Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca (Blogathon)

Ann S. Blyth's Blogathon for Humphrey BogartThis post will contain a number of spoilers so if you have not seen Casablanca, I suggest you run, don't walk, to Amazon and watch it right away. Also, I am warning you that if you read this, the entire film will be spoiled for you. I cannot be frank enough.

I'd like to thank Ann S. Blyth for co-hosting such a fun blogathon. I hope I honor Bogie well here.


I do not actually remember the first time I saw Casablanca, but I was definitely an adult. What I remember most is not when, but what I thought. When the film was over, I remember scratching my head, wondering why everyone always called it the best romance, when it clearly was so much more than a romance. Oh so much more!

By 1942, Humphrey Bogart was a serious lead in Hollywood. He had started off as the gangster type and had many death scenes prior to this film. He struck gold with The Maltese Falcon and studios were anxious to capitalize on that dark theme.

Let's face it, Hollywood films are a gamble. The ones suits believe will do well, don't, and the ones that suits dislike, are hot tickets. The truth is that they really don't know what they have until audiences see it. Casablanca, was no exception.
Casablanca capitalizes on the use of shadows.

Who knew that it would endure? Who knew that the writing was so unique, that it would still be heavily quoted nearly 75 years later? Who knew that its dark themes would oft be repeated? Who knew? No one. Not a single person.

The direction and cinematography are amazing. As I've mentioned, there are many dark themes in this film and when I think of those dark themes, I am reminded of the shadowy photography that is so expertly done.

The cast and characters are stellar to say the least. We must credit the writing here. The characters before us are so well defined that when it's all over, they feel like family. That means that clever wit is not the only thing the writers were successful at!
A face that symbolizes good.

The damsel in distress is Ilsa played by Ingrid Bergman, an actress whose face symbolizes vulnerability but whose acting is truly a craft. Her Oscar winning performance in Murder on the Orient Express would not come until much later. "Little brown babies," will echo in your mind forever after that one. However, her tortured and divided character here was definitely Oscar worthy and it's too bad that she was overlooked completely by the Academy.

The rival is Victor Laszlo portrayed by Paul Henreid. Paul Henreid's career was successful during his time, but he is often forgotten by today's world. Classic film lovers remember his work, but few else do. My own husband felt his performance in Casablanca was "thin" or did he call him "plain"? Whatever the word was, he didn't know Paul and I don't think he fully understood Laszlo. Laszlo was fully selfless, brave, calm cool and collected and never easily rattled. I think Henreid was marvelous.

However, when it comes to Claude Rains' portrayal of French Captain Louis Renault, I feel he was wrongly downgraded. While I love Henreid's portrayal, it was Rains who stole the movie. As Renault, he has become one of the world's most beloved sexual predators. Oh yes. Renault's corruption has no bounds. From gambling, to murder, to sexual extortion, to flippant attitudes about politics, he is lovable no matter what. Only Rains had that power. Few can carry something like that. He would be paired with Ingrid Bergman later on and that character was different in every way. Desperate, a mama's boy and love sick. Only Rains could do both.
Shouldn't there have been a song
named Peter Lorre's Eyes? 

Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre are not in it nearly enough, despite Casablanca's perfection. The Maltese Falcon's top players are reunited in this film. Their parts however are polar opposites. Greenstreet went from monied exerting power to envious business rival, Lorre went from an elegant, regal, inept, nerd to a slimy wanted man and Bogie went from the coolest to the hottest. There is simply no in-between for him.

The story is like no other. It's about desperation, courage, love, hate, war, human rights, thievery, sexual extortion, price gouging, spies, Frances Libre (or the Free French) underground resistance and so many other things. How can anyone say it's just a romance? This is a thriller and a noir, no doubt about it. Darkness lurks in the city of Casablanca and it's everyone for himself while you're there waiting... and waiting... and waiting...

Bogie owning the world.
The clear star in Casablanca is Humphrey Bogart. Even Ingrid Bergman sits off to the wayside here. Not only is does Bogie's performance demand his portrayal of so many emotions (which we'll get to in a moment) but let's face it: he's definitely the best dressed man in Morocco!

Look at him there on the left. Is he not resplendent, dressed in white, looking all ruggedly handsome? He is puts a new meaning in "slick" when it comes to dress and behavior. The shadow here frames him well and almost makes a statement that he has had his dark times, but he's really full of light.

His performance is magnificent. Any question of his versatility as an actor melts away in this film. Rick, his character, has an array of emotions. He is head over heels in love, he is angry, he is worried, he is sad, he is confidant, he is a tortured soul, he is unshakable, he is a business man, he is a boss, he is caring, he has morals. The list is really rather endless. Few actors could have pulled it off. It seems even more likely that only one could have done it and that seems to be true. Enter Bogie.

Most lists say that Humphrey Bogart is the best actor in history. This film is a perfect example as to why and after you really view it well, you can see that it is unquestionable.

He is known for even acting under intense personal issues but his professionalism did not falter. He remains an enigma even today. People of all ages recognize the name "Bogie" and they understand his impact on American culture.

My own son, an anime blogger with thousands of followers, came to me one day and said, "Show me Casablanca." I was stunned beyond belief. To begin with, he hated black and white movies growing up. Granted, he learned the art behind black and white film, but his interest in classic film was zero. He did not inherit the bug from me, as my daughter somewhat did.

I asked him why and he said that he's heard all the quotes all his life and now it was time to see what it was all about. Why it mattered so much. In that moment, when I ran to my (then) DVD collection of classics, I ran like Jerry Rice into the living room and fired up the DVD player.

In the end, he was amazed. This coming from someone who literally has zero interest in old films. He couldn't believe how many lines he recognized and he said that Humphrey Bogart was so much more than he ever imagined.

Do you think he ever guessed for even a second what an impression he'd make on future generations? I don't think anyone could have imagined that.

Bogie is simply timeless as is this film. I have no doubt that like Homer, in thousands of years, people will still be enjoying it's splendor. I really don't. Bogie, we love you. We always will.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

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