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PostCUBA: Fidel Castro's unpublicized talents - an urban legend? (John Eipper, USA, 05/30/05 5:04 am)
Randy Black wrote: Rita Hayworth put on her dancing shoes for You Were Never Lovelier (1942), the follow-up film to her first teaming with Fred Astaire, You'll Never Get Rich (1941). The film was originally titled Carnival in Rio before the setting was changed to Argentina, and the Argentine natives were played by a leading lady of Spanish descent and a Cuban bandleader, Xavier Cugat. Cugat wasn't the most famous Cuban on screen either. The 15-year-old Fidel Castro appeared as an unbilled extra.
Hank Greely smells a rat: This sounded so odd that I had to check it out. I couldn't confirm or deny it, but I have to say that I don't believe it. There are several web sites that say an uncredited Fidel Castro was an extra in this movie, filmed in 1942, and one site that shows him performing in another Hollywood movie, Holiday in Mexico, filmed in 1946. Both movies starred Xavier Cugat, a Cuban bandleader with a big following in the US.
The problem is that, although there is little information on the web about Castro's early life, I found no indication that he ever went to the United States a teenager - and You Were Never Lovelier was apparently filmed in Hollywood (not surprisingly, given that it was filmed during World War II). Castro would have been 15 or 16 at the time and, although his father was prosperous, as far as i can tell, he only sent Fidel to Jesuit schools in Havana, not to Hollywood. By 1946 (the date of the filming of Holiday in Mexico), Castro seems to have been in the University of Havana for a year.
My guess is that Xavier Cugat had as part of his band, or his entourage, a different Fidel Castro, and that somewhere along the line someone made the jump to identifying that Castro with Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz. If any WAISer owns Tad Szulc's 1986 biography of Castro, which seems to be still one of the more detailed (and highly regarded), he or she might be able to check to see if there is any sign that Castro went to Hollywood in 1942.
RH: We await clarification from WAIS Castrologists.