Fidel Castro is best-known as Cuba’s controversial former leader but not many people know he once had a budding film career, which included a bit part in Hollywood musical You Were Never Lovelier. Hollywood had something of a love affair with communist revolutionary Castro before his death in 2016. Many Hollywood luminaries such as Steven Spielberg (Ready Player One) and Jack Nicholson visited Castro in Cuba and spoke highly of the former leader, and Oliver Stone made no less than three documentaries about him including Comandante and 2004's Looking For Fidel.
Quite a few actors have portrayed Fidel Castro on screen too. In 1969, Jack Palance played Castro to Omar Sharif’s Che Guevara in universally panned pseudo-biopic Che! while Mexican actor Victor Huggo Martin portrayed him in 2002 Showtime miniseries Fidel. The best-known big screen version of Castro is probably in Steven Soderbergh’s acclaimed two-part 2008 biopic Che, in which Oscar-nominated Mexican actor Demián Bichir (The Nun) played Fidel while Benicio del Toro portrayed Che Guevara.
It’s a little-known fact that Fidel Castro graced the silver screen himself once upon a time. Just as Ronald Reagan did before him and Terminator-turned-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger would after, Castro had a budding film career before he got into politics. Hollywood legend has it that a fresh-faced 15-year old Fidel landed a role as an extra in the 1942 Columbia Pictures musical You Were Never Lovelier starring Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth.
There are scant details on just whereabouts in the Buenos Aires-set musical Castro appears, but it seems Castro got bitten by the acting bug while on the set of You Were Never Lovelier because he went on to feature in a few more movies. In 1946, it’s reported he appeared as an uncredited extra in MGM's musical comedy Holiday In Mexico which starred Walter Pidgeon, Jane Powell, and Roddy McDowall (Planet Of The Apes). Apparently, Castro is one of the charro suit-wearing background singers on the left at the 2:09 mark in this Holiday In Mexico trailer.
That same year, Castro would reportedly appear in another south of the border-set movie musical called Easy To Wed starring Lucille Ball, in which he played a hotel guest seen relaxing by a pool and sipping on a drink. Less than a decade later, the Cuban Revolution began and Fidel Castro’s film days were well behind him, but it’s strange to think how different the world might look today had his film career taken off after You Were Never Lovelier.