Musical Monday: Holiday in Havana (1949)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Holiday in Havana (1949) – Musical #712

holiday in havana

Studio:
Columbia Pictures

Director:
Jean Yarbrough

Starring:
Desi Arnaz, Mary Hatcher, Ann Doran, Steven Geray, Sig Arno, Ray Walker, Minerva Urecal, Nacho Galindo

Plot:
When the night club’s singer quits and follows his girlfriend, a bus boy who wants has dreams of leading his own band, Carlos (Arnaz), gets his chance to perform. The band hopes for a woman to sing and dance with them, and popular singer Lolita (Hatcher) is recommended. However, after a misunderstanding with Lolita, Carlos turns it down, believing that she is rude. However, Lolita (under the name Dolores) does perform with the band and the two fall in love.

Trivia:
• The songs featured in the film “Holiday in Havana” and “The Arnaz Jam” were written by Desi Arnaz
• Working title was “Night in Havana.”
• Desi Arnaz’s last feature film before transitioning to television in “I Love Lucy.” His next feature film would be in 1954.

Highlights:
• The carnival footage

Notable Songs:
• “Rumba Rumbero” performed by Desi Arnaz
• “I’ll Take Romance” performed by Mary Hatcher
• “The Straw Hat Song” performed Desi Arnaz
• “Holiday in Havana” performed by the Desi Arnaz, Mary Hatcher, chorus
• “Made for Each Other” performed by Desi Arnaz

holiday in havana2

My review:
Today, Desi Arnaz is mainly known as half the duo that starred in the television show “I Love Lucy.” Prior to the show, Arnaz was a musician who had his own band, The Desi Arnaz Orchestra. He also had a brief film career prior to “I Love Lucy” from 1940 to 1949.
His last film before primarily transitioning to television was HOLIDAY IN HAVANA (1949), and it was one of his few leading film roles during this time.

In the film, Arnaz plays Carlos, a nightclub bus boy who has dreams of becoming a bandleader and playing the music he wrote. He also hopes popular singer Lolita (Hatcher) will sing his music. While trying to convince Lolita to sing his music — talking to her through a door — he doesn’t realize he’s actually talking to her mother. So when the woman insults Carlos, he holds a grudge against Lolita, thinking it was her. Carlos gets his big opportunity to perform when the nightclub’s band and singer walks out, but when he’s offered Lolita to perform with him, he says no out of anger. Little does he know that Lolita is just a stage name and Dolores (her real name) tags along with the band as they travel to the next gig. Carlos and Dolores (or Lolita) fall in love … little does he know who she is.

HOLIDAY IN HAVANA (1949) was called a “bargain basement musical” by film historian Leonard Maltin, which may be true, but it still holds a certain charm.

In this film, we get to experience Desi Arnaz’s charism and talent in a way we don’t get to in other films like, FOUR JACKS AND A JILL (1942). Arnaz especially shines when he sings. Wow. His performances of “Rumba Rumbero” and “The Straw Hat Song” where he gets to both sing and dance are especially fun.

Mary Hatcher is a pleasant leading lady with a lovely operatic voice, though a weak leading lady in this film.

But perhaps I only had eyes for Arnaz who lit up the screen.

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