Tuesday, June 7, 2011

That's Typing Tuesday #6: Sam And The Ending Of Casablanca

"That's Typing" Tuesday, in which I share unpolished, unpublished writings from my vast store of unpolished, unpublished writings. On Tuesdays.

Some thoughts about Dooley Wilson, Humphrey Bogart and the ending of Casablanca.

Every now and then I see a complaint—or maybe just a plaintive wail—about the ending of Casablanca, along the lines of "But what about Sam?"

On an emotional level, I get it. Sam has followed Rick to hell and back, from at least Paris and probably before, all the way to this dead end job playing piano in a restaurant, and Rick just drops him like an unwieldy subplot, running off with Louie instead. What the frak?

But logically, it makes complete sense. I think Rick figures the trip to the airport is strictly a one way ticket to the afterlife. After he gets Lazlo and Ilsa on the plane, at best, he's going to wind up in a concentration camp; more than likely, the Gestapo will stand him up against a wall. That's not the sort of end you ask a good friend to share.

"Where I'm going, you can't follow. What I've got to do, you can't be any part of." Indeed.

That Rick gets away is wholly unexpected. You can't blame the man for that.

I like to think he and Louie went back and got Sam. It's the romantic in me. And Carl and Sasha, too, and the croupier and the doorman. And Yvonne. She was pretty hot even if she was no Ingrid Bergman, but then Ingrid Bergman is on her way to America with another man, so what the hell.

And then, because it's also a great movie, Rick busts the cast of The Maltese Falcon out of jail—and now we've got Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Mary Astor along for the ride, too. Actually, we can have Greenstreet there twice since he also played Ferrari in Casablanca, and Lord knows he was fat enough to play two characters.

You've got a pretty good size army together by now.

Actually, this is just about what happened in
Passage to Marseille, where Bogart, Rains, Lorre and Greenstreet reunited to fight Nazis. They even brought in Michael Curtiz to direct it.

Now if they'd only brought in Howard Koch and the Epstein brothers to write it ...


Mythical Monkey said...

If you stopped in earlier today, you might think you remember a post about The Philadelphia Story here instead of Casablanca. And you'd be right.

This was the text of my earlier post:

From my planned-for-someday review of The Philadelphia Story, an Oscar-winning romantic comedy starring Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and James Stewart.

I think the one flaw in the adaptation concerns the father and his explanation of his philandering—if you know the movie, you know what I mean.

Philip Barry's play, on which the movie was based, makes it clear that the father is not having an affair with the dancer in New York: the gossip columnists and his daughter simply assume he is. He is, in fact, simply backing her Broadway revue to feel a little less old and impotent. He'd rather assume that role with Tracy but he's fallen short of her impossibly high, unforgiving standards over the years and she's pushed him away.

Armed with this bit of information, the father's line about "the best mainstay a man can have as he gets along in years is a daughter, the right kind of daughter" no longer sounds like the lamest excuse for adultery I've ever heard but a plea from a father for a daughter's love. It's one thing for the tabloids to assume the worst—that's what they do—but his own daughter?

As originally written, the exchange is actually rather poignant, and underscores Tracy's bad habit of jumping to conclusions based on assumptions rather than evidence, as Tracy's fiance will later do. To question your own assumptions requires a bit of humility, and to withhold judgment, a bit of compassion—and humility and compassion are the two qualities Tracy sorely lacks.

As it stands, without that extra bit of business, the movie at times sounds very much like three men blaming a woman for their own shortcomings.

I don't know who trimmed the line—whether it was screenwriter David Ogden Stewart wanting to outline an absurd defense of male promiscuity, director George Cukor wanting to make Hepburn appear more sympathetic, or film editor Frank Sullivan wanting to speed along the proceedings—but it is the one jarring moment in an otherwise flawless exercise.

Brilliant, if I must say so myself. Also, completely wrong.

I spent the morning re-reading the play and gradually realized (to my chagrin) (horror, actually) that there is no such line to which I refer. I think I find the scene so consistently aggravating that at some point I finally gave up and re-wrote it in my head, and then somewhere along the line assumed that Barry had written it as I now remember it. Not so. Turns out the sexist jackass who wrote the offending scene in the movie was none other than the original playwright himself.

Oh, well.

But if you ever happen to be in the neighborhood of my brain's right hemisphere, I encourage you to stop by and watch the scene as I've written it. It's wonderful stuff, I promise.

mister muleboy said...

But if you ever happen to be in the neighborhood of my brain's right hemisphere, I encourage you to stop by and watch the scene as I've written it

I've been to that neighbourhood.

And while I love the Monkey

. . . think "Cancun" instead.

Mythical Monkey said...

Yeah, well, just stay out of the Monkey's southern hemisphere ...

whistlingypsy said...

I’ve been woefully distracted the past few days; my right hemisphere’s been preoccupied with biographical information and musical comedy. I have a question to put to you: Have you ever read the book or seen the film based on The Chosen by Chaim Potok? The line you refer to sounds very similar to a line from both, Rod Steiger’s father/rabbi explains to Robby Benson’s Danny/the son, “A mind like this I need for a son? A heart I need for a son, a soul I need for a son, compassion I want from a son . . .” The words are different, but the sentiment is (somewhat) similar.