Casablanca

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman starred in the Academy Award winning film “Casablanca.”

I bring you two items of great happiness. First, our own Sawmill Theatres is back open for business as of May 22 with a full range of movies.

As an experiment, recently the Sawmill showed a few intrepid movie fans, the famous “Home Alone” film of the 8-year-old defender of his house against intruders. The Sawmill also showed to a more grown-up audience, the still amazing, wonderful, and moving movie classic “Casablanca.”

For the younger folk who might not know the story, Rick (Humphrey Bogart) runs a nightclub in Casablanca in 1941. The American expatriate had a brief, but intense love affair with a widow in Paris (Ingrid Bergman) just before France fell to the Nazis. She ditched him at the last minute, leaving him wrecked emotionally. That’s enough story.

Movie Land tells us of the great beauty of Ingrid Bergman and of her fabulous acting ability. We just cannot fully appreciate either her skill or her physical beauty on the small home screen. Only on the big screen can we see the quality of Ingrid Bergman’s mastery of her craft. Her ability to show the inner turmoil of her character is simply too subtle and delicate to be captured on the TV screen. We need to see her face five feet tall to get it all.

In this film, every part of the intricate process of film making works to perfection. Cinematographer Arthur Edeson did some of his best work here. His use of shadow and light sets the mood, which changes as the story changes, finally ending in the famous stroll into the pre-dawn fog at that culmination of the film. Over his career, he snagged three Oscar nominations.

The acting can’t be beat. Besides the two leads, we have as supporting players Paul Henreid (from Austria) as the widow’s husband, Claude Rains (England) as the corrupt French police commandant who is simultaneously charming. Further into the deep bench is Conrad Veidt as the terrifying Gestapo major (German-a refugee) Sydney Greenstreet (England) plays a rival nightclub owner. We enjoy Peter Lorre (born in Austria-Hungry when there was an Austria-Hungry) who has much too short a role as a crook, a dealer in transit papers, and a murderer. Every second he has the camera on him, he forces us to watch him. The piano player Sam (the link between the broken lovers) is Dooley Wilson, one of the few native-born Americans in the film.

Released in 1942, this archetypal WWII film has half a dozen actors with firsthand experience of the terror and dread of the Nazi onslaught.

With the 2020 movie release plans wrecked, the Sawmill will bring us some great but not new films. Some production companies have canceled the entire 2020 season. Other producers have shifted release dates into the indefinable future.

But starting Friday the 22nd, we may return to our cool, dark seats and see films we love and deserve to see.

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