AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Affair in Havana
Director: Laslo Benedek (Dir)
Release Date:   Nov 1957
Duration (in mins):  77
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Cast: John Cassavetes  (Nick Douglas)
  Raymond Burr  (Mal Mallabee)
  Sara Shane  (Lorna Mallabee)

Summary: Nick Douglas, an American musician and composer, is working as a pianist in a hotel restaurant in Havana when Mal Mallabee and his wife Lorna invite him to their table. Mallabee, who is confined to a wheelchair as the result of a boating accident, has just returned from consultations about his condition in the U.S. Unknown to Nick and Lorna, Mallabee, a wealthy plantation owner and businessman, engaged a private detective, Rivero, to follow Lorna during his absence and is aware that she and Nick are engaged in an affair. Mallabee compliments Nick on his music then invites him to come to his plantation for a weekend fiesta featuring Cuban music. The next day, Mallabee and Lorna drive to their luxurious hacienda and are welcomed by his manservant, Manuel Valdes, and Valdes' wife Fina. Lorna, who has long been unhappy in her marriage, asks for a divorce and Mallabee agrees, but only if she will renounce all financial claims upon him and his companies. When Lorna refuses, Mallabee tells her she will just have to "wait around until he dies." Later, on the Mallabees' beach, Valdes, who is enamored with Lorna, shows her a hut he has built for her, then beats up an innocent fisherman who dares to speak to her. On the weekend, Nick arrives by bus from Havana, followed by Rivero. At the estate, when Nick and Lorna are alone, he asks her why she never told him that her husband is paralyzed. Nick is uncomfortable with both Mallabee's condition and Lorna's deception and wants to end their affair. Meanwhile, Rivero is showing Mallabee movies he has taken of Nick and Lorna together in different areas of Havana. That evening, Mallabee continues his tense cat-and-mouse game with Nick and Lorna and later, during the night, when Nick and Lorna meet on the beach, she tells Nick that she is sure that Mallabee knows about their affair. Although Nick agrees, they retire to her beach hut. Meanwhile, Mallabee places Rivero’s film in his safe with a note stating that, should his death result from other than natural causes, the film should be given to the police. The next day, Nick, Lorna and Mallabee go fishing on his launch and Mallabee attempts to recreate the crash that caused his paralysis. Because Lorna was at the wheel, Mallabee blames her for his condition. Nick grabs the wheel from Mallabee just in time to prevent the boat crashing onto rocks. Back at the mansion, Nick asks Lorna to leave with him. When Lorna agrees, Nick apologetically informs Mallabee of their decision. Mallabee then summons Lorna and, in front of Nick, tells her that, if she stays with him, she will shortly inherit twenty million dollars as his doctors have informed him that he will die within ninety days. If Lorna leaves, he will divorce her on grounds impossible to contest. Faced with this choice, Lorna tells the disillusioned Nick that she loves him, but will stay with her husband. Unable to return to Havana until after the fiesta, Nick joins the happy throngs. Mallabee is in his wheelchair at the side of his swimming pool, when he suggests to Lorna that perhaps the story about his imminent death was not true and that he simply wanted to humiliate her in front of Nick. Lorna reacts by saying that she hates him and wishes he were dead. The still-infatuated Valdes overhears this, rushes past Lorna and pushes Mallabee into the pool, then forcibly drowns him. Lorna runs to the fiesta and tells Nick she now wants to leave with him. However, the police arrive and ask them both to return to the mansion, where Mallabee's body and Rivero’s film have been discovered. The film implicates Nick and Lorna in Mallabee's murder, although both claim to have been at the fiesta at the time of his death. Lorna then accuses Valdes, who confesses to having killed Mallabee. After Fina charges Lorna with having incited her husband to kill Mallabee, Nick becomes uncertain of Lorna’s role in her husband’s death and leaves her. Lorna runs after him, but is followed by Fina, who stabs her to death. Later, Nick, now a wiser man, resumes his musical career.

Distribution Company: Allied Artists Pictures Corp.
Production Company: Dudley Pictures International Corp. of Cuba, S.A.
Director: Laslo Benedek (Dir)
  Mark Evans (Asst dir)
  Bud Justman (Asst dir)
Producer: Richard Goldstone (Prod)
Writer: Burton Lane (Scr)
  Maurice Zimm (Scr)

Subject Major: Cuba
  Femmes fatales
Subject Minor: Afro-Cuban music
  Americans in foreign countries
  Havana (Cuba)
  Home movies
  Plantation owners
  Private detectives

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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