Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on February 20, 2014
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Turner Classic Movies. To celebrate the event as well as give back to the many devoted viewers who regularly watch and enjoy the network’s programming, TCM has teamed up with Warner Brothers to offer free theatrical screenings of the romantic wartime classic CASABLANCA (1942). The film will be playing nationwide in 20 selected cities on Tuesday, March 4th and tickets are currently available to download free of charge on the TCM 20th Anniversary website. Although tickets are free seating is limited to a first-come, first-served basis and they do not guarantee entry. Want to know where you can catch a free screening of CASABLANCA? Read on but be prepared to wade through a few of my thoughts about the film first.
To be frank, I’m not always fond of romantic dramas or war movies because they often follow a simple formula that doesn’t do much service to their weighty topics. But I really enjoy Michael Curtiz’ CASABLANCA because it refuses to be easily defined and kicks many of the tired clichés associated with both film genres to the curb. The indispensable Humphrey Bogart challenges the stereotypical romantic leading man found in so many Hollywood films. Bogart’s Rick Blaine is a rough and tumble hard drinking anti-hero who doesn’t particularly deserve the woman that he loves but I always find myself rooting for him to board that plane with the lovely and luminous Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman). Their doomed romance is at the heart of CASABLANCA and Bogart’s improvised and infamous line “Here’s looking at you, kid” has become the stuff of legend, book titles, song lyrics and Spark Notes. It’s what TCM has rightfully dubbed an “Essential” but that’s not why I enjoy returning to CASABLANCA again and again. What fires up my imagination are the peripheral characters that linger around the film’s rough edges. The shady rogues, crooked cops, war criminals and usual suspects are the glue that holds this movie together for me.
In CASABLANCA Peter Lorre gave audiences a master class in how to steal a film from its leading man even when you’ve only been given a few minutes of screen time. His scheming gun-toting Ugarte could be easily forgotten in another actor’s less capable hands but Lorre makes you eager to know more about his character’s illicit past and personal demons. Sidney Greenstreet’s Signor Ferrari splendidly huffs and puffs his way through the film trying to influence events with his bulk and his brains. I can’t be the only one who wishes CASABLANCA spent a little less time at Rick’s lush Café Américain and a little more time at Ferrari’s seedy Blue Parrot bar.
And who can forget Conrad Veidt’s utterly evil and magnificently malicious Major Heinrich Strasser? Viedt’s nasty Nazi commander spits out orders like their bullets and arches his villainous eyebrows to catastrophic heights while he’s eagerly gobbling up the scenery. It’s also impossible to overlook Dooley Wilson as Rick’s sensitive piano playing pal Sam, Leonid Kinskey as the lustful Russian bartender, S.Z. Sakall as the softhearted waiter and Curt Bois who plays a nameless pick pocket effortlessly swiping wallets as well as scenes from his costars. And last but not least I must single out Claude Rains who is having way too much fun playing the unscrupulous Captain Louis Renault. The French policeman gets most of the film’s best lines and seems to relish the script’s gallows humor. Rains’ sharp witted line delivery forces you to laugh right along with him even when his character’s callous disregard for truth and justice is making you cringe.
So my suggestion to you is this: Come and see CASABLANCA for the complex, surprisingly adult and often celebrated romantic triangle that plays out between Bogart, Bergman and Paul Henreid. But stick around for the international war-related intrigue generated by a great cast of unruly supporting characters who constantly threaten to upstage one another. All of them are worthy of a Thelma Ritter Award as recently outlined by my fellow Morlock, Greg Ferrara.
You can catch a free theatrical screening of CASABLANCA in the following cities and venues on March 4th.
Atlanta, Ga. – Regal Atlantic Station
For more information please visit the TCM 20th Anniversary website.
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