Casablanca quotes resonate in real life

One of my favorite movies is “Casablanca” and, from its ranking on the list of greatest movies, I am not alone in my admiration. A love triangle is set in the context of the outset of World War II after Germany took possession of France. But, it is also filled with an interesting plot and characters played by marvelous actors who say some wonderfully written lines primarily written by Julius and Philip Epstein.

In another list of the 100 greatest movie quotes, lines from “Casablanca” appears six times. These and other lines from the movie still resonate today as a reflection of our times. Here are a few from memory, so I will likely misquote them.

We will always have Paris – Rick (Humphrey Bogart) says this a couple of times to Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) as a reminder of their relationship where they met. To me, this reminds us of our own special places that mean so much, whether it is a love interest or a special time in our lives.

Louie, I think this is the beginning of beautiful friendship – A key subplot is the relationship between Rick and Captain Louie Renault (Claude Rains), which is friendly, but with some distance. When they come together at the end to go fight the Germans, it lifts your spirits to see the two walk off together with a mission and true bond of kinship.

I am shocked, shocked there is gambling going on here – Captain Renault is asked to close Rick’s (a bar) at the behest of Nazi Major Heinrich Strasser (Conradt Veight) and used gambling as the reason, even though it is routine. The line is followed by the pit boss handing him his winnings. This reminds me of politicians, who know or allow a problem to occur, and then act shocked when the problem does occur.

Human life is cheap – This evil line is uttered by Major Strasser and gives me chills. People traveled to Casablanca to get transport to America, but must wait to bribe or pay heavily for papers to get out. This reminds me of the refugees who are being exploited by opportunist to sell them unsafe passage to Europe. Whether they get there is irrelevant.

Round up the usual suspects – This is a key line in the movie that is used often. Captain Renault uses it several times to convey that he is doing something about a crime, but actually is doing nothing. It is also how the writers figured out the ending, which they were struggling with. I find this line is also indicative of politicians who are good at pretending to do something, when they are actually doing nothing. Over 50 repeal votes of Obamacare is too easy an example.

Here’s looking at you kid – Rick, who is older than Ilsa, uses this line to show great affection, usually touching her chin lightly to look into her eyes. It plays an important part in Rick’s journey back. It reminds me of lines we use with each other that mean more than the words themselves. In the movie “Ghost” the line “Ditto” had huge meaning in the plot, e.g.

Play it for me Sam. Play “As Time Goes By” – I probably misquoted this misquoted line from Ilsa, which usually is seen as “play it again Sam.” Sam (Dooley Wilson), who has a velvet voice sings this melancholic song which lilts often through the movie. Like Paris, it reminds the two lovers of better times, as Sam who has always accompanied Rick when he sets up a bar, would play it for the two of them. We each have milestone songs that take us back in time. This may be music’s greatest gift.

Play it. Play La Marseillaise – To me, this is the most powerful moment in the movie. You see first hand the leadership and bravery of Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) as he asks the band to play the French national anthem to drown out the Nazi bar singers. In an interview, the Jewish writers said it gave them chill bumps as they wrote it. Leaders like this are few and far between and are much needed, as their quiet fortitude speaks louder than any bombastic chest beater.

Welcome back to the fight – This line is uttered by Victor to Rick as they say goodbye. It is a major moment of recognition of the noble efforts of Rick that are not unnoticed by one who does them all of the time. Today, we need more folks who are willing to speak their mind against tyranny, bigotry, disenfranchisement and hatred.

I realize I left off several key lines for space reasons. I also recognize I left off the contributions of Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet who added so much color to the movie. Let me know what you think and please share your favorites. As time goes by….

 

 

 

 

Four movies worth another look

From time to time, I have highlighted various movies that range from old to new. Today, I want to focus on a few that people may have overlooked due to the age of the movie or because they slipped under the radar screen less detected. If you have not seen these movies, give them a shot. If you have not seen them in awhile, please take the impetus to revisit them. In no particular order:

The Manchurian Candidate – although a remake has been done, the first version aired in 1962 and was directed by John Frankenheimer. It starred Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury (who plays antagonists very well), Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh and James Gregory. It was the first movie about the subject of brainwashing and incorporates flashes of the technique as we try to figure out what is going on as the story plays out around a presidential candidate.

Madame X – released in 1966, this is one of my favorite Lana Turner movies. It was directed by David Lowell Rich and also starred John Forsyth, Ricardo Montalban, Burgess Meredith and Keir Dullea. The movie is about a famous woman who, after an affair, is paid to go away by a conniving mother-in-law to protect her son. The movie eventually leads to this woman being put on trial many years later, where she only wants to die for her crime, simply signing her name “Madame X.”

The African Queen – released in 1951, this John Huston directed movie stars Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. Many have likely seen this movie, but it is two stars at their best, as the Nile River vessel, the African Queen is piloted by a heavily drinking captain in Bogart to ferry his lone passenger in Hepburn. The struggles of two very different people is worth the watch and takes you through a series of emotions.

The Dead Zone – the newest of the four movies was released in 1983. It covers one of my favorite of Stephen King’s books and was directed by David Cronenburg. Christopher Walken stars as a man who recovers from a coma following a car accident having the power to see the future by touching someone, but with some haze or a dead zone. He learns that he has the power to change the hazy part. It is a fascinating story on the power to change the future, especially when it is horrific. Martin Sheen plays a presidential candidate, Brooke Adams plays the now married ex-girlfriend who had stopped waiting for Walken’s character to come out of his coma. Tom Skerritt, Herbert Lam and Anthony Zerbe play excellent roles, as well.

I enjoyed revisiting these movies. Please give them a new look or a first look, if you have not seen them. Three involve people’s ability to impact significant politicians, while the fourth involves two different people working toward a common cause. Tell me what you think and share other gems you like.

 

Are you watching Casablanca again?

When my wife has caught me stopping while channel surfing on a showing of “Casablanca” as I did Friday night, she invariably asks “How many times have you seen that?” I usually answer “Not enough” depending on her mood. I was encouraged to write about my favorite movie when I stopped by a blog yesterday called www.jasminekylesings.wordpress.com who did a wonderful job of talking about her favorite movie ‘Pride and Prejudice.” I should note my wife will do the same with “Somewhere in Time,” but since I appreciate the story and seeing Jane Seymour’s classic beauty it is a more than a fair trade – she of course has a thing for Christopher Reeve, but that is another story.

To me, Casablanca takes me to another place in time. It is a great story told well, set at a crucial time with a backdrop of Nazi antagonism, and played by great actors under great direction. You can go to Wikipedia and see the Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay Academy Awards and the numerous nominations, so it is acknowledged for its surprisingly unexpected brilliance. Also, the fact that the movie is included as one of the all-time best movies confirms it is a classic. Yet, to me it is the dialogue and interaction between the starring roles, supporting roles and the many smaller roles, that make it worthwhile.

I enjoy the banter between Carl and Sasha, the head waiter and bartender, and their patrons as much as the dialogue between the lead roles. And, the most moving part of the movie includes only the third star – Paul Heinreid as Victor Lazlo with a brief nod from Humphrey Bogart as Rick – as Lazlo directs the band to play “La Marseillaise” to drown out the Nazi sing along in Rick’s Americain Cafe. This scene never ceases to give me chills as it shows what a heroic figure Lazlo is and why people look to him to lead and why the Nazis are so wary of him.

Setting aside this emphatic moment, it is the dialogue and story that deserve the credit more so than anything. The movie is a compilation of conversations leading us to the inevitable climax. You have little reason to like Rick at first, so the dialogue helps paint a better picture of this gray character – why he is bitter and how he was not always this way. At the same time, we see the grayness of Claude Rains’ Captain Louis Renault’s character evolve into someone who gives a damn at the end. Even Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa Lund is not perfect, as she is torn between Rick and her devotional love to Victor Lazlo. So, the grayness of these characters and others (such as Sydney Greenstreet’s Ferrari) shows how imperfect we all are in our daily struggles between survival and doing the right thing. In fact, the only true hero and villain are Victor Lazlo and Major Strasser with others having many shades of gray in-between.

The writers, primarily Julius and Phillip Epstein with help from Howard Koch, deserve the Best Screenplay award. The dialogue reveals the characters in this struggle. The movie is remembered for its six classic quotes being included among the 100 Best Movie Quotes, but those quotes should not overshadow the dialogue that give them meaning. The classic “round-up the usual suspects” after Major Strasser has been shot is based on earlier dialogue. It has extra meaning to me as the writers initially did not know how the movie should end even after filming began. When one of the Epsteins blurted out “round-up the usual suspects” they knew Strasser had to be killed and that led them to Lazlo getting on the plane with Ilsa as Rick had to be the one who shot him.

Greenstreet, Dooley Wilson as Sam, Peter Lorre as Ugarte and Conradt Veidt as the villainous Strasser all are ideally cast in their roles. Plus, the many dialogues and scenes expose us to Rick’s handling of the essential sub-story of the Bulgarian couple trying to win their way to America while the young wife considers sleeping with Renault and Rick’s relationship with his casino boss, Sam, Sasha, Carl, Ferrari and Ugarte among others.

Yet, we should not forget the role of Michael Curtiz and his other directors who helped him when the Academy Award (he was not the only director used on the film). Focusing on the sadness and beauty of Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa shows that much can be said without a word even in this movie of words. And, it doesn’t stop with her as the facial expressions of the people listening to other people is very telling. There is a brief moment when the guitar playing female singer cannot hide a glimpse of her disgust over Major Strasser; note it is not overtly apparent, as in real life, he may have noticed it and said something to her. There are also classic scenes where the camera catches the silhouette of one of the actors in a dialogue, to let us see the other party. There are some very effective scenes like this in Rick’s office.

So, I watch again and again. Note, I do not stop every time, but I do enjoy parts of the movie so much, that I will at least catch a taste before I move on. If you have not seen it, I would encourage you to do so. I have seen it in a theatre and it is even more special as you can see more facial expressions than on a TV screen.  If you have not watched it in a while, please check it out again and look at the facial expressions and listen to the dialogue. And, if you love it like I do, “This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Please feel free to share your favorite moments, characters, etc.