Archive for the Lent in Casablanca Category

Homeward Bound: Lent in Casablanca, Epilogue

Posted in Lent in Casablanca on April 24, 2011 by tom

Lent is over.

Just for kicks, I combined all 37 posts into a Word file. It’s 85 pages; 22,686 words.

Nothing I’ve done has changed this spectacular film. It’s still my favorite movie. It’s not perfect, but it is remarkable nonetheless. Even if it would be better with Annie the Soapmaker smacking people around.

Annie, Lisbeth, Hermione, Kelly, ‘Rossa–everyone I added or made up–they wouldn’t appear in the film Casablanca. To me, they would (and should) inhabit that world on other days, the weeks before or after that one.

I leave you with a picture of my flight, as I depart Casablanca, and return to this world of colorful, noisy confusion.

I’ve enjoyed our time together in Casablanca. Thanks for stopping by. And happy Easter.


“Adieu, Casablanca”: Lent in Casablanca, Night 37

Posted in Lent in Casablanca on April 23, 2011 by tom

Ugarti says “Adieu Casablanca” when he’s explaining his scheme to Rick (If you recall, Ugarti ended up with the Letters of Transit. He was going to sell them to Laszlo for “More money than even (he) had ever dreamed of,” at which time he would leave Casablanca forever. (If you recall further, that didn’t quite happen))

Anyway, for this penultimate Lenten Casablanca post, I have decided to attempt the ABC’s of Casablanca. No, I won’t be using my annoying rhyming skills. Instead, I will present an attributed quote featuring each letter. Here we go (I have 90 minutes of work left. If I don’t finish? Hell with it! 😉 )

A: Angriff (Goebbels’ propaganda newspaper) “I shall report this to The Angriff!” (Angry, disrespected, German banker to Rick, after being refused admission)

B: Brandy (booze). “I thought you would ask me, so I brought the good brandy. And – a third glass!” (Carl to Herr und Frau Leuchtag)

C: Champagne (bubbly wine) “Oh no, Emil, please. A bottle of your best champagne, and put it on my bill.” (Louis to Emil)

D: Despise (strong dislike) Ugarte: You despise me, don’t you? Rick: If I gave you any thought I probably would.

E: Extravagant (with no regard for money or floozies) “Captain Renault (to Rick): How extravagant you are, throwing away women like that. Someday they may be scarce. You know, now I think I shall pay a call on Yvonne. Maybe get her on the rebound. Hmm?”

F: F*** (the F-bomb): (conspicuous by its absence, the F-word is nowhere near Casablanca)

G: Germans (people from Germany): Signor Ferrari: Might as well be frank, monsieur. It would take a miracle to get you out of Casablanca, and the Germans have outlawed miracles. (one of my favorite lines, and it’s Earth Day night, so recycling is good)

H: Honest (something the roulette wheel isn’t always at Rick’s): Customer: Are you sure this place is honest?
Carl: Honest? As honest as the day is long! (I should get bonus points for having three “honests” in one exchange)

I: Ilsa (Ilsa Lund, as played by Ingrid Bergman) Laszlo: “May I present Miss Ilsa Lund.” (I include this for one simple reason: somebody had reported this line to under Goofs, saying that Laszlo introduced Bergman’s character as “Mrs Zalant” the first time, then she was never called this again. Like Leo McGarry with the USA Today puzzles editor, I contacted, pointing out that Henreid (a native Austrian) would pronounce Ilsa’s name correctly, “Miss Ilza Lunt.” Bless them, they corrected it forthwith, thus forever cementing my place in Casablanca film history)

J: Joints (Saloons) Rick: Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine. (One of my favorite lines)

K: Kid (doll, sugarbooger) Rick (to Ilsa): Here’s looking at you, kid. (“Here’s looking at you, kid.” was voted as the #1 of “The 100 Greatest Movie Lines” by Premiere in 2007.)

L: Least (less than lesser): Rick: And remember, this gun is pointed right at your heart.
Captain Renault: That is my *least* vulnerable spot. (sorry, another favorite)

M: Marseillaise, La (updated title of “Chant de guerre pour l’Armée du Rhin” (as much as it’s instinct for me to make a joke about “Chant de guerre pour l’Armée du Rhin” translating to something involving cheese and Grey Poupon, I can’t diss another country’s National Anthem)) Victor Laszlo: Play “La Marseillaise.”… Play it!

N: Nobody (people for whom Rick sticks out his neck): Rick: I stick my neck out for nobody! (told you)

O: Out (a place where ones guts get kicked (see also, “cop out,” a cheap way for me to work-in my favorite image): Rick: Well, I did. Every one of ’em. Mostly I remember the last one. The wild finish. A guy standing on a station platform in the rain with a comical look in his face because his insides have been kicked out.

P: Paris (European city where “La Marseillaise” would be sung): Major Strasser: Are you one of those people who cannot imagine the Germans in their beloved Paris?
Rick: It’s not particularly my beloved Paris. (Um, also, “We’ll always have Paris” is pretty well known)

Q: Questions (interrogative phrases to pry into other people’s business): Rick: I’m sorry for asking. I forgot we said “no questions“.
Ilsa: Well, only one answer can take care of all our questions.

R: Rhein (Rhine) (a river over which there was a Wacht Am (not to be confused with the Rhone or Mississippi): Zum Rhein, zum Rhein, zum deutschen Rhein. (I put this in, only because I find it interesting that the Germans sang “Die Wacht Am Rhein,” only to be sung down by the French singing their national anthem, the original title of which translates to “War Song for the Army of the Rhine”)

S: Salesmanship (something of which mentioning Paris is a poor example): Rick: [to Ilsa] I wouldn’t bring up Paris if I were you, it’s poor salesmanship.

T: Transit, letters of (completely fabricated plot device): Rick: (to Laszlo) What you didn’t know was that she was at my place last night when you were. She came there for the letters of transit. Isn’t that true, Ilsa?
Ilsa: Yes.
Rick: She tried everything to get them and nothing worked, not even the schoolgirl uniform.

U: Usual (Type of suspect): Captain Renault: Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects.

V: Vichy (Type of soisse (sorry, French collaborateurist government (ant: Free French))): Rick: Louis? Are you pro-Vichy or Free French?

W: Waters (commodity whose presence in the desert is a subject of misinformation (see also, cheap reason to get another of my favorite lines in)): 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

X: Xanax (alprazolam, an anti-anxiety medicine): Captain Renault: We are very honored tonight, Rick. Major Strasser is one of the reasons the Third Reich enjoys the reputation it has today.
Major Heinrich Strasser: You repeat *Third* Reich as though you expected there to be others!
Annie the Soapmaker: Oh Hitler’s lonely little ball. Don’t you Nazitards ever stop whining? Unknot your “panties, little girl, pop a Xanax, and chill the hell out.

Y: You (pronoun (see also, really cheap way to work in another favorite line, since I’ve already used B and H)):
Rick: Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you‘ll understand that.

Z: (This quote has no “z” words, but it’s the best last line ever, so…)

Rick: Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

“It would take a miracle to get you out of Casablanca, and the Germans have outlawed miracles.”: Lent in Casablanca, Night 36

Posted in Lent in Casablanca on April 22, 2011 by tom

A frequently mentioned quote goes, “Insanity is repeating the same actions, and expecting different results.” I’ve heard it phrased in many different ways, and attributed to everyone from Albert Einstein to my friend’s dad.

In Casablanca, people repeat the same actions, night after night, in the hopes that the results will be different, that through influence or luck or having sex with the right suave Capitaine, tonight will be the night when that elusive exit visa arrives, unlike a previous eternity’s worth of “tonights.”

Whenever I hear that line now–It will take a miracle to get you out of Casablanca–I laugh. I have to. I wonder the same thing some nights.

I get the impression that Rick’s Cafe Americain changed very little from one night to the next, at least till Victor, Ilsa, and Major Strasser arrived. People dressed with the same sartorial flair, then smoked and drank and gambled, trying to forget–or arrange escape from–being stuck in Casablanca.

My nightly visits to Casablanca are nearly finished, and I’ve learned a lot from watching this same film every night.

I should point out that I haven’t been watching every pixel every second. What has tended to happen is that I start Casablanca, then some inspiration or another will hit me, and I’ll start writing. It’s funny how many posts start when Rick disses the Deutsche Bank guy, and end right after “…beautiful friendship.” This marks my 36th Lenten Casablanca post.

Doubtless, it’s not a good thing that I can anticipate music cues without seeing the screen, or that I know nearly all the dialogue. Also, Casablanca took five weeks to shoot. I’ve spent longer on this odd experiment.

Kzinti joked in one comment that it was like I was writing my dissertation tying Casablanca to everything.

While I’m reasonably certain they don’t let you write dissertations that way, Casablanca deals with themes common to everyone: love, lust, friendship, patriotism. We see the best and worst of humankind, from Rick allowing his One True Love to leave with another man, to Louis trading exit visas for sex. (I’m not sure what the worst part is (rimshot))

Casablanca has endured because it’s a crystalized, beautifully rendered snapshot of humankind, foibles and all. It’s succinct, as compared to “Gone With the Wind,” which has yet to end after 72 years.

At Casablanca’s core is the triangle: Rick-Ilsa-Laszlo. The rest–Nazis vs French, rich vs poor, patriot vs traitor–that’s all just window dressing. The quality of that dressing…that’s what has made Casablanca endure.

There isn’t another film I could watch nightly for this many consecutive days, not without going nuts. It’s Good Friday morning now. When I get home, I’ll watch Casablanca, then again tomorrow, and then this experiment will be over. I have had a lot of fun, and I’ve forced myself to write 36 of these nights. Some posts have been serious; others have given me the chance to write other characters into the story. It’s been great. Thanks for stopping by.

I just wonder if I’ll ever be able to sleep again without Major Strasser being shot first.

The Commentary Track: Lent in Casablanca, Night 35

Posted in Lent in Casablanca on April 20, 2011 by tom

Have you ever watched the Casablanca dvd while listening to the Commentary Track, “With Director Michael Curtiz, Producer Hal B. Wallace, and Actors Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Katherine Hepburn, and Spencer Tracy”? It’s amazing to hear. They tell all the famous stories, about how the airplane was a cardboard model with midgets playing the ground crew. They discuss how tough it was handling the height difference between Bogie & Bergman and Bogie & Paul Henreid, and Bogie and Tracy joke about how uptight Henreid was on set.

This dvd commentary is available on the super-deluxe Criterion Collection Blu-Ray DVD, exclusively at Heaven’s Video Store.

This came to mind after I watched one of the best episodes of “The West Wing.” It’s the episode called “Bartlet for America,” and the commentary track features writer Aaron Sorkin, director Thomas Schlamme, and John Spencer, the actor who played Leo McGarry.

I usually enjoy the commentary tracks, as you’d expect for someone with my level of dorkiness.  If a film captivates me, I want to know as much as possible about it: how it was made, why they did things one way instead of another, what an actor thought about when the cameras rolled.

The most amazing commentary track I’ve heard for Casablanca was from Roger Ebert. Ebert loves the film, and he’s studied it closely with an expert eye. In his career, he’s interviewed a zillion movie people. He combines all these tools, plus a journalist’s eloquence, and provides an informative, engrossing narrative.

When I was watching The West Wing last night, relishing the insights, I couldn’t help but wish Bogie and friends had recorded a commentary track for Casablanca.  It dawned on me why they hadn’t: there was not even a thought in 1942 that dvd’s would have commentary tracks. This makes sense, since the dvd market was so small in 1942, that nobody bothered. 

In 1942, of course, the dvd wasn’t invented. TV was essentially a rumor–regular tv broadcasting in the US wasn’t till after WW2–and dvd’s took a few more years. Well, several decades, to be honest.

Bogie and friends never thought anyone would see Casablanca anywhere except in a theater. Today, dvd commentaries are often recorded before the film even premiers. For Love, Actually, the session where the actors and writer-director recorded their commentary was the first time the actors had seen the film.

I haven’t checked to see if my new dvd of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has a commentary track. It doesn’t matter to me, really. I think the film is really good, but I don’t have any desire to learn more than imdb can tell me. When I opened the dvd, two things literally popped out at me. One was a brochure offering all manner of overpriced HP memorabilia. Another glossy ad extolled the wonders of the HP park at Universal Orlando.

The thought of a Casablanca theme park (with Rick & Ilsa’s Hill of Beans™ Coffee Bar) is enough to nauseate me, and the mind reels at what sort of merchandise they’d come up with.

Ah, but the special dvd, featuring commentary with Curtiz, Wallis, Bogart, Bacall, Hepburn, and Tracy? For that, I’d pay a ton.

Of course, Spencer Tracy wasn’t in Casablanca, nor were Bacall or Hepburn. However, the four were frequent and enthusiastic drinking buddies. After Ebert’s commentary, imdb, all the crap I’ve read, and watching it every night during Lent, I know a gracious plenty about Casablanca. Hearing Bogart & Bacall, Hepburn & Tracy get schnockered and talk movies? That’s worth any numbers of bean hills.


Harry Potter and Fantasy’s Death: Lent in Casablanca, Night 34

Posted in Lent in Casablanca on April 19, 2011 by tom

For a long time, I was always in the middle of reading the Harry Potter series.  Oh, mostly I read other books–lots of them–but between “other” books, I was somewhere in the world of Hogwarts and Diagon Alley.  I tried to imagine where i’d fit in.

I’d have been in Ravenclaw, would’ve made illicit performance enhancing drugs in potions lab (drugs I’d have sold to Slytherins and Gryffindors alike), I’d have thought the Weasley twins were hilarious, kinda liked Ron, had a nerd crush on Hermione, dated Luna, and I would have thought Harry Potter was a whining drama queen.

Something happened, and I’m no longer a constant visitor to that world. The thing that happened?

The Millenium Trilogy.

At a few stages in my journeys, I’ve worked as a journalist. Granted, I wasn’t chasing the Wennerströms of the world–I was writing film and music reviews, and anchoring rip-and-read FM morning show news–but I’ve been in a newsroom. I’ve never been to a magic school.

So now, instead of a world of magic and adventure, I’m always in the middle of the trilogy, which is about as whimsical and fun as the Book of Leviticus.
But it’s a familiar world, sort of like Casablanca.

One result of my Casablanca immersion has been that I can inhabit that world independent of the story. I’ve enjoyed writing other people into that world.

Casablanca, this world entirely created on a Warner Brothers soundstage exists as a touchstone, locked forever in December 1941. While I’m not glamorous, and mine is a world of colors, Casablanca deals with actual humans under extraordinary circumstances. Ugarte had no protective spells to cast to save his ass; nobody had incantations to make Sam’s hands at least come close to matching his piano’s notes. These were real people whom real bullets could fell.

Same in the world of Salander and Blomquist.

I’ve been reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. On my day off, I finished Tattoo, and popped in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  At some point, I fell asleep. As good a story as it is, as beautifully adapted a film, I couldn’t relate anymore.

I’ll get back to that world in time. It was a lot of fun. In the meantime, I’m just waiting for a flesh-and-blood German major to get shot by a Muggle cooler than Harry Potter could ever be.

(Sorry this is brief and lame, but–I swear–I had to reattach three buttons to the DorkFone’s keypad. Being a Cracker muggle, and unable to muster a permanent sticking charm, I used duct tape. 😉 )

40-Odd Days of Ilsa: Lent in Casablanca, Night 33

Posted in Lent in Casablanca on April 18, 2011 by tom

In Casablanca, Ilsa is beautiful, no doubt about it.  She has a great heart, and a fierce loyalty to love. Her head believes she’s in love with her husband. Her heart is with Rick. Either way, she’s angelic, radiant.

And I’m amazed how little I’m attracted to her.

Zooey Deschanel, on the other hand…

I slept in Sunday. I’d planned to head to work at 5 to pick up an assload of OT, but I was having too much fun sleeping. I woke up around sunset, and checked-in with my interweb friends.

My friend, Kelly, tweeted that somebody who loves her should buy her “A subscription to Mental Floss or a copy of (500) Days of Summer.”

I’m a fan of Mental Floss, but I’d never seen (500) Days of Summer. I’d just never felt compelled to.

Anyway, off to work. I stopped at the 7-Eleven to purchase caffeinated beverages. There was a line at the counter, so I turned down the first aisle, back toward the coolers. There on my left was this:


Are you kidding me, Universe? Really??

You betcha, I picked it up. That, a cube of Red Bull (sugar free), and a liter of Diet Mountain Dew, and I was set. I texted Kelly the creepy coincidence, and told her I’d watch the dvd then mail it to her.  Her response cracked me up: “Before or after Casablanca?”

Before. Definitely before.

Many moons ago, I bought a brand new Fender Stratocaster American Standard, with a maple fingerboard, and this unusual, gorgeous metallic blue finish.

I named it Zooey; the blue matched Zooey Deschanel’s eyes. It was love at first sight for me.

But it wasn’t to be. I also had this beat-up Epiphone SG (Annie (from mahogANY)) that just fit my hands better and made sweeter music under my touch.

No diss on Zooey D, though. Her character, Summer, was quirky. She told Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character right up front: she didn’t want to be anybody’s girlfriend. She liked being on her own.

His character was smitten. He was thinking soulmate, true love forever, all the pop song greeting card images.

He was thinking of an Ilsa.

An old friend of mine married the same woman four times, at least they were on #4 when he and I lost touch. After divorce #3, he and I were out drinking. About two drinks past midnight, I finally asked him: “Why do you keep going back? It’s always the same damned thing: arguing and fighting and craziness.” He drained the last of his Manhattan and gestured for a refill.

“Tom,” he said. “She’s my Zelda.  Just that: she’s my demented Southern Belle, my crazy, inevitable Zelda.”


Laszlo’s tall and brave, handsome, heroic, and a pretty good singer.  Rick is shorter, a man hiding from the world. On paper, Victor Laszlo is Ilsa’s perfect choice.

And she loves Rick anyway. And he loves her. Their passion sizzles, and yet she gets on the plane with Laszlo.

Perhaps it’s fitting that Casablanca features the song “As Time Goes By.” Rick and Ilsa are perfect “whos,” and their “whats” are compatible.  Their “wheres” have brought them back together, but their “whens” don’t match.

I think about that regarding my own relationships: I’ve never hit that quadrufecta. Maybe I never will. Maybe those four tumblers are clicking now, but I haven’t noticed yet.

Either way, I’m good.

(500) Days of Summer showed me something about how I’ve dealt with relationships. Love never seems to be about swelling orchestral scores and soft focus champagne toasts, but about stolen kisses in the copy room while an indie-pop song plays.

I had to shake my head and smile a lot in (500) Days of Summer. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character was named Tom. Every time my Zooey pushed away from the guy in the movie, she said my name; from the other side of the fourth wall, she poked me in the heart.

And I’m okay with that. She’s not my Zelda.

Happy Monday.

Once More With Feeling (Really): Lent in Casablanca, Night 32

Posted in Lent in Casablanca on April 17, 2011 by tom

It seems sort of appropriate to mention this one particular Casablanca-viewing tonight. 

This is my 32nd Lenten post regarding Casablanca.  Obviously, I haven’t quite written every single night–I think I owe you and the Universe five or six more posts (as if anyone has missed them)–but I have watched Casablanca even on nights I didn’t write. 

Many moons ago, I went to a Special Resort ;-), where special people 😉 with special hobbies 😉 involving special grain products 😉 enjoyed special vacations ;-).

I hope I made that clear.  😉

Anyway, one night while at the quiet place–I mean that special resort ;-)–I was running our evening meeting.  I’d been elected leader of our, um, shuffleboard team 😉 , and we had morning and evening meetings, where we discussed a dozen or so 😉 special, er, coaching tips that helped us, um, shuffle less? 

So we were going around the room, discussing our various…well, shuffleboarding difficulties, when my phone vibrated.  It was little brother Marky texting me that Casablanca would air at 1045 that night on TCM.  In Casablanca, of course, almost all of the characters play shuffleboard really badly.

Probably because they were shitfaced, like our special little resort crew had been prior to our arrival. 

Drat! I broke code for a moment.

Anyway, it took a bit of subterfuge to wrest control of the big plasma screen tv away from this one certain individual, who insisted on watching horrible How to Cook Animals of Divorce Cases shows, or something of similar intellectual level.  We were saved by the fact that smoking was banned in the building, and s/he had to smoke frequently. (note: we all did, but we outnumbered him/her)

So, once s/he went outside, the rest of us switched over to Casablanca.  (His/her sage comment, upon his/her arrival back, was that “It looks old.” (I don’t think this moron had heard of WW2, honestly)).  S/he was unhappy that we’d changed the channel, however–again–we outnumbered him/her.   (S/he made a point of sighing his/her tits off until s/he finally went back to her room) 😉

Anyway, I digress.

I had never seen Casablanca like that before; none of us had.  We were all shocked by the amount of…bad shuffleboarding these people did.  All of them.  Constantly.  I guess you don’t notice something until you’re paying $900 a day to stop doing it. 

We were an unusually subdued lot that night.  We didn’t joke around as much as usual after the movie.  Contrary to what you might expect, we were usually quite loud and riotous, doubtless the equivalent of whistling past the graveyard. 

In one of our classes that day–or one of the days–they told us the sick truth, that after one year, statistically, we’d be lucky if three out of our 20 were still, er, “playing shuffleboard correctly, and not back spending all our time in the gutters.” 😉

I’m thrilled shitless that we surpassed expectations, that four of us made it a year (At least two are still going after nearly six years; I haven’t kept in touch with the other two)

In Casablanca, few scenes don’t show people drinking.  Indoors and out, night, day, it doesn’t matter.  Somebody’s always imbibing. 

I’m not sure why I felt compelled to take this particular tack tonight.  Maybe it’s that today is Palm Sunday, which is kind of like we were that night: filled with a sort of manic, panicked hope-against-hope that we’d be one of the rare exceptions.  It was a crowd-scene sort of feeling, scaredly happy.  The true peace we hoped to find would only come later, in quiet contemplation, in hours of…practicing positive shuffleboarding skills on our own. 

I am grateful for the past six years, of course.  Here, as I spend Lent in Casablanca, I’m really grateful for my brother’s text message, for my fellow shuffleboard students that night, and for a movie that somehow–despite the most ironic possible setting–instilled in us hope that we’d be one of the few to obtain exit visas, and not end up like “those poor devils,” “the usual suspects,” living the same colorless nightmare ad infinitum, forever stuck in the gutters.

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