From the edi­tor: This week we intro­duce a new WCN&V cre­ator and a new reg­u­lar fea­ture. Although Ron Kibbey needs no intro­duc­tion to any­one who’s lived in Clark County very long, we are thrilled to bring him on board. Ron will be shar­ing some of his favorite clas­sic films with us on a reg­u­lar basis in a fea­ture called Reel Classics. So pre­pare to be intro­duced — or re-intro­duced — to some great movies! We start with one of my per­son­al favorites and one that is con­sis­tent­ly on lists of all-time best American films: Casablanca.

Greetings. This is the first of what I hope to be many pieces look­ing back at some of the clas­sic films of the 20th cen­tu­ry.  I plan to dis­cuss what some may call “old movies.”  And by old, I don’t mean from the 1990s.  I’m talk­ing about films from the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, and maybe some from the ’60s.  I will take a look at some of the clas­sic silent films as well.  Those who know me know that I love these films and I have been involved in show­ing and intro­duc­ing clas­sic films in series at the Leeds Theater and at the local library. 

I hope you enjoy this series and maybe you will be intro­duced to some films you weren’t aware of or haven’t seen in many years.  My plan is to also let you know what stream­ing ser­vice they are avail­able for free, and if they are avail­able at our local library. 

My first film to intro­duce to you is my all-time favorite—Casablanca. I have seen this film many, many times and one of my favorite expe­ri­ences was to see it at the Kentucky Theater in Lexington.  Casablanca was released in 1942 not too long after the Allied inva­sion of North Africa. 

It is set in Casablanca, Morocco dur­ing the Nazi occu­pa­tion. Casablanca was a major stop for refugees flee­ing Europe dur­ing the occu­pa­tion.  The movie stars Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine, an American expa­tri­ate who owns a club called Rick’s Café Americain. The co-star is the beau­ti­ful Ingrid Bergman who plays Ilsa, Rick’s for­mer lover when they were in Paris before the Nazi occu­pa­tion. Ann Sheridan and Hedy Lamarr were con­sid­ered for the role.  Also includ­ed in the cast are Paul Henreid as Victor Laszlo, Claude Rains as Capt. Louis Renault, Sydney Greenstreet as Signor Ferrari, Peter Lorre as Ugarte, and Dooley Wilson as Sam (the piano player). 

Casablanca movie poster
Casablanca movie poster

Rick’s Café Americain is well known to peo­ple try­ing to flee Europe dur­ing the war and seek­ing pas­sage out of Europe.  It is also well known for the gam­bling casi­no in the back.  One of the things I love about this movie is that it con­tains a range of emo­tions and feelings—love, dis­ap­point­ment, loy­al­ty, pas­sion, com­pas­sion, faith, and courage. 

I won’t pro­vide any spoil­ers, but I will say that my favorite scene in this movie comes mid­way through the film.  Nazi sol­diers are gath­ered in the club drink­ing and begin to sing a German song “Die Wacht am Rhein” (“The Watch On The Rhine”).  Victor Laszlo, the hus­band of Ilsa, runs down the stairs into the club and begins to sing the French National Anthem (“La Marseillaise”).  The folks in the club stand and pas­sion­ate­ly join him, drown­ing out the Germans.  Many of the extras in the scene were in actu­al tears as they were refugees from Europe.  This is a demon­stra­tion of the pas­sion and courage I men­tioned.  It is a most pow­er­ful scene. 

One of the curi­ous things about the film is that the writ­ers kept writ­ing and chang­ing the script so that even the direc­tor, Michael Curtiz, was­n’t sure of the end­ing until near the end of film­ing.  Would the lovers reunite?  Would Ilsa get on the plane with Victor?   Would there even be a plane?  Another inter­est­ing fact is that many of the actors play­ing the Nazi sol­diers were actu­al­ly refugees who had fled Europe in the wake of the Nazi takeover, as were some of the oth­er sup­port­ing actors.

The film was nom­i­nat­ed for sev­er­al awards and is well known for some of the quotes in the film.  My guess is that even if you haven’t seen the film before, you will rec­og­nize some of the fol­low­ing lines:  “Here’s look­ing at you kid.”  “Round up the usu­al sus­pects.”  “We’ll always have Paris.”  “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”  “Play it Sam. Play “‘As Time Goes By’.”  [This is the line often mis­quot­ed as “Play it again, Sam.” –Ed]

The Library of Congress select­ed Casablanca as one of the first to be pre­served in the National Film Registry in 1989. A cou­ple of fun take-offs on this film are Woody Allen’s Play It Again, Sam (1972) and The Marx Bros. A Night In Casablanca. (1946). 

Casablanca is my all-time favorite and if you choose to watch it I hope you enjoy it.

I looked to see what stream­ing ser­vices might have it for free to watch.  Though many had it, they charged a fee.  It is avail­able on DVD at the Clark County Public Library.  Watch for my return with a look at anoth­er clas­sic film.

  • Ron grew up in Southeast Baltimore, spent three and a half years liv­ing in the High Desert in California, and came to Winchester when his VW Beetle broke down here on a cross-coun­try dri­ve to Vermont. He has lived here and worked as a social work­er since 1973. Though he retired in 2013, he remains active as a com­mu­ni­ty vol­un­teer on var­i­ous boards, coali­tions, and com­mit­tees. His pas­sions include the woods and nature, music, books, and clas­sic movies (espe­cial­ly Laurel & Hardy).