Perfect day for timeless classic
I had heard of the movie, of course, and had seen bits and pieces of it on late night television while channel surfing during long nights of insomnia, but had never been interested enough to actually watch the movie. It was in black-and white, after all, and was heavy on dialogue and light on action. There weren't any car chases or bombs going off or fist fights worth mentioning. So when I happened to land on a station showing "Casablanca," I would zip right through, in search of "Cool Hand Luke," "Smokey and the Bandit" or a John Wayne western.
But then one night, while staying over with Anderson, Rob showed up, too. While everyone else was watching the football scores on the 11 o'clock news, Rob was studying the television listings. He knew that sleep, if it came at all, would be delayed until the wee small hours of the morning and wanted to be prepared.
"Yes!" Rob shouted, raising a fist in jubilation. Anderson and I turned to him in unison and asked, "What?"
"'Casablanca's' on the late show," was his response.
"Get ready, Huckaby," Anderson said.
"For what?" I asked.
"If 'Casablanca' came on every night for a week, Rob Hembree would watch 'Casablanca' every night for a week," he explained.
Now understand, Rob Hembree is a smart man. I already told you he became a judge and when the Coca-Cola Company took leave of its senses and introduced New Coke, Rob bought up every case of the "real thing" he could find. He's the only person I know that didn't do without while waiting for Coca-Cola Classic to be introduced. So if Rob said I should watch "Casablanca," I was more than willing.
Ten minutes into the movie, I was hooked and now, if they show "Casablanca" on television every night for a week, I will watch "Casablanca" every night for a week. If you've never seen it, take it from Judge Hembree and me. You are missing out, my friend.
First of all, it is a classic story with a classic love triangle. Rick loves Ilsa, Ilsa loves Rick, Victor loves Ilsa, Ilsa also loves Victor -- but not as much as she loves Rick. OK. I never said it wasn't complicated.
Plus there is history. The film is set in Northern Africa at the outset of World War II -- after the Nazis take over and before the United States has liberated the region. Rick Blaine, an expatriated American, is the owner of Rick's Cafe American, a bar where everybody who is anybody in Casablanca shows up sooner or later, including Ilsa, Rick's former girlfriend and Victor Lazlo, Ilsa's current husband and dedicated freedom fighter.
Rick is played by Humphrey Bogart and may be the coolest character in all of filmdom not named Rhett Butler. Only Humphrey Bogart could project a tough guy image while wearing a white sports coat and a bowtie. Not even David Irwin can pull that off. Rick pretends to be a tough as nails businessman who doesn't care about anybody or anything, but deep inside he has a heart of gold and always does the right thing, no matter the personal sacrifice.
I'm telling you, it is great, great movie and there is not a bad scene or a wasted line of dialogue in the whole film. Plus it contains some of the most memorable lines in the history of Hollywood.
"Here's looking at you, kid."
"We'll always have Paris."
"Round up the usual suspects."
"This could be the start of a beautiful friendship."
And my personal favorite, "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine."
"Casablanca" also contains one of the most widely misquoted lines in Hollywood history, because Bogart's character never did say, "Play it again, Sam," despite what most people think. What he said was, "If she can stand it I can. Play it."
He was referring, of course, to the immortal song "As Time Goes By," which was written just for the movie.
The clever dialogue is not limited to the famous lines, either. It runs all through the movie.
"What is your nationality? I am drunkard. That makes Monsieur Rick a citizen of the world."
"Why did you come to Casablanca?" "For the waters." "But it's in the desert!" "I was misinformed."
I could, and have, watched it over and over and over.
Now I told you all of that to tell you this. I haven't been able to get out much lately and every day, during my confinement, I have prayed for a dark, cool, rainy day so I could make some popcorn, cover up on the couch with a warm blanket and spend a guilt-free morning watching my favorite movie for the umpteenth time. Tuesday was that day.
If you ever find yourself in Judge Rob Hembree's courtroom, tell him I said thanks -- and we'll always have College Park.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.