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Havana Before Castro: When Cuba was a Tropical Playground Perfect Paperback – August 1, 2008


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Havana Before Castro: When Cuba was a Tropical Playground + Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It to the Revolution
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Product Details

  • Perfect Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Gibbs Smith; First edition (August 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1423603672
  • ISBN-13: 978-1423603672
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.9 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #188,882 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

A fascinating look at Havana, visually rich with hundreds of photos and other unique images, this addition to the literature on one of the world's urban architectural treasures is authored by an architectural historian. Moruzzi's fluid text embellishes the illustrations, drawn mostly from his own collection. Havana enjoys a captivating history, and the legacy of gambling, hotels, drugs, sex, and nightlife makes for an unparalleled reading experience.

Moruzzi emphasizes the building boom of the 1950s, when American mob characters benefited from President Fulgencio Batista's corrupt regime and tourists flocked to the enchanted island a mere 90 miles from America, helped by airlines and cruise lines offering tour packages to Havana. The vivid descriptions of casinos and hotels, many still standing, bring a lost era to life. This attractive book is written for a popular audience but is highly recommended for academic as well as public libraries.
(Boyd Childress Library Journal 2008-05-15)

If you're looking for images, "Havana Before Castro" has them in bulk. Peter Moruzzi's infatuation with Cuba is illustrated in grand and grandiose style. It's a pop-culture potpourri.
(Peter M Gianotti Newsday 2008-09-21)

[The book] really put me there: It made me feel like I was staying in towering modernist hotels, ogling dancing girls at nightclubs like the Montmartre, swilling mojitos with Graham Greene and Meyer Lansky, and tapping my toes to the Orquestra Aragon.
(Los Angeles Times 2008-09-01)

A juanty, poignant portrait of the city in its pre-revolutionary heyday as a Caribbean playground. [The book] goes a long way toward filling in the mental picture of a city that has been enticingly evoked by movies such as "Our Man in Havana" (1959) and "The Godfather: Part II" (1974)."
(Wall Street Journal 2008-07-24)

A most extraordinary book that fills my heart with profound love, sadness, and deep nostalgia.
(Andy Garcia 2008-10-09)

The glamour of Old Cuba with its music, nightlife, culture and tropical beauty is perfectly expressed in these pages.
(Desi Arnaz, Jr. 2008-10-09)

From the Inside Flap

Through vintage and contemporary photographs, brochures, and artifacts evocative of time and place, Havana Before Castro tells the story of the city that was the most popular exotic destination for Americans during the forty years between World War I and Castro's revolution.
See how Havana evolved from Prohibition haven and rich man's playground to a heady blend of glittering nightclubs, outrageous cabarets, all-night bars, and backstreet brothels.
Visit Havana's seamy Shanghai Theatre as well as its glamorous Tropicana, roam the stately Hotel Sevilla-Biltmore and ultramodern Habana Hilton.
Savor a daiquiri at La Floridita (one of Hemingway's favorite watering holes), rub elbows with movie stars at Sloppy Joe's bar, and learn why Cuban cigars remain the world's most highly prized.
Celebrate the influence of Cuban music on American popular culture-the rumba, mambo, cha-cha-chá, and salsa-from its earliest stars such as Xavier Cugat and Desi Arnaz to modern acts like the Buena Vista Social Club.
Celebrate the city's architectural heritage, a Havana Modernism unique to Cuba's topography and climate.
Follow the parade of corrupt presidents who, along with American mobsters such as Meyer Lansky, welcomed the mass tourism that led to Havana becoming a tropical Vegas swirling in a haze of rum and cigars, backed by a conga beat.
Born in Concord, Massachusetts, in 1961 and raised in Hawaii, Peter Moruzzi graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and later attended the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. An architectural historian by profession, Moruzzi is an acknowledged expert on mid-century Modern architecture and design. He resides in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles and in Palm Springs, California. He has been obsessed with the history of Cuba since 1987.
www.HavanaBeforeCastro.com

More About the Author

As a nightlife historian I'm passionate about the mid-20th century: its nightlife, classic dining, and architecture. I chaired the Los Angeles Conservancy's Modern Committee from 1992 to 1997, then founded the Palm Springs Modern Committee (PS ModCom), a historic preservation organization, in 1999. I'm the author of the illustrated histories "Havana Before Castro: When Cuba Was a Tropical Playground" and "Palm Springs Holiday: A Vintage Tour From Palm Springs to the Salton Sea," both published by Gibbs Smith. I reside in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles and in Palm Springs.

Customer Reviews

Anyone who has any interest in the history of Cuba before the revolution will love this book.
Charlie G.
So many examples jump to mind and Moruzzi illustrates them all with an incredible collection of photographs and ephemera.
lynxwiler
I've visited Havana now 4 times and this book is a great asset to have in visiting this bizarre time-machine called Cuba.
Gene

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Andrew J. Rodriguez on July 31, 2008
Format: Perfect Paperback Verified Purchase
My wife and I escaped Cuba during the early sixties. Almost certain that we might be returning within a month or two (50 years ago) we did not bring along photographs, memories, or keepsakes of any kind.
"Havana Before Castro" is the best collection of memorabilia ever to touch my hands.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. You've made my day!

Andrew J. Rodriguez
Award-winning author: "Adios, Havana," a Memoir
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A. Senalle on February 13, 2009
Format: Perfect Paperback
This is a wonderful book that describes Havana in the same way that my parents have always told me they remember. I lived in Cuba until the age of thirteen and in many parts of Havana i could see remains of what once was a grandiose city. This city is now converted into a total ruin. With regards to the writer "formoso" , he believes all the comunist propaganda written by the so called revolution. I imagine he believes that today's cuba is a paradise where everybody lives better.......how come all cubans want to leave that paradise?.........
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Jose A. Herrera on October 7, 2008
Format: Perfect Paperback
Very informative with wonderful before and after photos, I am Cuban and remember some of the places in the photos. Would highly recommend it to my friends.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By College Teacher on November 24, 2008
Format: Perfect Paperback
With a profusion of exquisite illustrations, "Havana Before Castro" is also a suprisingly well-balanced, perceptively written historical work. While one good picture is certainly worth a thousand words,this book goes beyond the typical illustrated book genre to recapture also in text a Havana which vividly lives in the memory of those of us lucky enough to have experienced it first hand and, now, in the memory of those who read this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on August 10, 2009
Format: Perfect Paperback
Color and vintage black and white photos abound in HAVANA BEFORE CASTRO: WHEN CUBA WAS A TROPICAL PLAYGROUND. It re-creates an era when the city was a popular destination for Americans between World War I and Castro's revolution, packing over 500 color and black and white images into a 'then and now' recreation contrasting past and present. Any library strong in Cuban history and culture must have this.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jose Lopez on March 28, 2011
Format: Perfect Paperback
A good quick read with some flaws, usual ad-verbatim spewed before on how dishonest politicians were in Pre-Castro Cuba(Really? Are the politicians still not dishonest and Especially in America? Nay Around the World?),It mentions The Revolution briefly but even then the author has to admit that What was Cuba now was not Cuba before and the so-called Trade-offs if any Literacy for Campesinos O Guajiros better treatment for Blacks(We did not have Segregation in Cuba The United States did,Blacks had their own Private Clubs were Whites were not invited and vice-Versa,Yes Batista was not admitted to a Yacht Club? And what? it was a Private Club,There is only ONE HIGH RANKING CUBAN BLACK IN THE COMMUNISTY PARTY=Juan Almeida).He neglected to Mention The Partido Autenticos(despite the "Corruption") who kicked out the Reds out of the CTC(unions)and Created The National Bank(Carlos Prio-Socarras,Last Democratically ELECTED President Of Cuba before Batista Coup-No Mention of that just the emphasis on Batista),So of course the book is a trip down memory lane one that Leftist History Revisionists love to point to The "Indecency" of Pre-Castro Cuba,the Nightclubs,Cabarets, and Casinos.Sure,while we are at it let's point out Las Vegas and All Of the World's Seedy Underbellies,Corruption alone did not Merit what Cuba got in the end,She Deserves better and certainly the book despite it's emphasis on the Tourist attractions and the American Connection could have done better pointing out.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By frisko kramer on September 7, 2008
Format: Perfect Paperback
great, easy read yet interesting history of Havana. Wonderful photos and fun highlights of the who's who of that era. The author did a good job of combining the two to make for a brilliant fun read
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Norma Rowe on January 27, 2010
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As someone who was born in Cuba in early 1940s and lived under Castro until 1964 I'm thoroughly enjoying this book - learning things I either had forgotten or never knew - it's bringing back very fond memories of the Cuba I grew up in.
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