Field Notes 2007: Filming In Cuba

Above: Executive Producer Marc Doyle prepares to interview Lisandro Otero at The Hemingway House.


Ada Rosa Alfonso Rosales, director of Finca Vigia, The Hemingway House Museum, was “the hostess with the most-est,” as we say back home in Deep South Mississippi. One minute we were toasting our GREAT MUSEUMS of the WORLD project (which represented a cultural collaboration between the US and Cuba) with straight 151 proof rum (in the middle of the day) and the next minute we were examining layers of excavated paint on the exterior walls, part of an authentic restoration effort to bring the home back to the way it looked in Hemingway’s day. She made sure we had a full experience. In the course of a day, we filmed Hemingway’s beloved boat, his books, his typewriter. The inspirational kudu rug where he would stand barefoot to write. The original manuscripts of For Whom the Bell Tolls, with Hemingway’s handwritten corrections plainly visible. We filmed his record collection. His phonograph. His closet, clothes and shoes. His kitchen, dining room and chair-side bar. His office and personal memorabilia. His African hunting trophies. His garden. The famous tower room. The famous swimming pool where he entertained Hollywood icons and where Ava Gardner skinny-dipped.

We filmed his bathroom, where the paint had been removed from two walls to reveal a daily record of Hemingway’s weight, what he ate and drank (rum), his blood pressure, his health concerns, and the doctor’s orders. This strange diary on the bathroom wall revealed his deteriorating health and state of mind over the course of years.

At the end of the day, we drove over to Cojimar, the tiny dilapidated fishing village where he docked Pillar (his boat). Cojimar was the setting for what some say is Hemingway’s most poetic work, The Old Man and the Sea. There we filmed the people, the village, and “La Terraza” the famous bar where he hung out with the locals. We also filmed the bust of Hemingway that his friends, the local fisherman, made from scrapped metal hooks, anchors, reels and other fishing gear after his death. They loved him then. They love him now.

One of the most humorous and unforgettable moments occurred back at Finca Vigia itself. My husband Marc – who is an avid fly-fisherman and pheasant hunter, as well and a big fan of Ernest Hemingway’s work – was sitting in the courtyard preparing for his next interview. Marc also kinda looks like Ernest Hemingway. The beard. The mustache. Maybe even the way he dresses: that outdoorsman “safari” look. Well, this big busload of French tourist pulled up. They got out and started walking toward the main house. Then they noticed Marc, sitting in the courtyard, scribbling away on some papers. Suddenly Marc was surrounded by dozens of tourists snapping their cameras and asking him to autograph their Finca Vigia brochures. The crew and I were shooting B-roll up on the terrace at the house, looking down on this scene in the courtyard. Finally, George Patterson, our videographer said “Oh no! They think Marc is the ghost of Hemingway!” It was true! The visitors thought Marc was part of the tour, perhaps an actor hired to impersonate Ernest Hemingway. I think Marc secretly enjoyed it! We should have filmed the scene, but didn’t think of it soon enough!

—Chesney Doyle, Executive Producer/Writer, GREAT MUSEUMS/GREAT MUSEUMS of the WORLD

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