Sunday, January 1, 2012

Don't Make a Scene: Everybody De-Constructs Rick, Part V

Here's the conclusion of our series....

Everybody De-Constructs Rick, Part V: The Man, himself

On the off-chance that there is still a person in the world who has not seen Casablanca, please heed this warning: this article contains "Spoilers, Spoilers Everywhere."

No. Really. This scene is very near the end and could spoil the whole movie for you, if you've never seen this movie, never seen this scene, or have lived in an isolation chamber for 55 years. And don't watch the provided video, either!

The Story: This is the perfect way to start out the year*--with one of the most beloved and classic scenes to ever grace the silver screen. So beloved and classic you might be able to repeat it line for line. And the images are as set in stone as any movie's in your mind. Woody Allen based an entire play on it (Play It Again, Sam), just so he could recreate it.**

It's well-written, intricately played (especially the tri-play of glances between Rick, Ilsa and Victor), exceptionally directed (and edited!), and except for a couple more crowd-pleasing gambits, it's what the audience takes home from the movie. Guys go home feeling a bit nobler for Richard Blaine's actions. Women see the potential in their big lugs, after all. It shows us all a True Path. It brings Clarity.

In the making of the film, that decision of who Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) was going with wasn't truly made until nearly the last minute. "Of course" Ilsa had to go with Victor Laszlo (as Paul Henreid insisted), but nobody knew that until the last scene was filmed. In fact, they were going to film both versions, and just scrapped the set and went home early after they'd filmed this one. They knew they couldn't do any better. Why try?

That's one version. The other is the story the screenwriting brothers, the Epsteins, tell—of how they couldn't "crack" the ending, they knew what had to happen, what should happen, but they didn't know how to save the hero. That was essential. They were driving through Hollywood when both brothers suddenly looked at each other, and in tandem exclaimed, "Round up the usual suspects!" ***

The rest, as they say, is cinematic history.

Looking at it, some 55 years later, it's not quite as "timeless" as one would feel comfortable with. In this scene, Rick is a bit too agressive making the decision for Ilsa...almost condescending ("Someday you'll understand that," implying "when you grow/smarten up").

But the thing is, she's in love with him...more than Victor. She knows what the right thing is, but she loves Rick. In the scene in Rick's apartment she's torn by this "crazy world," and lets Rick handle it ("You'll have to think for both of us. For all of us.") With such an obligation, he'd better make the right decision.

And, don't forget, Ilsa could have said "no" at any time. Those long shots of the three of them, after the plane's engines start up is not only the realization that "now's the time," it's also her decision-making process. It's there in the editing of the sequence. She chooses to go. She makes the choice. Rick just made it easier for her. Not any harder. Just easier.

And, believe you me, knowing it's "the right thing to do" does not make walking away any easier.  But, sometimes "walking away" and never looking back really is the right thing to do.  Take it from somebody who hates long good-byes.

The Set-Up: He's promised that he'd do the thinking "for both of us...for all of us." And so he has. This is the result of that thinking and soul-searching—the end-game. But Richard Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) has one final speech to make...about himself...and about why he's going against his rule of "I don't stick my neck out for nobody." But, this ain't "nobody." And in this fond different from their last one...he has the final word on his own deconstruction.

Then, he lets his gun do the talking.

Here's lookin' at yourself, kid. Through her misty eyes.***


Orderly: Hello, hello? Radio tower? Lisbon plane taking of in ten minutes, east runway.

Orderly: Visibility one and one-half miles. Light ground fog. Depth of fog approximately 500. Ceiling unlimited. Thank you.

Rick: Louis, have your man go with Mr. Laszlo and take care of his luggage.

Louis: Certainly, Rick. Anything you say.

Louis: (to the agent) Find Mr. Laszlo's luggage and put it on the plane.

Orderly: Yes, sir. This way, please.

Rick: If you don't mind, you fill in the names. That'll make it even more official.

Louis: You think of everything, don't you?

Rick: And the names're Mr. and Mrs. Viktor Laszlo.

Ilsa: But...why my name, Richard?

Rick: Because you're getting on that plane.

Ilsa: But, I don't understand. What about you?

Rick: I'm staying here with him until the plane gets safely away.

Ilsa: No, Richard, no! What has happened to you? Last night, you said...
Rick: Last night, we said a great many things. You said I was to do the thinking for both of us.

Rick: Well, I've done a lot of it since then, and it all adds up to one thing: you're getting on that plane with Victor where you belong.

Ilsa: But, Richard, no, I...
Rick: Now, you've got to listen to me.

Rick: Do you have any idea what you'd have to look forward to if you stayed here. Nine chances out of ten, we'd both end up in a concentration camp.

Rick: Isn't that true, Louis?

Louis: I'm afraid Major Strasser would insist.

Ilsa: You're saying this only to make me go.

Rick: I'm saying it because it's true. Inside of us we both know you belong with Viktor.

Rick: You're part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that plane leaves the ground and you're not with him, you'll regret it.

Ilsa: Bu...

Rick: Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow.

Rick: But soon, and for the rest of your life.

Ilsa: But what about us?

Rick: We'll always have Paris. We didn't have. We'd lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.

Ilsa: When I said I would never leave you.

Rick: And you never will.

Rick: But I've got a job to do, too. And where I'm going you can't follow. What I've got to do, you can't be any part of.

Rick: Ilsa, I'm no good at being noble, but 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. Someday you'll understand that.

Rick: Now, now...

Rick: Here's looking at you, kid.

(Strasser rushes to the airport, insistently honking his horn)

Victor: Everything is in order.
Rick: All except one thing.

Rick: There's something you should know before you leave.

Victor: M'sieur Blaine, I don't ask you to explain anything.
Rick: I'm going to, anyway, because it may make a difference to you later on.

Rick: You said you knew about Ilsa and me.
Victor: Yes.
Rick: But you didn't know she was at my place last night when you were. She came there for the letters of transit...

Rick: Isn't that true, Ilsa?

Ilsa: Yes.

Rick: She tried everything to get them and nothing worked.

Rick: She did her best to try and convince me that she was still in love with me. But that was over long ago.

Rick: For your sake, she pretended it wasn't, and I let her pretend.

Victor: I understand.

Rick: Here it is.

Victor: Thanks. I appreciate it. (He shakes Rick's hand)

Victor: And welcome back to the fight. This time, I know our side will win.

(The plane's engines start, and the three turn to the plane, and each other)

Victor: Are you ready, Ilsa?

Ilsa: Yes, I'm ready.

Ilsa: Good bye, Rick.

Ilsa(whispers): God bless you.

Rick: You better hurry. You'll miss that plane.

(They walk off)

Louis: Well, I was right. You are a sentimentalist.

Rick: Stay where you are. I don't know what you're talking about.
Louis: What you just did for Laszlo. And that fairy tale you invented to send Ilsa away with him.

Louis: I know a little about women, my friend. She went. But she knew you were lying.

Rick: Anyway, thanks for helping me out.

Louis: I suppose you know this isn't going to be very pleasant for either of us. Especially for you. I'll have to arrest you, of course.

Rick: As soon as the plane goes, Louis.

(The plane's doors are closed.)

Strasser: What was the meaning of that phone call?
Louis: Victor Laszlo is on that plane.

(The plane taxis down the runway)

Strasser: Why do you stand here? Why don't you stop him?

Louis: Ask Mr. Rick.

Rick: Get away from that phone.

Strasser: I would advise you not to interfere.

Rick: I was willing to shoot Captain Renault, and I'm willing to shoot you.

Strasser: Hello!

Rick: Put that phone down!

Strasser: Get me the radio tower.

Rick: Put it down!

Strasser pulls out his pistol. The two men fire...


Words by Murray Burnett, Joan Alison, Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, and Howard Koch

Pictures by Arthur Edeson and Michael Curtiz

Casablanca is available on DVD from Warner Home Video.

* We'll continue starting the new year with the endings of movies this month.  Oh, sure, it will be "spoilerific," but these "happy" endings (said very ironically—some are not "happy" at all) are perfect cappers to the films that have come before.

** Oh. One more thing. John LeCarré, the great spy novelist, did his own antecedent of "Casablanca"—"The Russia House." There, the jaded publisher is approached to publish a Russian dissident's inflammatory book by the man's lover after the Cold War, and the two fall in love. With two intelligence agencies vying for information merely to justify their existences, it becomes apparent that the problems of three little people do amount to a hill of beans in a crazy world of spies and counter-spies with no vestiges of honor or the noble, merely re-fighting old and useless battles. Good book (and movie), that.

*** Are either of these stories true? Well, the Epsteins were inventive screen-writers, and Hollywood is where myths are made...I'm not wagering.

**** One of the things you notice in this particular sequence is how director Curtiz and his cinematographer Arthur Edeson are able to catch any hint of the actors tearing up—Ingrid Bergman, particularly, but also Bogart.

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