I went to see Casablanca at The Orpheum last weekend.
What is it that makes us return over and over again to movies in which we know most of the lines and we know the ending?
The story doesn’t change, but we do.
At least that was my story. For others in the crowd – and there was quite a crowd – the lines and story were apparently new.
Claude Rains really did have the best lines in the movie. And while they were strategically placed, they were key to creating the sense of place and time essential to a plot that moves pretty quickly. But I’m guessing you probably already know that and don’t need a new review of a nearly 70 year old movie released after the Allied forces invaded Morocco.
Most of the desperate characters trying to buy their way to Lisbon and from there to America were convincing because in real life they had recently fled the Nazis and come to America, including Conrad Veidt, whose on screen death as Major Strasser of the Gestapo, was applauded by the audience. Veidt was such a virulent anti-Nazi that whenever he applied for a job in his native Germany he would describe his ethnic background as Jewish even though he wasn’t Jewish. Veidt was blacklisted by the Nazis and became a British citizen in 1939 before coming to Hollywood.
Only three actors in the movie were American born, Humphrey Bogart, Dooley Wilson – Sam, the piano player, and Joy Page, who played the Bulgarian newlywed whose groom wins the money for their passage when Rick rigs an already crooked roulette game.
Like a lot of folks, I “discovered” Casablanca on the late show, that television institution responsible for keeping some of Hollywood’s best work alive at a time when it was threatened with obscurity. But there is something about hearing Ingrid Bergman’s whispered dilemma floating through a darkened theater and around ancient chandeliers.
Before the chandeliers went dark, Pat Halloran, President and CEO of The Orpheum, announced the movie series will continue past Casablanca with his staff taking suggestions for future screenings. So let’s hear them.
Years ago, The Orpheum screened the silent version of Phantom of the Opera with Tony Thomas playing the theater’s organ. I got to attend a rehearsal and had the theater to myself for the most part. Very spooky and Halloween is just around the corner.