Everyone has that one favorite movie, one they can watch over and over again and never get tired of it. I actually have a few but there is one that I watch more than the others. So it was my watching this film that brought up the following thoughts…
It’s been over 75 years since the initial release of Casablanca back in 1942. A movie that was voted #2 on the top 100 films of all time. It was not long ago that I had a wonderful opportunity to see this all time favorite of mine on the big screen the way it was originally shown oh so many years ago. Now saying the big screen these days could mean many things like, “I watched it on my big flat screen at home.” That is not the case here. I have not made the jump to light speed from my 31 inch, 200 pound monster to a flat screen yet…YET, but my pennies are adding up!!!! No, in this case I am talking about a movie theater.
For the 70th Anniversary of it’s release, it was being shown for one night at theaters across the country. Now some of you might be saying, “Wait, isn’t that on VHS, and DVD?” My response is yes, yes it is. But there is something about watching a movie in a theater, a full theater at that along with other lovers of this great film. It’s a different atmosphere. That was especially true with Casablanca. I was one of the first people in (I did that on purpose) and I watched as person after person filed in, people of every age and color. It was amazing to see.
There was also a mischievous side about my thinking. As I sat there watching I thought, “OMG, there are people walking in here old enough to have probably attended the original theatrical release in 1942. And then they walked in, an entire family, four generations worth…Great grandparent, grand parents, parents, and children. They took seats right behind me and I listened closely as the older folks talked of how they saw that original screening. The chief comments though were the difference between what they paid then (30 cents) vice the $13.50 we all just paid. But apparently the entire house felt it was worth it because every seat was taken. Either way, I was sitting in awe and just thought how cool was that they all could come together to see the show? It reminded me of how I am now sharing my love of classic TV and movies with my family. My boys sit with me as I watch McHale’s Navy, Hogan’s Heroes, M*A*S*H, the original Hawaii Five-0, and many movies from the golden era. But that’s another story…
Now I have to confess. Casablanca wasn’t always my all time favorite. I didn’t fall in love with it right away. It’s not that it took me several views to get into it…it was more like…well…Once upon a time I bought Casablanca as a Laser Disc. Anyone remember those? It looked like a giant DVD and played like a DVD, but like a record not only because of its size but also in that you had to turn it over half way through the movie to see the second half. OK, back to the story…
I have a really bad habit of trying to start a movie late at night after a long day at work and just before bed. Needless to say, I would fall dead asleep shortly after the movie started. Sometimes not making it past the credits. Only to wake up when the closing credits and music were playing. My slumber had nothing to do with the movie mind you. I can fall asleep through movies like, Gladiator and the Patriot during an action scene if it was late enough. Out of frustration, I finally made it a point one Saturday morning after a decent night’s sleep to sit and watch the movie. With coffee in hand and my remote in the other, I hit play…it was love at first site.
As you really start to get into the characters you can’t help but relate and enjoy them. The cast; Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, and Claude Raines. As many times as I’ve seen it I find it’s one of those films where you can’t imagine anyone else playing those parts, it was a one of a kind cast. I’ve heard they’ve tried to remake Casablanca over the years, it didn’t work. I’m not going to go into details about the movie. If you’ve never seen it, do so.
There have been many documentaries made about Casablanca, one of which was shown before the movie in the theater hosted by Bogie’s wife, Loren Bacall. When you see and hear the stories behind the production you have to wonder how the heck it was completed at all much less becoming a classic. But it is a fascinating story and a wonderful movie. It has a combination of mystery, intrigue, comedy, romance and suspense. It also gives you a chance to use your imagination, something movies today don’t allow you to do. I’ll give you a hint at what I mean:
Today in movies, in order to kill someone (or something) using a gun, you need a spray of bullets to accomplish the task. You even have to be shown the bloody details. In Casablanca and other classics…one bullet, just one, gets the job done. You don’t have to see the wound, you didn’t need to see blood. If someone gets shot and they don’t get up, you can safely assume they are not going to. If by chance they do, it usually only takes one more shot, you don’t have to empty your clip.
The one thing that mystifies me about Casablanca was the cigarette use. Granted, the movie takes at a time where smoking was the thing to do, it was cool. And of course “Rick’s Café Americane ” is a night club so I guess I have to allow for that. But wow, the amount of smoking! One after another, after another. Humphrey Bogart in practically every scene he was either smoking a cigarette or was firing one up. And as I watched, one person smoking compelled another to light up. As they are talking one would blow smoke in another’s face and it wouldn’t faze them, not even a blink, not a single cough. If that were now days people’s hands fly around like someone walked in to a swarm of mosquitoes! What amazed me more than anything was Ingrid Bergman; She didn’t smoke (at least not in the movie). How she was able to get through her smoke filled scenes and still kept a straight face is beyond my comprehension.
All that aside, I loved the experience. It was amazing to be in a room with fellow fans and watch such a great movie. The best way to put it is like this…Casablanca wasn’t released 70 years ago. It wasn’t on DVD, or VHS. For those in the room it was right there and then. As many times as I’ve seen it, that night the lines from the movie were fresh. We all gasped where a gasp we needed. We laughed where something funny occurred. We jumped when a shot was fired. I am pretty sure that if there had been a second screening, we all would have stayed for it. It was totally worth the ticket price…and the medium popcorn…with butter…and large soda!
Again, I won’t go into details about the movie, if you haven’t seen it…shame on you!! I urge you to do so. I have noticed that some theaters are now showing some of the old classics on a regular basis…I applaud that. Here’s a suggestion, Cary Grants, “Father Goose” on the big screen!