Saturday Matinee #142, Albert Week: "You Must Remember This - Rick & Ilsa on Film & in Animatronics" (November 26, 1942 & May 1, 1989)
Published September 21, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
You must remember this
A kiss is still a kiss
A sigh is just a sigh
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by
Happy Me Week, haha! While I've greatly enjoyed the past several themed weeks devoted to our other writers, a part of me was actually dreading when my turn came up. Namely, because I don't enjoy celebrating myself. Ask anyone who really knows me. I hate surprise parties for myself, though I don't mind throwing them for other people. I hate bringing attention to my major accomplishments, simply because a part of me always feels the accomplishment in itself is a celebration, so why waste other people's time with it? But, given that these themed weeks are almost over, I might as well bite the bullet and allow my turn to come.
Adventureland has always been my second home in Magic Kingdom, hence why I asked Alex and Brent to share Hidden Mickeys and Fun Finds. Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Newsies stand out among my favorite Disney films of all time, thus, I requested for Pap, Kelvin, and Erik to each write about particular aspects of those films. And tomorrow, you'll learn all about Tangierine Cafe, one of my favorite eateries in Walt Disney World. But before we get there, let's take another trip to Morocco. No, not the one in the World Showcase. Actually, not even the one in real life. Instead, we'll check out a poignant, foggy evening in a little city called Casablanca... as told by way of Hollywood and the Dream Factory. (NOTE: If you have never seen the film Casablanca, do not read this column until you do.)
"Casablanca, city of hope and despair," the hyperbolic narrator proclaims in the theatrical trailer. Indeed, this quaint Moroccan city does hold hope and despair, at least through the lens of Murray Burnett, Joan Alison, the Epstein Brothers, Howard Koch, and uncredited Casey Robinson. The real-life place doesn't hold as much mysticism, as the lure of this West African town falls mostly on a Hollywood interpretation. Thanks to Warner Bros. Pictures, we've seen Casablanca painted forever as multi-faceted, multi-cultural city in the throws of World War II. Expats, refugees, freedom fighters, foot soldiers, you'll find them all waiting in Casablanca. As one of the characters says in the (admittedly, most amazing) tracking shot at Rick's Cafe Americain, "Waiting, waiting, waiting. I'll never get out of here. I'll die in Casablanca."
At this point, readers likely might also be waiting, waiting, waiting for the inevitable Disney connection. This is, after all, a Disney-focused column. Thankfully, Disney and Casablanca have shared a strong connection for the past twenty-four years, thanks in part to my favorite Disney attraction of all time: The Great Movie Ride. Last year, I spent most of the summer in a Great Movie Ride marathon, highlighting films represented in the series, culminating in my tribute to Casablanca, in connection to the Donald Duck pay-yer-taxes cartoon "The New Spirit." Today, we return to Rick and Ilsa, to Laszlo and Louis, to Sam, Ugarte, Strasser. Mostly, we return to Rick and Ilsa, and their defining moment, captured forever in animatronic form:
Inside of us we both know you belong with Victor. You're part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that plane leaves the ground and you're not with him, you'll regret it. [...] Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life. [...] We'll always have Paris. We didn't have, we'd lost it, until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night. [...] But I've got a job to do, too. Where I'm going, you can't follow. What I've got to do, you can't be any part of. Ilsa, I'm no good at being noble, 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. Someday you'll understand that. Now, now... Here's looking at you, kid.
If you had listened to me earlier, you avoided this column until you saw the film, otherwise I've invariably spoiled the film for you. I know, some might say, "But it's 70 years old, everyone knows how it ends." But I'd rather give readers the benefit of the doubt, allow them to discover Casablanca properly, not in fragments like this, with my own bias and opinion showing. After all, I managed to go in blind that fateful Christmas, 1999. Even though I was vaguely familiar with the ending scene (having always been a fan of the ride), the significance and the impact it would have on me in my first viewing was far greater than if I had been spoiled by reading about it elsewhere.
In this scene, we see Rick's own self-sacrifice at work. He's giving up his own happiness for the greater good, knowing full well of the consequences. And Ilsa knows this to be true as well, she allows him to convince her, even though she herself was willing to give up so much for him. The two of them are fated lovers in the Romeo and Juliet sense. They cannot, and should not, be together. Their love was not meant for this world, and - if you'll pardon my language - the whole thing was a big, bloody mess that shows why both were better off apart. This kind of starcrossed love resonates with many, perhaps because they've experienced it, perhaps because they've surpassed it against all odds. It's no wonder Casablanca continues to enthrall audiences to this day. The love story sometimes doesn't make sense, the history gets a bit warped (and we have to remember, this was considered contemporary politics back in 1942), but the performances and the chemistry behind these two characters shine through and through.
Usually when we approach this scene in Great Movie Ride, I like to straighten up in my seat, and lock eyes on Rick and Ilsa. I'll stare at them, listen to Rick convince Ilsa to leave over and over. I'll turn around as we leave, hoping to keep them within my sight before the turn into Fantasia and Wizard of Oz gets too narrow that we no longer can see them. All the while, our recently-returned tour guide will decide to spoil this moment by mimicking Bogart's last line ("Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship!") and declaring, "best last line of a movie, ever." When I was younger, I didn't mind it as much. As I got older, I grew more critical of that line. I didn't like how utterly clich� the whole thing sounded, and felt that it was the most "spieling" of the spiel. It sounded too rehearsed, too prepared. Such a sentiment ("best last line...") should be done at the spur of the moment, preferably after watching a film and having that sudden epiphany.
For a majority of my visits to Great Movie Ride since about 2001 or so, I'd always cringe whenever the tour guide reached the line. Very, very few pulled it off effectively. And since 2009, even fewer of them have yet to match the awestruck wonder of one of my favorite tour guides to ever deliver the line. During a Great Movie Ride trip in June 2009, our tour guide, Kevin (from Ireland), had been impressing me mightily during the attraction. By the time we reached Casablanca, I sat with bated breath, not for Rick to say "the problems of three little people" to Ilsa, but for Kevin to say, "best last line of a movie, ever." The line would make or break him as an effective tour guide, and needless to say, Kevin delivered in spades. Since then, he's been the benchmark for tour guides, I judge every tour guide based on his performance.
Ultimately, this brings us back full circle with Me Week. My critical response to a celebration of a line ties in to this weeklong celebration of me. I'm grateful for it, I enjoyed it. But next time, let it happen naturally, with the conviction and sincerity that only occurs in the moment. It's the quiet thing, the happiness that comes in on tiptoe (there's that Kander & Ebb again). So, hopefully, my week will end in a satisfying, whispering appreciation. Rick. Ilsa. Keep your eye on them for me the next time you're at Great Movie Ride or watching Casablanca. Watch them tonight, love them forever.
Well, what do you know?
Well, what do you know?
It's a quiet thing.
It's a quiet thing.
A very quiet thing.
Then, I remember, there's still tomorrow's Sunday Brunch. Oh well, have fun in Epcot!