La Habanera (1937) Review

Verdict: Mediocre

Good acting with an OK storyline.


Astree (Zarah Leander) and her aunt Ana (Julia Serda) visit Puerto Rico on a holiday, but as their boat takes off, Astree jumps ship to follow her heart to Don Pedro (Ferdinand Marian). Skip to ten years later, and we see that Astree has lived a miserable life, her only joy coming from her son Juan (Michael Shulz-Dornburg). When Dr. Sven (Karl Martell) and his partner Dr. Gomez (Boris Alekin) visit Puerto Rico in an attempt to cure the island of the fever, tensions rise as Don Pedro realizes Astree knows Dr. Sven. However, he will do whatever it takes to keep Astree and their son with him. Directed by Douglas Sirk.

The acting was good, and convincing enough . Ferdinand Marian as the jealous husband plays his part well, and does seem a little crazy. Zarah Leander as one of the leading actresses in Germany did well too, though I reckon most of her roles are similar in that she needs to act cool, and sing with her characteristic deep voice. Leander can be seen as a substitute for Marlene Dietrich who left for America, and Leander’s role here reminds me of Dietrich’s role in Blonde Venus. There are some similarities to both narratives as well as both women’s role as a mother. Karl Martell and Boris Alekin were pretty much the only ones who seemed to brighten up the film with their charismatic persona.

The story was interesting enough for the most part, though it is interesting to analyse the film in terms of Nazi propaganda. The Puerto Ricans are depicted as uncivilized, rough and corrupt, while the Swedish (ultimately the Germans) are seen in clean environments and depicted as rich, gentlemanly and having better technology. Plus, the son is the ideal image of an Aryan. Coincidence? I think not! (Leander’s character is established as Swedish so as to divert any accusations that this film is Nazi propaganda. I really didn’t think about this at all, but that is what my professor says, and it makes sense)

Though the ending does cause some confusion. Asteree says she has no regrets, but throughout the film she complains miserably about how she wasted her life there. Making the message at the end a little ambiguous.

To sum-up:
PROS: Acting, story
CONS: Propaganda, ambiguous ending

I give this a 6/10.

Have you seen La Habanera? Rate it out of 5 stars above or leave a comment below!


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