I’m very excited about a film series we’re starting at the Severna Park Library tonight. My co-worker Julia and I will be hosting the first in a series of monthly screenings of classic films called The Great Movies, starting with one of the greatest and most popular classics of all, Casablanca (1942).
I just watched the film again for probably the sixth or seventh time in preparation for tonight’s event. I never get tired of seeing the film and can’t wait for others to revisit it or perhaps even see it for the first time.
In our promotional video, Julia and I talked a bit about classic films and how different people react to them. “What’s the big fuss all about?” people might say. We (and probably you too, if you’re reading this blog) think these films had something to say to the audiences of their time and still have something to say to us today. With that in mind, we’ll start each event with a brief introduction about the historical context of the film and discuss what relevance it has to our lives in 2016. I think you may be surprised at how relevant these films remain.
I’ll present the opening for this film and next month (Feb. 5), Julia will present the introduction to Dr. Strangelove. Much of my introductory material for Casablanca comes from the excellent book The Making of Casablanca: Bogart, Bergman, and World War II by Aljean Harmetz. (The book was previously published as Round Up the Usual Suspects, a title I sort of wish the publishers had kept.) In the book, Harmetz goes into great detail about how the the film was adapted from a play called Everybody Comes to Rick’s, how the screenplay was written (by seven different writers) and all of the “happy accidents” that made Casablanca happen.
The entire film really was a happy accident, although it wasn’t so happy for everyone involved. Ingrid Bergman was in the midst of an unhappy marriage; the film drove an enormous rift between studio head Jack Warner and producer Hal Wallis; “As Time Goes By” almost went goodbye; and the ending… Well, you’ll have to read the book for that. But we probably wouldn’t have had a Casablanca – at least the Casablanca we have today – without World War II. (To find out more, come tonight!)
Roger Ebert’s commentary on the DVD and Blu-ray editions of the film is excellent, serving as a sort of Cliffs Notes version of Harmetz’s book. I only plan to give about a 5-minute introduction tonight, but will heartily recommend the book to anyone wanting to know more about the film.
If you’re in the Anne Arundel County, Maryland area tonight, I hope you’ll join us. I’ll start my introduction at 6:30pm and the film will begin about 5 or 10 minutes later. We understand 6:30pm is dinnertime for many people, so please feel free to bring some takeout with you. (We’ll provide free popcorn and bottled water.) After the film, we’ll have a time for discussion and Q&A.
And if you don’t live nearby, I hope you’ll “join” us by watching the movie at home. Gather all your usual suspects and enjoy a great classic!