Cuba (film)

Cuba is a 1979 Technicolor film directed by Richard Lester and starring Sean Connery, portraying the build-up to the 1958 Cuban Revolution, filmed in Panavision.[1] [N 1] Neil Sinyard in his The Films of Richard Lester wrote that the film, "developed originally out of an idea of Lester's own, inspired by a conversation with a friend about great modern leaders. From there Lester's thoughts began to formulate in complex ways around Castro and Casablanca (1942) and out of that audaciously bizarre combination comes Cuba.[2]

Theatrical release poster
Directed byRichard Lester
Produced byArlene Sellers
Alex Winitsky
Written byCharles Wood
StarringSean Connery
Brooke Adams
Jack Weston
Hector Elizondo
Denholm Elliott
Martin Balsam
Chris Sarandon
Alejandro Rey
Lonette McKee
Music byPatrick Williams
CinematographyDavid Watkin
Edited byJohn Victor-Smith
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • December 21, 1979 (1979-12-21)
Running time
122 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$5.6 million


Former British Major and mercenary Robert Dapes (Sean Connery) arrives in Cuba under General Bello's (Martin Balsam) orders as part of the dictator Fulgencio Batista's forces. He is to train the Cuban army to resist Fidel Castro's revolt. Before he even begins his task, he encounters an old flame, Alexandra Lopez de Pulido (Brooke Adams), whom he repeatedly pursues. The plot winds around the tremendous wealth of the Cuban leaders, the mainly American tourists with their seemingly endless money, the poverty-stricken and ex-urban slums where many Cubans live, and the rum and cigar factory owned by Alexandra's selfish husband Juan Pulido (Chris Sarandon) and managed by Alexandra.

When Alexandra's husband takes her out and expects her to drink with a potential (factory) investor and his prostitute, she leaves the restaurant and meets Robert. Furious with her husband, she spends time with Robert, reminiscing about their affair in North Africa (when she was 15 and he was 30). They go to a motel and make love. They care for one another, but Robert will not stay in Cuba.

The following day, the Cuban workers strike, including those in Alexandra's factory. Robert is taken captive by several Cuban rebels which lead an attack against a military facility. Robert escapes, and alienated with the corrupt Cuban government that he has come to loath, aids the rebels in defeating the government troops.

Alexandra watches events pass by, believing life will soon return to normal. Robert begs her to leave, either to be with him or simply to escape Cuba. She refuses. Alex's husband is killed by the same Cuban rebel who stalked Robert throughout the film.

Ultimately, Robert, not seeing Alexandra at the airport, boards the aircraft to escape with other foreigners. Meanwhile, Alexandra is present, outside the fence, weeping as she watches Robert board the aircraft.

Robert and most of the other American, British, and wealthy Cubans flee from Cuba as Fidel comes to power while Alexandra remains behind, alone, to face an unknown future under the new communist government.



Cuba was shot in Spain in December 1978.[3]The same historical events were featured five years earlier in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather Part II and would be covered again by Sydney Pollack in his 1990 film Havana, starring Robert Redford. Lester's film was perhaps the most stylish of the three, aided by its stirring Spanish locations, "with a marvelous sense of atmosphere".[4]

Diana Ross was offered the female lead but turned it down. Brooke Adams, who had just received acclaim for Days of Heaven, was cast instead.[5]

The aircraft in Cuba are:


Cuba received mostly negative reviews from major critics, with the exception of the December 18, 1979 review in The Hollywood Reporter that praised the film’s “sense of authenticity of place” and its skillful inter-cutting of newsreel footage. While some critics mentioned the film’s pro-Castro stance, the reviewer explained that “the picture, while taking no position on Cuba today, makes appallingly clear the conditions that made Castro’s revolution inevitable.”[7] Another positive review came from film historian, Leonard Maltin who noted: "Director Lester is in pretty good form with most scenes punctuated by throwaway bits."[8]

The review of Cuba by Vincent Canby in The New York Times was more typical of the critical responses. He wrote "Richard Lester's 'Cuba', which is set in Cuba late in 1958, in the weeks immediately preceding the triumph of Fidel Castro's revolution, is a straight-faced romantic melodrama that's almost as lunatic as Mr. Lester's 'Help!' and 'How I Won the War', both written by Charles Wood, who also wrote the screenplay for the new film. I can't help but suspect that at some point during the production, which was shot in Spain, Mr. Lester and his associates decided that there was absolutely no way to realize the Harold Robbins-like potential of the story and chose, instead, to make a film that is a crazy fantasy about old-time Hollywood melodramas.[9]

Film critic Leslie Halliwell in Leslie Halliwell's Film Guide (1989) similarly reviewed Cuba, declaring " (an) aimless romantic melodrama which gets absolutely nowhere and might have been better played in the Casablanca-vein.[10]



  1. The film's sense of historical accuracy is marred by the opening scene which shows an airliner landing in Havana with the wrong date ("1959") superimposed on the screen. It should read "1958", the last year of the revolution. Cuban President Batista fled the capital on New Year's Day 1959, one week before Fidel Castro and his guerrillas entered Havana.


  1. Ferguson 2004, p. 257.
  2. LoBianco, Lorraine. "Articles: 'Cuba'(1979)." TCM, 2019. Retrieved: August 12, 2019.
  3. Mann, Roderick. "Blair's a Nice Girl, for a Change." Los Angeles Times, November 23, 1978, p. g21.
  4. Pfeiffer 2001, p. 185.
  5. Smith, Liz. "A Ford in Carey's future? Chicago Tribune, November 5, 1978, p. e2.
  6. Santoir, Christian. "Review: 'Cuba'." Aeromovies, September 22, 2012. Retrieved: August 12, 2019.
  7. "History: 'Cuba'." AFI, 2019. Retrieved: August 12, 2019.
  8. Maltin 2012, p. 305.
  9. Canby, Vincent. "Film: 'Cuba' in Richard Lester's eyes: mercenary madness." The New York Times, December 21, 1979.
  10. Halliwell 1989, p. 217.


  • Ferguson, Fiona. "Review: 'Cuba'. in Pym, John, ed. Time Out Film Guide. London: Time Out Guides Limited, 2004. ISBN 978-0-14101-354-1.
  • Halliwell, Leslie. Leslie Halliwell's Film Guide. New York: Harper & Roe, 1989. ISBN 978-0-06016-322-8.
  • Maltin, Leonard. Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide 2013. New York: New American Library, 2012 (originally published as TV Movies, then Leonard Maltin’s Movie & Video Guide), First edition 1969, published annually since 1988. ISBN 978-0-451-23774-3.
  • Pfeiffer, Lee and Phillip Lisa. The Films of Sean Connery. New York: Kensington Publishing Co., 2001. ISBN 978-0-80651-837-4.
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