american comandanteComing to PBS tomorrow, Tuesday, November 17: AMERICAN COMANDANTE

Adriana Bosch’s tale of an unlikely participant in the Cuban Revolution makes its debut on American Experience tomorrow.

Bosch reveals the unusual – and only recently declassified – story of William Morgan, an American with a decidedly-checkered past who found a second chance to make a name for himself on an island undergoing revolutionary change. Having shamed his upper-class Toledo family several times over as an Army deserter, ex-convict, circus performer, and petty criminal with mob ties, Morgan set out on a path of reinvention at the dawn of the Cuban Revolution, leaving his life in Miami behind to first smuggle in arms to Cuba and later to join the Second Front, a guerrilla group in the Escambray Mountains. After proving himself, the American attained the rank of comandante, married a local Cuban woman, helped grow the rebel forces, and eventually joined forces with Fidel Castro and Che Guevara to end the dictatorial rule of General Batista. Morgan reveled in his new position, attaining further fame in his key role in preventing an insurrection, for which he made powerful enemies and lost his US citizenship. But in his self-mythologizing and idealism, he failed to clue into Castro’s communist leanings until it was too late, ultimately running afoul of the new leader. The content of Morgan’s colorful life makes Bosch’s doc engaging, which otherwise hews close to PBS’s conventional biographical approach.

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