RAZZLE DAZZLE – The True Story of Elaine Townsend

             Screenplay by Pamala L. Hall

Based on the story by Robin and Kevin Detrude

Elaine Townsend was a highly intelligent, beautiful young woman raised in the cold winds of Wyoming.  When her father, a cattle rancher, lost it all, she vowed to one-day have everything she dreamed of, even as a youngster of fifteen years of age. In 1938 she got a college degree.  She took odd jobs, as well as modeling and joining in with a real estate firm. She was determined to succeed, and that determination never left her.

Her next move to Honolulu was just the beginning of an unforgettable life. She quickly opened a photographic studio. The attack on Pearl Harbor closed the business and left her grieving for all the young soldiers lost in a senseless, brutal attack. It was time again to see changes in her now tumultuous world.

As fate would have it, a Colonel from the U.S. Marines was to become ‘her support’ and her investor in the stock market. This was another folly that wiped out her funds. In 1947 she headed for what seemed to be a magical land- CUBA! The Colonel and her debts were left behind and she was determined to find the success that had alluded her.

Pablo Leal became a man who guided her into the first of her fortunes, and further, while not looking, the Colonel somehow returned to the landscape of her life.

But, much, much more was to unfold in a country now filled with not only wealth, beauty, and history, but with intrigue, danger, mafia, the rich and famous and ‘secrets!’

When she approached Evasista Garcia, one of the main casino concessionaires, she told him “My money is as good as anyone’s.” Garcia smirked, laughed at the idea of a woman with any kind of power in his world and then he accepted her into that world for $30,000 dollars. The Colonel was there again, and she gained further funds, and her whirlwind life began in Havana.

Elaine, with her beauty, savvy and charisma, swept through the casino like a true star! She mingled with Hollywood- Lucy and Desi Arnaz, Ann Sheridan, and more. She was watched closely by the underworld from Lansky to Luciano and eventually, became part of that world as the ‘great gambling lady of the world!’

Hollywood was even inspired at one point to make a film about her life, as Cuba became more and more dangerous with Batista and Castro fighting for leadership, as rebels bloodied city streets and legends like Hemingway wrote of Cuba’s wars, passions, and magic.

Elaine became a mysterious part of it all. Was she just another beauty with riches, a sought-after beauty, a woman who could handle the powerful world of gambling and the powerful, dangerous men who ran it?  Or, was she so much more?  She knew a great deal about that world, as the U.S. government looked more and more closely at Cuba, as the country then considered a deadly enemy.

Who was Elaine Townsend, really?