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Casablanca: A Never-ending Movie

February 21, 2018

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Last year the movie, Casablanca marked its 75th anniversary. This prompted me to write a four-blog series about my all-time favorite film in January 2017. I thought that would be it – I’d covered this subject completely.

Not quite. Recently the New York Post ran an article titled, Here’s Looking: Chaos Behind Casablanca 75 Years Ago by Lou Lumenick. I scanned the piece quickly and realized there was nothing in it that I didn’t know already – except for one thing: a recently published book titled, We’ll Always Have Casablanca. The Life, Legend and Afterlife of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Movie written by Noah Isenberg.

My curiosity got the better of me so I picked up the book at the NYC library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, brought it home and started reading. I quickly discovered that Isenberg, a professor at The New School (who took a one-year sabbatical to write it) had created a riveting page-turner.

 In short: I started reading things in this book that I’d never come across before. Isenberg is an author who really digs in and offers lots of interesting information. Or, as Mies van de Rohe, the famous architect often said, “God is in the details.”

DOES HARVARD REALLY SCREEN CASABLANCA EVERY YEAR?

 I’ve questioned this repeatedly and could never find a complete, factual answer until now. So here goes.

 In April 1957, Bryant Haliday and Cyrus Harvey, owners of the Brattle Theatre, located on a corner just north of Harvard Square, decided to do a Bogart series to honor the actor, who had passed away in January.

Harvey says, “Casablanca caught on very fast. The first time we played it, there was a wonderful reaction. Then the second, third, fourth and fifth times it took off. The audience began to chant the lines.”

“Every year after that, during reading period and exam week, in the winter and once more in late spring, the Brattle would schedule its Bogart series with Casablanca as its centerpiece. Again and again, students would return to the Brattle wearing trench coats, dangling cigarettes from their lower lips – and singing La Marseillaise.”

THE SOUND FAILED. WHO CARES? WE KNOW THE LINES.

Critic David Denby reports in his 2012 reappraisal of the film in The New Yorker, that sometime in the late sixties, a mythic event occurred in Harvard Square. At the Brattle Theatre, during a showing of Casablanca, the sound failed in the last scene, and the assembled worshipers, speaking as one, intoned the famous last line.

CLICK HERE TO read David Denby’s fascinating New Yorker piece.

Now, on Facebook, there is another mass audience attentive to preserving – or at least discussing – classic films from Hollywood’s golden age. To usher in 2016, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren posted a passionate New Year’s Eve message: “Bruce and I will be celebrating the New Year tonight with just the two of us, pretty much the same way we’ve done many times before: lots of good cheeses, champagne, and Casablanca.”

And yes, there is a Rick’s Café (restaurant, bar, café) located in Casablanca, Morocco that was opened in 2004 by Kathy Kriger who commented in 2016, “Casablanca, the movie, is so famous that it brings people in from everywhere. They all know of it. Some people come from Europe just to have dinner, spend the night and go back.”

Rick’s Café is housed in a Moroccan mansion with a central courtyard and rooftop terrace. The building was erected in 1930 and is located at 248, Boulevard Sour Jdid in Casablanca

To refresh your memory and brush up on the cast of Casablanca, just CLICK ON each of the four ADEA blogs below:

75th anniversary of Casablanca, Part I

75th anniversary of Casablanca, Part II

75th anniversary of Casablanca, Part III

75th anniversary of Casablanca, Part IV

Shaun Nelson-Henrick



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