La Habanera (1937)

Directed by: Douglas Sirk
Written by: Gerhard Menzel
Music by: Lothar Brühne
Distributed by: Universum Film AG
Release dates: December 18, 1937 (Germany)
Running time: 100 minutes
Country: Germany
Language: German

Starring:

Zarah Leander: Astrée Sternhjelm
Ferdinand Marian: Don Pedro de Avila
Karl Martell: Dr. Sven Nagel
Julia Serda: Ana Sternhjelm
Paul Bildt: Dr. Pardway
Edwin Jürgensen: Shumann
Boris Alekin: Dr. Luis Gomez
Carl Kuhlmann: prefect
Michael Schulz-Dornburg: Juan
Rosita Alcaraz: Spanish dancer
Lisa Helwig: old servant
Géza von Földessy: chauffeur
Werner Finck: Mr. Söderblom

Plot:

Astrée and her aunt from Sweden are vacationing in Puerto Rico. Astrée is enchanted by the local habanera music as well as by Don Pedro de Avila, a rich and powerful landowner and former bullfighter. Upon embarkation, she spontaneously decides to stay; she runs down the gangway, finds him waiting for her, and soon is married.

Ten years later – it is now 1937 – Astrée finds herself trapped in an unhappy marriage. Her paradise has turned to hell; her son, Juan, is her only reason to stay. Meanwhile, in Stockholm, Dr. Sven Nagel, a former lover of Astrée, and his associate, Dr. Gomez, bid farewell. They are departing for Puerto Rico to investigate the mysterious and deadly Puerto Rico fever. On the island, their arrival is met with dismay by Don Pedro and his business associates as they fear the focus on the Puerto Rico fever will depress their business, so they plan to deny its existence. An earlier attempt by researchers from the Rockefeller Institute to find a cure had been a failure, and the resulting publicity had depressed the local economy and resulted in widespread famine.

Once in Puerto Rico the two investigators, receiving no local support, proceed to conduct their studies on their own in the hotel room. Meanwhile, Astrée has a fall-out with her husband about their son. He wants him to learn about bullfighting, while she has been teaching him about snow and Sweden. Thus Don Pedro decides to take the education of Juan out of her hands. Astrée in response books a passage to leave Puerto Rico with her son to return to Sweden. Meanwhile, the Puerto Rico fever is starting to claim its first victims, and Drs. Nagel and Gomez search for a cure secretly.

Don Pedro learns about Astrée’s plans and suspects that Dr. Nagel is involved. He invites him for a soiree to have an opportunity to have his hotel room searched and gain evidence against him for his arrest and deportation. Thus at the soiree Dr. Nagel and Astrée meet and fall in love again. Astrée sings La Habanera presumably for her husband, but the song declares her love for the doctor. Don Pedro learns that the hotel room has provided the evidence to arrest Dr. Nagel. About to do so, he falls acutely ill. Dr. Nagel diagnoses Puerto Rico fever and calls for his newly developed antidote from his hotel room. However, it has been destroyed in the raid on his room; Don Pedro “dug his own grave” and dies. Astrée is free to return with her lover and son to Sweden.

la-habanera

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