Scene 5: New York, February 1898
On early war films Filming, faking and propaganda: The origins of the war film, 1897-1902
“Mr. Crane’s Vivid Story” Scene 6 The Cuban Countryside, February 1898
The Cuban rebels—gaunt and tired—are impassively hunched around their tents. Several men play Cuban music on guitars.
A currier approaches, excitedly: “Hombre, hombre. I have news that will wake you. The Maine has been blown up in Havana. The Americans blame the Spanish. War is sure to come and with it a great army to make Cuba free.”
A sudden rise of interest: The men give great hurrahs. “Long live America! Cuba Libre!”
The guitar players change their tune, soon all are chanting “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy.” Several men go to a tent and bring forth a great sword. They hold it aloft and pass it among themselves.
[In 1898, William Randolph Hearst commissioned a $2500, gold-plated and diamond-encrusted sword inscribed “Viva Cuba Libre” and “To Máximo Gómez, Commander-in-Chief of the Army of the Republic of Cuba.” It is unclear if the sword was delivered.]
Soldier #1: Finally, our prayers are answered. Uncle Sam will now make good upon his word.
Soldier # 2: The Americans will bring us guns just as they brought us the sword. For every Spaniard we killed with a machete, two will face hot lead.
Soldier # 3: Look. Why is General Garcia quiet? Does he not rejoice?
Garcia (approaches the men): Soldiers, you have fought well and buried many of your brothers. But beware. Once the Americans come, they will not leave. They will kill the Spaniards but then we will have to kill them.
Soldier #1: But, sir, our people are suffering so. Our men have left their farms to fight the Spanish, armed only with the machetes that should be cutting the sugar cane which feeds their families.
Garcia: Our people suffer because Spain has sent them to concentration camps. The Spaniard believes our will is no stronger than our stomachs.
Soldier #2: But the Americans will liberate the camps. Think of that great sword (pointing to the celebration) that the American Hearst sent us—all the way from New York—to inspire our great cause.
Garcia: Swords cut both ways. Soldiers, when the Americans come, we will greet them as men. And let them treat us as men. (Garcia walks away.)
Soldier # 3: I suppose the General is right. We must always keep our guard up. But I wonder . . . Margharita, his beloved, the Cuban Joan de Arc, is sure to be freed? Must that not fill him with joy?
Soldier # 1: My friend, General Garcia is a great soldier. He has won many battles. But he is also a man. Margharita is the great martyr of our cause. But it was our general—when he took to the field himself—who opened the door for her capture.
Soldier # 2: Yes. While Margharita is in held hostage in Havana, she is still his martyr. But when she is free—she will be like Cuba—and a free woman knows no bounds.
Soldier # 3: Perhaps. But at the same time, a woman has no place in a revolution once it is over. A woman will stand at the side of the victor. She will stand by the strongest sword. And, Garcia has let her go once . . .
Soldier #1: But enough of this. Let the Americans come. It is the end of Spain! “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy, I’m a Yankee do or die!”