My Review of ‘Casablanca’ (1942)

It came to my attention earlier this week that this movie recently had an anniversary. That reminded me of when I first saw it at the age of 17 on TV (of course).

I think it was a lazy Sunday afternoon. I was in the living room, watching TV and eating cranberry sauce straight out of a can. And this … fascinating movie came on.

I’d heard of it and the oft-misquoted line from the film. (“Play it, Sam.” not “Play it again, Sam.”) But that opening sequence pulled me right in. The first appearance of Claude Rains as Captain Renault. (“Round up the usual suspects!”) The man gunned down in the street. The Nazis. The opening narration.

With the coming of the Second World War, many eyes in imprisoned Europe turned hopefully, or desperately, toward the freedom of the Americas. Lisbon became the great embarkation point. But, not everybody could get to Lisbon directly, and so a tortuous, roundabout refugee trail sprang up – Paris to Marseilles… across the Mediterranean to Oran… then by train, or auto, or foot across the rim of Africa, to Casablanca in French Morocco. Here, the fortunate ones through money, or influence, or luck, might obtain exit visas and scurry to Lisbon; and from Lisbon, to the New World. But the others wait in Casablanca… and wait… and wait… and wait.

By the time the camera moved into Rick’s Café Américain, I was hopelessly hooked.

Humphrey Bogart is perfection as the tough, exiled American Rick Blaine. And he gets some of the best lines!

Ugarte: You despise me, don’t you?
Rick: If I gave you any thought I probably would.

Captain Renault: What in heaven’s name brought you to Casablanca?
Rick: My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.
Captain Renault: The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert.
Rick: I was misinformed.

Yvonne: Where were you last night?
Rick: That’s so long ago, I don’t remember.
Yvonne: Will I see you tonight?
Rick: I never make plans that far ahead.

When the man named Ugarte (played with unctuous sliminess by Peter Lorre) gleefully tells Rick about murdering two German couriers to steal letters of transit from them, then must flee from the cops, his pathetic pleas for Rick to hide him fall on deaf ears. (“I stick my neck out for nobody.”)

Ah, but things change when “guess who” strolls in. None other than Rick’s old flame, Ilsa Lund (played by the radiant Ingrid Bergman).

When Ilsa has Sam play “As Time Goes By” and Rick comes charging toward them with that look on his face, it’s a heart-stopping moment.

Then … the flashback to Paris.

Talk about priceless moments in cinema. I’d be lying if I said that scene in the rain at the train station didn’t get me bawling my damn eyes out.

And who doesn’t love the part where Victor Laszlo stands up in a bar full of Nazis and barks out, “Play the ‘Marseillaise.’ … Play it!”

This movie not only tells a great story, but as a 17-year-old watching it for the first time, it made a lasting impression. I actually learned things I hadn’t known about World War II. If someone had said the word “Vichy” to me before then, my first thought would have been of vichyssoise.

And how I can not mention the great supporting cast, which includes not only the aforementioned Claude Rains and Peter Lorre, but Conrad Veidt as Major Strasser, the Nasty Nazi from Hell, Sydney Greenstreet as competing bar owner Signor Ferrari and winner of the Fattest Man in Casablanca Contest of 1941, and Dooley Wilson as that poor fellow at the piano, who had to put up with all the crap he did because he was stuck in the middle and probably didn’t even get a tip out of it.

The thing that’s always gotten me about this film is that so much drama could’ve been avoided if Ilsa had only told Rick from the start, “Look, I’m married, but I think he’s probably dead.” Then, later, she could have said, “Um, guess what? Turns out he isn’t.” But then it wouldn’t have been much of a movie, right?

So you have to buy into the whole business there, along with the idea that she’d rather be with boring old Paul Henreid than Bogie for Pete’s sake! Does the free world really depend on this choice?

At least, that’s the way I felt when I was 17 years old. Being a little older gives you a bit more perspective and makes you realize that love is complicated. And sometimes the problems of three little people really don’t amount to a hill of beans when the world is going crazy.

But it is a comfort to know that we’ll always have Casablanca.

Two thumbs up for a classic film that will endure as time goes by. 🙂

PS: I still can’t believe Ronald Reagan might have played Rick. Ack!

Posted in Classic Movies, Drama, Movie Reviews, Romance | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Part Five of ‘White Zombie’

It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in the U.S. of A., where I happen to live. And even though I could stuff myself with food and simply laze around the house, I’ve chosen not to do so.

And I’m not overlooking the fact that it’s Saturday again. So, it’s time to show another part of this ridiculous ludicrous hilarious fascinatingly-weird movie! 🙂

For good or ill your amusement, here it is … Part Five of White Zombie!!!

Posted in B-Movies, Bad Movies, Pre-Code, Public Domain Movies, Serial Shorts | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Let’s Talk Turkey!

Since it’s Thanksgiving, I figured I’d keep this post short and sweet! 🙂

Thanksgiving is a great time to indulge, not only in food, but in watching your favorite films.

So … in the spirit of the holiday, here are 15 Great Thanksgiving Movies to Watch With Family This Holiday!

And right up near the top is one of my favorites! Planes, Trains, and Automobiles! 🙂

Via Paramount Pictures.

Two of the films on the list are Woody Allen flicks that I love!

Broadway Danny Rose

and Hannah and Her Sisters!

And the holiday wouldn’t be complete without A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving? 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving! Treat yourself to a great movie!

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Spy Noir and Nazi Agent (1942)

Adding “Nazi Agent” to my list of movies I’ve got to see! 🙂

B Noir Detour

This post is brings together my ongoing interest in the films of Conrad Veidt (see introductory post here) and the history and definition of film noir.

Film noir can be read and defined in multiple ways, depending on one’s point of view. It’s cycle, style, and genre, for example. And within that trio of descriptors, there are implications for historical and cultural interpretation.

If noir is a cycle, that limits its range to a number of years, often delineated as 1941-1958 — from Maltese Falcon to Touch of Evil. The cycle is also often defined as American in origin, as explained by critics from France.

If noir is a style, its defining features are visual and sometimes aural. So, it’s about darkness, chiaroscuro lighting, back alley and underworld settings, lush romantic mood music alerting us to ill-fated romance and criminal doings, and the like. Such films…

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A fascinating blog post! :)

via Joan Crawford And Humphrey Bogart

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‘White Zombie’ — Part Four

Yes, people, it’s back again and simply refuses to end! It’s yet another part of the alleged first zombie movie ever made, at least as a feature film.

So … without further ado, here’s Part Four of White Zombie! 🙂

Posted in B-Movies, Bad Movies, Horror, Parody, Pre-Code, Public Domain Movies, Satire, Saturday Matinee, Serial Shorts | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

My Review of ‘They Won’t Believe Me’ (1947)

This is another entry in the TCM Noir Alley line-up. Told almost entirely in flashback in probably the longest, most rambling witness testimony in any courtroom ever, the main character Larry Ballentine (played by Marcus Welby against type by Robert Young), who stands trial for murder, explains what actually went down.

Via RareFilm

You see, Larry married Greta (played by Rita Johnson) for her money, not love. So, he ends up seeing Janice Bell (played by Jane Greer, in role that established her film noir chops) on the side.

Via Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings

Their liaisons are innocent and in a quiet restaurant, but Janice grows unhappy with the situation. Unwilling to break up Larry’s marriage, even though he’s miserable, Janice gets a job transfer to Montreal and breaks off the relationship. At that point, Larry says, “That’s it. I’m leaving Greta. And I’ll meet you at the train station, Janice.”

But then he doesn’t do it, even though Greta comes home while he’s packing a bag and starts to help him. Then, she tells him she already knew what he was up to and that he was clearly unhappy with her. And knowing perfectly well that he’s only into her for the moolah, in a bid to win his love, Greta buys into a brokerage firm where Larry can get a job. Greta also conveniently buys a nice house in California, where the job is. Now, wasn’t that sweet?

So, Larry goes along with Greta, without even a fare-thee-well to Janice.

Via YouTube

Naturally, once ensconced at his new job and digs, Larry strays again. This time with employee Verna Carlson (played by Susan Hayward) who covers Larry’s ass for him takes steps to protect Larry after he screws up falls down on the job. After which, Verna basically throws herself at him seduces Larry, because she’s a complete slut an unabashed gold-digger.

Oh, but this seamy happy scenario can’t last forever, can it? Because Greta again susses out the truth. She calmly informs Larry that she’s sold her interest in the brokerage, so he’s out of a job. Oh, and she’s moving to a decrepit an old Spanish ranch in the middle of freaking nowhere, so Larry’s out on his ass in the street. Unless, of course, he chooses to live with Greta out in the boonies. Did I mention that Greta flat-out refuses to divorce Larry?

Okay, folks. That’s the set-up that leads to the death that leads to Larry’s trial for murder. Care to lay bets on who dies?

I have to say that even though Larry is supposed to be an homme fatale, it must be noted that good old Greta is a bit of a see-you-next-Tuesday! 🙂

I especially loved seeing Jane Greer playing a nice woman, as opposed the scheming bitch she played in Out of the Past.

The farther you get into the story, the more hopeless it seems for Larry. The plot builds tension and suspense well and kept me guessing as to how it would end, although I’ll admit I wasn’t completely surprised.

It may also interest you to know that the movie was produced by Joan Harrison, one of Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite collaborators.

I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I think the movie’s theme is less about the drawbacks of adultery and more about how, even when we’re innocent, our downfall can come from failing to forgive ourselves.

This is one of those lesser-known films that deserves a look! If you’re willing to ignore the fact that no defense attorney could get away with such drawn-out testimony! 🙂

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