March 5, 2014 – Turner Classic Movies (TCM) celebrates its 20th anniversary this April. In honor of the milestone, they have put together a series of events across the country, which included a free screening of “Casablanca” in Philadelphia and 19 other cities last night.
Despite the frigid east coast temperatures, I stood in line at the Ritz East with my ticket, looking forward to seeing one of my favorites. Black and white plays out especially well on the big screen.
Released in November 1942, Casablanca tells the story of an American bar owner (Humphrey Bogart) in Morocco during the early days of World War II, the woman who broke his heart (Ingrid Bergman), and the Captain (Claude Rains), who is slightly corrupt, yet tries to keep the peace in the unoccupied region. Eerily, the release coincided with the actual invasion of North Africa by German soldiers.
The Bogie/Bergman classic has given us some of the best lines ever. Among them, “We’ll always have Paris,” “Here’s looking at you kid,” “Round up the usual suspects”, and “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine”. Even its theme song, “As Time Goes By”, of the “Play it again, Sam variety” is iconic, which is impressive for a 72-year-old film.
The film looked different on the big screen, and although I have probably seen it a dozen times, it almost felt like I was seeing it through fresh eyes, which made me wish for an alternative ending. Alas, Ilsa leaves unwillingly with Victor Laszlo after a tearful goodbye to her true love, Rick Blaine. At the time, the ending surprised most people. A conventional ending, or one that was regarded as sentimental was the norm. Ilsa and Rick were the true lovers in the story, and a Hollywood ending would have put them together. Instead, the writers took a risk, and had Ilsa leave with Victor. It was real, it was heartbreaking, and it worked.
If it had ended differently, Bogart never would have uttered the classic line at the very end of the film when he walks away with Captain Renault (Rains). “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”