Whenever I hear Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade” or watch Casablanca on DVD I think of my late parents and the stories they told about life during World War II. (My dad served overseas with the Canadian Forces. My mother kept the homefires burning in a small Prairie town.)
Both music and movie have an aura of bittersweet nostalgia and, in the case of the 1942 Humphrey Bogart – Ingrid Bergman film, doomed romance.
Bogie plays Rick Blaine, a hardnosed American expat who runs a smoky little dive in the Moroccan city that gives the film its title. Bergman is Ilsa Lund, the enigmatic beauty he loved and lost in pre–wartime Paris.
The big lug is still carrying a torch for her when – wouldn’t ya know it? – she shows up in his club one night with freedom fighting hubby Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) on her arm.
Turns out the couple are on the lam from the Nazis and desperately need exit visas to neutral Portugal so that Victor can continue to fight the good fight.
Rick is understandably reluctant to help but in the end his world weary sense of morality wins out over his cynical nature. In the process he reclaims his lost idealism and rekindles his romance with Ilsa although the relationship is not meant to be.
As the fog wraps itself around the airport like a shroud Rick delivers his farewell speech to Ilsa while Victor waits with the luggage.
“I’m no good at being noble,” he rasps, ” but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”
Maybe so but more than a half of century and several wars later the problems of this particular trio continue to be a source of fascination and inspiration to millions of viewers around the globe.