Week-End in Havana Walter Lang

Company man Jay Williams (John Payne) is called to the Florida coast only days before his wedding. One of the company's cruise ships has been caught on a coral reef and he must get every passenger to sign waivers. He encounters resistance in the form of Nan Spencer (Alice Faye), a department store clerk who won't be satisfied until she is given her dream vacation. With the threat of a lawsuit, Williams takes Spencer to Havana and plies her with gambling money and a fine hotel. He even buys her romance in the form of the oleaginous Monte Blanca (Cesar Romero). This romance is further complicated when Monte's girl, dancer Rosita Rivas (a fruit-capped Carmen Miranda), makes eyes at Williams. By various turns of fate, Williams and Spencer become involved with one another. The efforts invested in this B-grade Walter Lang musical comedy, both in front of and behind the camera, are, at times, staggering and, at others, bewildering. Payne and Faye were only beginning their careers, and while she has the hardheaded charm of the "ditzy woman" characteristic of screwball comedies of the time, Payne's portrayal of the arriviste Williams seems to be channelling Cary Grant's uptight, straight-laced male ably. Their plain romance is dull in light of the fiery courtship between Romero and Miranda, whose dynamism redeems moments that might be otherwise uninspired. Lang would later direct some of the most memorable Hollywood musicals — Irving Berlin's Call Me Madam, Cole Porter's Can-Can and Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I. Taking advantage of Cuba's festive atmosphere, Lang walks the line between lurid exoticism and sincere panegyric. His Cuba is one of opportunistic con men and temperamental dancers, but with its lushly swaying palms and colourful city life it is hard not to be won over. The DVD features a still photo gallery, a trailer gallery and running commentary by historian/professor Jeanine Basinger. The disc merits a purchase for Romero's greasy performance alone. (Fox)