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The Moviegoer

AT the Exeter

By Peter K. Solmssen

As in most of his pictures, John Garfield ends up with a bellyful of lead, dying in the heroine's arms, but in John Huston's highly publicized "We Were Strangers," he arrives at this condition in a new way. Garfield dies fighting for the people of Cuba in the revolution of 1933.

The movie rises to a high level of political drama in its presentation of life under tyranny, and the problems of the revolutionaries. Scenes showing elder statesmen forced to follow the dictator's will, and the dilemma of the underground in deciding whether its ends justify killing innocent people, are presented with great power. But these high points are not frequent enough to make "We Were Strangers" the artistically fine movie it tries to be. The film lacks any real characterizations, concentrating on its plot. This ends in an ironical twist which is not handled smoothly enough to be completely effective.

The story focuses on a small and successful part of the revolution. Garfield leads a band of Cubans in an intricate maneuver aimed at blowing up the president, vice-president, cabinet, and all the key officials with one bomb. The audience is constantly reminded that the government is extremely evil and that dynamiting its leaders is indeed an act of glorious patriotism.

The movie is hampered by occasional Hollywood cliches. There is the gangster type: the sinister leer over the villain's left shoulder and the final gun battle with the police surrounding Garfield and his girl; and the gay ending type: bells tolling and people dancing in the streets.

Except for her way of speaking, Jennifer Jones does a fine job as the young Cuban girl aiding the revolutionaries. John Garfield hasn't changed from any of his other pictures. Pedro Armendariz is a sufficiently frightening villain as the Chief of Police. All except Garfield try to show that they are Cubans by talking without slurs or contractions, but this is more annoying than convincing.

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