Film fanatics and friends Fred Sullivan and Yasser Akram are on a mission to watch 25 of one another’s favourite movies. Each week they will watch one movie each and then get together to discuss what they have seen. There will be cheers and tears, appreciation and disbelief, and it will all be recorded here for you to enjoy.
It’s week three and the boys have got two bonafide classics to get their teeth into. First up, it’s Yasser’s choice and it’s the oldest film of his 25.
You can read the entires from previous week by checking out the archives on the left of the screen.
Fred: So, you watched ‘Breathless’ today.
Yasser: We’re talking about ‘Casablanca’ first! (laughs) It’s more important.
YA: You said ‘Casablanca’ almost made your top 25. Why didn’t it?
FS: It was the last film I eliminated when we were picking the lists. It’s my number 26. I adore it.
YA: I think it’s bitter-sweet that it ended up on my list and didn’t make yours as there are no titles that are on both.
FS: I think if had been picking the ‘best’ films ever made as opposed to my favourites I’d have put it right up there, but the remit was to pick favourites and I had to be honest.
YA: Bogie is a cool mofo.
FS: Undoubtedly. He wasn’t handsome or versatile, but he is possibly the most enduring male screen icon.
YA: I haven’t seen any other movies he’s made. Part of me doesn’t want to.
FS: Oh you poor man!
YA: Well, Mr Fredders, this is why the list thing is a good idea. Our tastes are different.
FS: I almost had ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre‘ on my list… that is brilliant… Oh! there are so many!
YA: I’m not saying I don’t like older movies, just that they’re not as prominent to me as they are to you. I know we both enjoy the hell out of ‘Casablanca’.
FS: The main reason you like it is…?
YA: Bogart. His dry wit. Rick’s (Bogart) selfish nature.
FS: Not many actors could have gotten away with that. He’s a real anti-hero.
YA: What is your favourite scene?
FS: Jeez! Picking my favourite scene from ‘Casablanca’ is like picking my favourite thing about myself – there is so many to choose from.
FS: Seriously though, I love the battle of the anthems.
FS: That nod of the head from Bogart.
YA: Bogart not only owns the scene. Rick owns the situation. Always in control.
FS: Exactly, yes. No one in his circle moves without his say-so, not out of fear, but out of respect. Rick’s trust is a hard thing to gain and no-one wants to throw it away once they have earned it.
YA: I think the way he talks to Ugarte (Peter Lorre) at the beginning, and how Ugarte stammered and placed his words carefully to not displease Rick. I think that is my favourite scene.
FS: Peter Lorre was a superb character actor. That voice is so distinctive…
YA: He has a distinct face too.
FS: … but he’s been in some awesome movies.
YA: One thing I don’t like about ‘Casablanca’ is the love between Rick and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman).
FS: (Expresses surprise in non verbal terms)
YA: It’s too over-dramatic.
FS: That’s pretty central to the film!
YA: It is.
FS: Do you mean the story, or how it’s played?
YA: The latter. She annoys me slightly. I guess actresses from that era acted in such a manner.
YA: Part of me doesn’t like how she played Rick, but then that is what made Rick the man he is.
FS: It’s the defining relationship of his life. In the Paris scenes he is quite smiley and happy.
YA: Then he reads the letter on the platform as it starts to rain, with trusty Sam (Dooley Wilson) at his side. It’s pivotal.
FS: If I had to pick a bad thing about the film… I’m struggling… if I was being VERY picky, I don’t think Paul Henreid was much of an actor, but the rest of the cast are SO good that it scarcely matters.
YA: He couldn’t be too good, too likeable, too memorable. Otherwise you wouldn’t be rooting for Rick and Ilsa’s romance to be rekindled as much.
FS: Very true. That is a good point.
YA: I like Rick’s good nature – his truthfulness, but I also like his cynicism and sarcasm at every insincere thing he hears.
FS: That point about insincerity is an important one. Every character is unprincipled, a liar, or insincere except Rick. He “sticks his neck out for nobody” because the only person he can trust to do the right thing is himself.
YA: Not Sam!
FS: Even Sam plays ‘As Time Goes By‘ when strictly instructed not to. Naughty Sam!
YA: (laughs) Oh dear. You know I’m itching to talk about Sam.
FS: Okay. Laurence Olivier did NOT play Sam…
YA: (laughs) No, he did not. Did you know Dooley Wilson couldn’t play the piano? He was a drummer.
FS: No, but I know the piano was pink so it would show up white on film.
YA: Do you know he nearly didn’t make the cut?
FS: Film fact fencing – I love it!
YA: The producer wanted a female, like Ella Fitzgerald.
FS: A female Sam? Rick would never have trusted her. Though if Ella had been cast, there is no way this would have been my number 26. It would have been right up there.
YA: Top 5, eh?
FS: That’s the interesting thing about ‘Casablanca’. So many things were almost changed, not done, or added that could have made it just another war-time romance like so many forgotten ones churned out between 1941 and ’45.
YA: Back to Sam – his being a free man in those times wasn’t common in cinema.
YA: When Ferrari (Sydney Greenstreet) tries to buy Sam, but Rick says he’s free to work where he wants.
YA: I reckon you regret not having it on your list.
FS: How do you choose between your 25th and 26th favourites? We should have just done 100.
YA: (laughs) That would have taken ages though.
FS: We’ve mentioned Bogart, Bergman, Henreid, Wilson and Lorre. I have to talk about Claude Rains – the one man who comes close to stealing Bogie’s thunder.
YA: He almost steals every scene he’s in, but them doesn’t. It’s like he has a dial and he knows how to tone it down so he just compliments Bogart.
FS: Quite literally a beautiful friendship. He has enhanced nearly every movie he was ever in.
YA: I hope anyone reading this who hasn’t seen ‘Casablanca’ watches it.
FS: Anyone reading this who hasn’t seen it… WHAT ARE YOU DOING? GO AND WATCH IT NOW.
YA: You better rate it officially.
FS: No surprises here. I love this film. I could watch it on a loop and probably not get bored for 15 or 20 years. The script and direction are wonderful, but it’s the cast that really stands out. Deservedly considered one of the all time greats, I have no qualms in giving it 10/10.
YA: WHY WASN’T IT IN YOUR TOP 25?
FS: (laughs) Oh to be able to turn back the clock.
YA: It’s not time to go back to the future, Fredders. No yet, anyway. (laughs)
You can read part two of this week’s blog by clicking here.