Sunday, November 26, 2017

Seventy-five years ago today the iconic movie Casablanca opened at the large old Hollywood Theatre at Broadway and 51st Street in Manhattan; the first show was at 11 a.m. The star-studded cast provided great entertainment but also wartime propaganda as the story of Rick and Ilsa played against a tense backdrop of intrigue in the tense Moroccan city.

I’ve seen the movie dozens of times.  For aficionados of Casablanca it is difficult to identity the most memorable scenes.  Certainly the development of the cynical yet idealistic Rick Blaine is significant.  The love story between Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman is a classic.  But performances by Claude Rains, Paul Henreid, Conrad Veidt, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet are notable, too.  And who could forget the stirring rendition of “La Marseillaise” highlighting Madeleine Lebeau?  The French actress died last year, “the last surviving cast member,” according to the BBC.

And there was Dooley Wilson, who appears as Sam the piano player and aide-de-camp to Rick.  Wilson’s “As Time Goes By” is one of the great songs in American cinema history.    

The last four minutes of the movie, the fog-shrouded airport scene, includes the most memorable lines of the movie—so notable that they have become commonly used in the years following.  They are:  “Round up the usual suspects”; “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”; and “We’ll always have Paris.”  But the greatest, of course:  “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

The American Film Institute ranks Casablanca as the third greatest U.S. film behind Citizen Kane and The Godfather.  Still, it might be argued that the movie is not technically great, but it is as unforgettable as any film.

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