to Batista’s secret police to justify reviewing the film as a part of the 18 Days of Paranoia. Take my word for it. Or watch the movie on YouTube, where it’s available under the name Assault of the Rebel Girls.)
Anyway, this is a weird movie, along with also being a really cheap movie. Beverly Aadland was apparently Errol Flynn’s protegee. She also wasn’t a very good actress. (Jackie Jackler does a little bit better in the acting department, though not by much.) That said, as a film partially shot in Cuba during the days leading up to the revolution, this is an interesting historical document. And, for some people, just the fact that it’s a pro-Castro film from Errol Flynn (!) will be enough to justify sitting through it.
(Seriously, a celebrity defending a communist? That’s like a major news outlet or a bunch of basketball players going out of their way to defend the Chinese government. It just doesn’t make sense….)
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