When I was in my late teens, a Nashville TV station ran a late-night double-feature of Humphrey Bogart movies. Immersed in the nostalgia craze, I grudgingly sacrificed “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and dozed off so I could stay awake for the fabled “Casablanca.” In those pre-DVD, pre-streaming days, my nap was my “letter of transit” to a wonderful experience.
Flash forward. November 26 marks the 75th anniversary of the premiere of the film (dubbed “the best Hollywood movie of all time” by critic Leonard Maltin).
“Casablanca” boasts an inspiring message and a stellar cast: Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Dooley Wilson. (Says Kevin Spacey, “I may have been in that one, too. I don’t remember. Blame it on drunken behavior.”)
“Casablanca,” with its saga of star-crossed lovers and ultimately doing the right thing, is timeless; but it would certainly suffer if being produced today.
Even with CGI effects, the movie would be prohibitively expensive to cast in 2017. Given current levels of paranoia, there would have to be a Nazi behind every tree! (Don’t get me started on the audience members passing up Raisinets at the concession stand. Haters!)
Nowadays, “Casablanca” would be part of a “franchise,” spawning increasingly threadbare sequels, such as “Casablanca VIII: Everybody Comes To Rick’s – Because They Don’t Know About The Killer Clown Lurking There.”
In 2005, six lines from “Casablanca” appeared on the American Film Institute list of the 100 most memorable lines in cinema history, and a seventh was nominated. All those lines would get a makeover if the film were being made today.
“Here’s looking at you, kid” would now inevitably involve Rick Blaine and Ilsa Lund seated across from each other and actually looking down at their SMARTPHONES.
Are you ready for “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine – and gives me a bad review on Yelp”?
Would you want the closing line to be “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful COLLUSION”?
IF they still used “…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,” there would be repercussions. The film would be boycotted by little people AND earth worshippers who don’t want Mother Earth accused of mental illness. And Van Kamp’s Pork and Beans would receive prominent PRODUCT PLACEMENT as the fuel for a flatulent rendition of “La Marseillaise.”
Nowadays filmmakers must cater heavily to the international market, especially China. We would have to endure lines such as “Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By’ – as long as it meets with party approval and all writing credit is given to Chairman Mao and you’re underage.” Then there’s “Don’t round up suspects at all. Because we don’t suspect – we KNOW.”
Turner Classic Movies and Warner Bros. Entertainment are bringing the real “Casablanca” to select cinemas nationwide for a special 2-day event (Nov. 12 and 15).
Whether you make it to the theater or celebrate the masterpiece’s milestone in another way, I hope seasoned film buffs will immerse themselves in “Casablanca” once more and that new generations will give it a chance.
Danny welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”