Monthly Archives: November 2013

Casablanca-The Great Comic Movie?

Greta, Bogart and Friend at Casablanca Screening

Greta, Bogart and Friend at Casablanca Screening

Last week I was one of 1100 people who went to a special big screen viewing of CASABLANCA at the newly restored screens at the United Palace Theatre on West 75th  in NYC.   As a special treat, the theatre let anyone who showed up in formal dress or period clothes in free, and it was fabulous to see how many people took advantage of the chance to really pull out all the stops!

I have seen the movie many times(usually on Turner Classic Movies), but on a large screen, with full speakers, I was bowled over by all the gag lines in this supposedly serious movie!  Bogart seemed to be a straight man (no pun intended) for Claude Raines, who did joke after joke in each of their encounters. Here’s an example: 

Louis(Raines):I always wondered, Rick, just why you came to Casablanca.  Rick(Bogart): I came here for the waters(in other words for his health).  Louis: The Waters?  We’re in the middle of the desert. Rick: I was misinformed….

Although technically Bogart was the star, Claude Raines stole the movie.  Whenever he was speaking, he was disarmingly lighthearted and wise-cracking, but he changed into someone who was shrewd, calculating and much darker when people weren’t watching him.   Raines the actor seemed to do this a lot in his movies..he would change from someone vaguely (and sometimes not so vaguely) effeminate, to a man with a rumbling, stentorian voice and a commanding presence.  Check him out in the movie “Caesar and Cleopatra” with Vivien Leigh.  Up until the time his troops arrive, he acts like a kindly, bumbling scholar–then he becomes the man who could have easily conquered a world…

Paul Henried and Ingrid Bergman were playing everything straight, and their lines were usual dramatic fare–except that until the end of the movie, Bergman had no idea whether or not her character was getting on the plan with Bogey, or Victor.  She must have found it frustrating, but it gave a reality to her portrayal of a woman trying to decide between two men.

But! The major shock from seeing Casablanca in a theater is the MUSIC!  During all the scenes in Rick’s Cafe, the music constantly underscores–and comments on–the action….For me as a cabaret singer, I cracked up at the titles of the songs being quietly played.  Of course, people at the time of the film’s release would have known the songs as well as I do, making the music used in Casablanca an inside joke between the audience and the composer of the film score….Viewing the movie on a TV, you miss much of the music, and many of the jokes.  The next time you watch Casablanca, give yourself a treat and really crank up the volume.  You won’t be sorry….