“We Were Strangers” is a 1949 American adventure drama film directed by John Huston and starring Jennifer Jones, John Garfield, and, Pedro Armendariz. Huston directed the film between two box office successes: “The Treasure of Sierra Madre” (1948) and “The Asphalt Jungle” (1950). According to Huston, Jennifer Jones needed him to tell her where to walk, where to sit, how to behave in any situation.
Set in 1933, the film concerns a group of revolutionaries attempting to overthrow the Cuban government of Gerardo Machado. The story is based loosely on an episode in Robert Sylvester's novel “Rough Sketch” and draws on historical events.
Peter Viertel wrote the screenplay with Huston. Ben Hecht worked on it, too – however uncredited. Viertel, by the way, describes in a chapter of his book “Dangerous Friends” how he and John Huston worked on the screenplay, including two weeks in Cuba with Ernest Hemingway. According to Viertel, Hemingway suggested ending the film as it occurred in reality: with the death of the revolutionaries. Instead, an alternative ending was supplied by Ben Hecht.
Hecht’s association with this project may be the reason why George Antheil was hired to compose the original score, as both, Hecht and Antheil were friends, and, Antheil had already scored almost all of Hecht’s own directorial efforts.
Apparently, Antheil composed not a very long score for Huston’s film, at least, there is not that much of it to be heard. Ernest Gold orchestrated the score, and, Morris Stoloff conducted the Columbia Pictures Orchestra. Most of Antheil’s score is buried under dialogue or heavy sound effects. There are only few moments where the music really shines through. This is the reason why it was not possible to compile a longer suite to present this score without too much of dialogue and sound effects.
Released in April 1949, “We Were Strangers” flopped at the box office. The film received mixed reviews. It proved to be as controversial as Huston had anticipated from the beginning. The Hollywood Reporter complained about its politics on display: "a shameful handbook of Marxian dialectics... the heaviest dish of Red theory ever served to an audience outside the Soviet". The Communist Party's Daily Worker thought it was "capitalist propaganda." American audiences seemed perplexed by the film as well. Its largely Hispanic cast did not resonate with white Americans either. The film was withdrawn from theaters shortly after its release.
Synopsis: “In 1930's Cuba, a bank clerk and an American mercenary assist a revolutionary group in a plan to kill the President but the Cuban Secret Police chief and the dictator's military complicate the plan's execution.”
One trivia note: At the time depicted in this film, the Cuban peso was at par with the U.S. dollar. The 2,000 peso check would be the equivalent of about $40,000 in 2021.