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Hollywood in Havana

US Cinema and Revolutionary Nationalism in Cuba before 1959

Hollywood in Havana

US Cinema and Revolutionary Nationalism in Cuba before 1959

From the turn of the twentieth century through the late 1950s, Havana was a locus for American movie stars, with glamorous visitors including Errol Flynn, John Wayne, and Marlon Brando. In fact, Hollywood was seemingly everywhere in pre-Castro Havana, with movie theaters three to a block in places, widely circulated silver screen fanzines, and terms like “cowboy” and “gangster” entering Cuban vernacular speech. Hollywood in Havana uses this historical backdrop as the catalyst for a startling question: Did exposure to half a century of Hollywood pave the way for the Cuban Revolution of 1959?

Megan Feeney argues that the freedom fighting extolled in American World War II dramas and the rebellious values and behaviors seen in postwar film noir helped condition Cuban audiences to expect and even demand purer forms of Cuban democracy and national sovereignty. At the same time, influential Cuban intellectuals worked to translate Hollywood ethics into revolutionary rhetoric—which, ironically, led to pointed critiques and subversions of the US presence in Cuba. Hollywood in Havana not only expands our notions of how American cinema was internalized around the world—it also broadens our view of the ongoing history of US-Cuban interactions, both cultural and political.

320 pages | 31 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2019   

Film Studies

History: Latin American History

Latin American Studies

Media Studies

Political Science: Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, and International Relations


Hollywood in Havana is thoughtful in its conception, astute in its argument, ambitious in its research, and elegant in its articulation. Feeney’s argument—that the values and behaviors seen in Hollywood films from the first half of the twentieth century positioned Habaneros to demand new and revolutionary rights and privileges—is original and compelling. This book’s transnational border-crossing style is particularly effective and exceedingly relevant as the United States begins to normalize relations with Cuba. Feeney engages with representation, history, criticism, politics, and economics, creating a truly interdisciplinary work.”

Ann Marie Stock, College of William & Mary

“A significant contribution to our evolving understanding of how audiences outside the United States localized American cinema. Hollywood in Havana is well written and well researched, offering an intriguing addition to our knowledge of the cultural relationship between the US and Cuba.”

Laura Isabel Serna, University of Southern California

“A rich and detailed history. . . This book is an impressive accomplishment. It sheds new light on a long overlooked period of film history in Cuba, while also contributing to a growing scholarship on cinema exhibition and reception outside of the Global North. Well-researched and engaging, Feeney’s book will be an important touchstone for scholars of Cuban and Latin American cinema and history and for all those interested in reevaluating the global impact of Hollywood.”

The Americas

"Megan Feeney’s chronological study of the reception of Hollywood cinema and its accompanying values in Cuba, 1897–1958, is diligently researched and intelligently articulated."

New West Indian Guide

"Hollywood in Havana charts the ebb and flow of Cuban-US relations across a series of major historical events, tracking how these relations were mediated through the local consumption of Hollywood film."

Journal of Cinema and Media Studies

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations of Frequently Cited Sources

Introduction Looking Up: Hollywood and Revolutionary Cuban Nationalism

1 The Film Business That Unites: Early US Cinema in Havana, 1897–1928
2 Teaching Eyes to See: The Advent of Cuban Film Criticism, 1928–1934
3 Our Men in Havana: Hollywood and Good Neighborly Bonds, 1934–1941
4 You Are Men! Fight for Liberty! Hollywood Heroes and the Pan-American Bonds of World War II
5 Breaking the Chains: Hollywood Noir in Postwar Havana, 1946–1952
6 Rebel Idealism: Hollywood in Havana during the Batistato, 1952–1958
Epilogue The Show Goes On: Hollywood in Havana after 1958


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