It's the mid-1970's. I'm taking a film appreciation class at the University of Oklahoma. Every Monday night, fifteen to twenty of us sit in a small classroom and watch a movie. Afterward, we discuss what we saw and critique the film. It's a very kickback class. The kind when you tell your parents about it, they respond with "That's what the fuck I'm paying money for you to do?" Good thing I never told them about taking tennis and advanced bowling.
One night we're scheduled to see the classic movie "Casablanca." The instructor says because he wants us to see it on a big screen, we're moving the class from our small room to one of the huge lecture halls. Apparently, word spread throughout campus because our small Monday film class turned into more than four hundred students filling the room to watch Bogie and Bergman.
Our teacher was pretty cool about it. He made a joke about how more than three hundred students were late in enrolling in the class. He then said everyone was welcome to stay and watch as long as they left after the film so the actual enrolled students could talk about the movie. Ninety minutes later, the film ended and three hundred college students applauded as the film's credits rolled.
That night wasn't the first time I saw "Casablanca", but it was the night I fell in love with the movie. Almost fifty years later, it's still my favorite movie. What's not to love about this movie?
The cast is brilliant: Humphrey Bogart. Ingrid Bergman. Paul Henreid. Peter Lorre. Claude Rains.
The music is memorable: Dooley Wilson playing "As Time Goes By."
The story is gripping: Love during wartime.
Scenes that you'll never forget: The playing and singing at the club of La Marseillaise will give you chills.
Lines that you'll always be able to quote: "Here's looking at you, kid", "Round up the usual suspects", "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine", "We'll always have Paris", "Play it, Sam" and so many more.
You add it together and you have one spectacular film.
So it's Saturday night, two weeks ago. Date night in the United States and maybe the entire world. During the pandemic, date night means take-out food and Netflix. But, while watching something earlier, I noticed that "Casablanca" was being shown on Turner Classic Movies. I figured this would be better than anything better on Netflix. I figured it would be more romantic than anything found on the Hallmark Channel. Snuggling while watching Bogie tell Ingrid that they'll always have Paris, well...what could be more romantic? Good idea, right?
Nope! Nada! Didn't happen! Casablanca denied...well, not totally denied. I did watch it in one room...alone.
No big deal on the alone thing. But, it did make me curious as to why would anyone not feel about "Casablanca" like I do? How could you not love this film? How can you not want to watch it over and over and over again? I'm not wrong about this, am I? I could give more examples of why "Casablanca" is the greatest movie of all-time, but that would just be overkill. Again, I'm not wrong about this! How can I be?
Every time I watch "Casablanca", and it's now more than thirty viewings, it takes me back almost fifty years, to that night in an Oklahoma classroom. It was the start of a beautiful friendship.
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