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Archive for the ‘Sidney Greenstreet’ Category

Casablanca

07 Jun

Casablanca – Directed by Michael Curtiz. Escape Drama. A husband and wife seeking to escape fall into the hands of the wife’s former lover. 102 minutes Black and White 1942.

* * * * *

As everyone knows, none of the stars wanted to do it. There was no script when it started. Paul Henreid turned it down; his pal Bette Davis had to convinced him to perform it. When Bogart and Bergman met for a meal, they didn’t like one another. The director had a violent temper. The set was afire with arguments with the writers. They did not know how to end it, and so wrote two endings, shot the first, and when they saw it, knew it was right, and threw away the other one. The movie is a masterpiece of the balance of forces, particularly in the handling and placement of the supporting players. And it is also a masterpiece of Warner Brothers professionalism. Max Steiner wrote a big score which is fortunately suppressed by the inclusion of a good many songs. The lighting and photography by Arthur Edeson and the editing by Owen Marks are first class. But Bogart’s apparent character, sharp tongued and defiant, is countermanded by the affection and respect of his staff and what others will put up from him, how Peter Lorre sees him, how Sydney Greenstreet sees him, how S.J. Skall sees him, how Dooley Wilson and how Claude Raines see him. They create half of Bogey’s character. The drama is carried by these relations, all created by the dialogue, which won an Oscar, and not by the acting, which is plain, flat, direct, Hollywood crisp. All this gives Bogart a center from which his terrified eyes seek danger and give him a latitude wider than his staff, his night club, Casablanca itself. He seethes with supressed power. He is not a good actor, but he is a most effective one. Knocked over glasses prevail throughout the film as over and over again life threatens to be empty of wine. Bogart is introduced playing chess without a partner. Ingrid Bergman walks in with a partner, and Bogart does not resume the chess. Bergman is a good actor and brings variety and roundness and liquidity to balance Bogey’s Easter Island visage and Henreid’s Teutonic stone. Set off against them all is the glittering Conrad Veidt determined to eliminate them all. All these forces are held in perfect suspense as the escape works itself out. As we wait to see who will be on that plane and who will not. Nothing could be better.

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