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    Viewing Casablanca for the First Time

    Recently Herman went to a local store in Caroga Lake called Groom’s. Jerry is the owner and proprietor and he carries a variety of groceries, plumbing supplies and sundry items. He also rents movies.

    I can’t exactly remember why Herman was going there, but he came home with a video called Casablanca.

    He was amazed I had never seen it when he showed it to me -especially since I had been in the entertainment business.

    It is known as the American Film Institute’s best film of all time in their top 100 list.

    If you haven’t seen it, the movie stars Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine and Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund with Claude Rains as the head of the French police, Captain Renault. Paul Henreid plays Victor Laszlo, Ilsa’s husband and Peter Lorre plays a minor crook who gets killed early in the film. Sam the piano player is portrayed by Dooley Wilson.

    Bergman and Bogart play star-crossed lovers and the film shows them in a flashback in happier times in Paris. But the war tears them apart and we don’t find out until later that Ilsa was married and thought her husband was killed when she was seeing Blaine. With Laszlo’s reappearance, Blaine goes off to Casablanca to start a cabaret and try to forget their love.

    But Ilsa shows up, as Blaine says in the classic, “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

    When she does see Sam the piano player, she asks him to play her favorite song, “As Time Goes By,” which Blaine has barred from the club because of his memories. She doesn’t say (nor does Bogart) the misquoted “Play it again, Sam.” The actual quote is, “Play it once, Sam. For old times' sake.”

    There are so many memorable quotes in the film. Some have been made into complete movies, such as “Round up the usual suspects,” from which was made the 1995 mystery “The Usual Suspects.” I’ve actually never seen this film, but after looking it up on the Internet I’d like to see it as it has one of my favorite actors, Kevin Spacey, who I used to wait on all the time.

    Bogart is not only broken-hearted, he is also the gruff curmudgeon with a heart of gold who helps a young couple escape Casablanca by rigging the roulette wheel in their favor so the young wife doesn’t have to sleep with Captain Renault in order to get letters of transit out of the city to Lisbon and eventually America.

    What I like most about this film, although it was made in 1942, it still stands up as a wonderful love story in current time. Ingrid Bergman is an outstanding beauty by any standard at this time in her life.

    I spoke to my Mom about this film and she was also very surprised I had never seen it. She agreed whole heartedly that Ingrid Bergman was a true classic beauty, especially as portrayed in this film.

    Of course, the film has to end with their love thwarted so they can be noble. But the ending with Blaine and Renault walking off into the fog having just killed the German Gestapo leader is a classic, near comedy line as Blaine says, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

    Hopefully, most of you have already seen this wonderful film. But even if you have, play it again. It’s worth it.


    Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues free lance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site www.kathrynskorner.com