OF ALL THE GIN JOINTS IN TOWN … — Marilyn Armstrong

Last night, we watched Casablanca. Again. We’ve seen it on TV. We even watched it on the big screen in the movies. Last night, we watched it once more — and it still has the best dialogue of any movie of its kind. There are other, more exciting movies, more thrilling movies, though I find Casablanca pretty thrilling. What Casablanca gives us is the reality of a war that never was, but which we needed.

The passionately dedicated French underground.

The anti-Nazi heroism of ordinary people, willing to put their lives on the line for the greater good.


“What if you killed all of us? From every corner of Europe, hundreds, thousands would rise up to take our places. Even Nazis can’t kill that fast.”


Not the way it was, but the way we wanted (maybe needed) it to be. Even now, we want the grandeur of people at their finest. Truth be damned.

And love. Undying love that lasts through war and loss, no matter what the world brings. As we watched — and we know the movie well enough to hear the line coming — Garry looked at me and I grinned back. Wait for it … wait for it … Ah, there it is!


“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine…”


There’s the first of many great lines, There are many more. We went to the movies to see Casablanca on the Big Screen when TCM sponsored a release of this1943 Oscar-winning classic a few years ago.


“We’ll always have Paris. We didn’t have, we, we lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.”


The filming of the movie was a crazy time. The script was written — and it’s a great script — page by page. The actors didn’t know what they’d be doing any day until the pages arrived.


The set was chaotic and Ingrid Bergman wasn’t happy. Bogie was underpaid — a bad contract with Warner’s he had signed before he was a big star. Casablanca went a long way to fix that. Claude Rains earned more than Bogie, and he was arguably worth it.


(Standing in front of the plane in the fog.) “I’m saying this because it’s true. 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.”

“…But what about us?”


However it happened, Casablanca is movie magic. It’s a brilliant and witty script that plays even better on the big screen than it does at home.


“…When I said I would never leave you…”

“And you never will. 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.”

(Ilsa lowers her head and begins to cry.)

“Now, now…”

(Rick gently places his hand under her chin and raises it so their eyes meet, and he repeats–)

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”


Maybe it’s something about how differently we focus when we watch it in a theater than when we see it at home, with the dogs, the refrigerator, and a “pause” button. A difference in the “presence” of the film. The clarity of the visual presentation.


“Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”


I’m sure it was and somewhere, it still is.

60 thoughts on “OF ALL THE GIN JOINTS IN TOWN … — Marilyn Armstrong

  1. I am so, so, so envious that you got to meet one of the writers of THAT movie.

    I had read that the set was chaos and no-one thought the movie would amount to much (not even a hill of beans). Is it true that even As Time Goes By was a sort of placeholder song while they supposedly figured out something better?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Su, it was pure serendipity. Few in Boston’s entertainment media (as I vaguely remember) showed major interest in “Travels With My Aunt” when it was being promoted in Boston. The PR agency told me director George Cukor and screen writer Julius Epstein were available as well as cast members.

      I passed on the actors and said “YES” to Cukor and Epstein QUICKLY. The PR agency was thrilled. I was OVER the moon. Hard to believe there wasn’t more interest on those two Hollywood legends. As I said — SERENDIPITY for me. (Think I mentally pinched myself for landing interviews wih those two icons. It’s often a plus being a movie maven rather than just a mic holder).

      Cukor & Epstein were pleased I knew them. Go figure!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I probably would have done the same, but with hindsight, I’d love to have met Maggie Smith. But I guess she wasn’t considered as interesting then as now.
        And I’m not really a Downton Abbey fan — I just love the way she the personification of curmudgeonly. Not easy for a woman to do!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Su, Sweet Su, this piece and its comments really have “legs”. Myriad days of comments. Like a cyber space party-line conversation. So enjoying it, sepcially with mavens like you who truly know their stuff.

          So, Svelte Su, what’s your favorite romantic movie? Doesn’t have to be a claasic. Just one you watch a lot because you LIKE it.

          I’ll throw outa couple or three or four or more – that I watch often. Not my official
          best — just to keep the chatter moving.

          “Portrait of Jennie” 49 – Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten.
          “Love Letters” 45/46 — Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten.
          “I’ll Be Seeing You” — ’44 — Joseph Cotten, Ginger Rogers
          “Remember The Night” – ’40’41 — Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray
          “An Affair To Remember” ‘ ’55 — Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr.
          “Love Affair” ’39 (original version of “Affair To Remember”) Irene Dunne, Charles Boyer
          “Shining Through” ’42 — Janette McDonald, Brian Aherne. (Love the theme song)
          “One Way Passage” — ’32 — Kay Francis, George Brent.
          “Waterloo Bridge” ’42 — Vivian Leigh, Robert Taylor
          “Susan Slade” ’63 – Connie Stevens. Just because I’ve always had a “thing” for Ms. Stevens.

          and —
          “Now, Voyager” – ’42 Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains.

          I know there are a ZILLION others.

          Su,
          We’ll always have Paris.

          (You might throw in “King Kong” – ’33 – because Kong had a “thing” for Fay Wray and died for his unrequited love. I wonder if Southern movie houses had a problem with Kong because he, obviously, had superior ‘manly pats’. In later versions,
          I think Kong and his leading lady get to know each other a “little better”. Maybe it’s the inter-racial romance storyline)

          – 30-

          Liked by 1 person

          • Ah my movie-maven friend, you have set an awesome challenge and one that requires some quiet contemplation over coffee. I’ll go turn the machine on.
            I should say though, that I’m not a romantic soul and my movie preferences tend towards the avant garde — and old-school thrillers. Indeed, my MA thesis was on feminist subversion of the genre.
            In my defense, it was in the late 80s when post-structural feminism was the THING in social science departments.
            Talk to you after I’ve had my coffee.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Garry I think I’m going to have to rearrange my life for the next few months and do some serious movie binge-watching.

            I haven’t seen a lot of the films on your list. I was born in ‘61 and live in NZ with a relatively small number of TV channels, so my old movie-watching involves browsing video stores (back in the day), film societies and random programming decisions by TV stations.

            BUT you’ve given me some titles to search for in the library catalogue.

            So to my romantic faves …

            I’d have to start with Truly, Madly Deeply; Anthony Minghella’s 1990 ‘ghost story’ with Juliet Stevenson and the wonderful Alan Rickman.

            Then add Minghella’s The English Patient (1996). The guy was a genius and taken far too soon. In tEP, the affair between Hana and Kip is for me just as moving as that between Katherine and Almásy.

            Then there’s Once, John Carney’s 2006 indie love story set in Dublin with Glen Hansard and Marketa Irklova. Wonderful soundtrack too.

            Win Wenders 1987 Wings of Desire — Bruno Ganz before the Downfall memes.

            Baz Luhrmann’s 1992 Strictly Ballroom — incredibly funny too.

            Jane Campion’s The Piano; 1993. This was made in Auckland, and I think of Ada whenever I walk on Karekare Beach.

            Brief Encounter naturally; plus An Affair to Remember, Now, Voyager and Breakfast At Tiffany’s.

            Plus I’d add Neil Jordan’s The Crying Game, 1992, AND Mona Lisa, 1986.

            Oh, and My Beautiful Laundrette, 1985 and Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, 1983. None of these is a conventional romance, but all are strong love stories. Like King Kong, but different.

            I watch Love, Actually once a year, just before Xmas but mostly because it’s become a family tradition — and we all love the movie-snacks. In truth, the only story arc that doesn’t slightly irritate me is Alan Rickman’s betrayal of Emma Thompson. And it’s the Joni Mitchell scene.

            So what next sensei?

            Like

        • SU, you are right about Maggie Smith. Adored her after “Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”. Used to walk around singing the Rod McKuen version of “Jean”. When I visited Scotland, I visited where they shot the “Brodie” exteriors. Was so EXCITED about getting Cukor &Epstein, I temporarily forgot about Maggie Smith and then the clock was against me.
          I was told “Maggie understands and is keen about your appreciation of George & Juluis. Maggie promises – NEXT time –you will be top of her list”.

          There was never a next time for me.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. In my Top 5 too. I know I’m poorly when all I want to do is lay on the couch and watch Casablanca, Brief Encounter and The Lady Vanishes — the proper Hitchcock one with Michael Redgrave and Margaret Lockwood.

    Liked by 2 people

      • Me too. Kind Hearts and Coronets, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Third Man, Some Like it Hot, Sunset Boulevard, anything Hitchcock did before Psycho … ooh, do I feel a cold coming on? 😉

        Liked by 1 person

            • AND, “The Maltest Falcon” — just for the final scene and line. Mary Astor’s femme fatale is led away in cuffs..

              Ward Bond to Bogie: “Sam, what’s it all about, huh?”

              Bogie: “Um…the stuff dreams are made of”

              Liked by 1 person

                  • I think of movie-watching as a winter thing (except for Love, Actually which has become a tongue-in-cheek family tradition here). While it’s light in the evenings, I am more inclined to go to the beach.

                    Like

                    • I did my back in very early. Horses. Actually, riding is fine. Falling, especially while jumping, isn’t. So my spine was fused when I was 19 and it held up pretty well for about 40 years, but then there was a car accident and they forbid me to ride horses anymore (because if I fell, I’d never get up again) … and over the year, arthritis (both kinds) have done a real job. And there was cancer and heart surgery and getting old. I’m doing a little better now than I was, but time does its thing. And there is no cure for arthritis. I’m just trying to stay on my feet and NOT a wheelchair. It isn’t easy but I’m sure that if I don’t keep moving, I’ll never get up again.

                      Liked by 1 person

                  • Always. Hey – Missy, Chris, Vin and the rest of “The 7” are waiting for us to put them in the DVD slot and play. Elmer Befnstein has his baton and also is waiting.

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                • Yes, Su. You’ll love it even more despite all your previous viewings. Focus on the chemistry between Bogie and Astor — as they play verbal check-mate. Astor was the claasic femme fatale.

                  I would’ve loved to to do a sit down with her. I believe she was a “hottie” in her private life or so I gather from stuff I’ve read from different people who were around in those halcyon Hollywood days.

                  Liked by 1 person

        • Su, you have superb taste. Agree with al your choices.

          – Just watched “The 39 Steps” again the other night. Love the Donat-Carroll team.. Always have had a crush on Madeline who exuded classy sexuality. She did an early 40’s film, “Carribean” which co-starred her with a very young “Stirling” (Yes, his named was spelled with an “i” not an “e” Hayden. He was a beachboy type… Madeline was the zaftig Amercan tourista who had my young boy body parts steaming at her very daring (for that time) 2 piece bathng suit. I didn’t mind the mushy stuff in that film..

          “The Third Man” is another all time favorite. Sir Carol Reed (w/ some help from Welles) nifty direction, those slanted angles, the zither music, the sewer scenes. Most of all — maybe the best final scene ever. Joseph Cotten watches expectantly as he watches Alida Valli walk down the long road towards him. One long & steady shot with the zither theme music up full. When Valli KEEPS walking past Cotten, I am still stunned after all these years.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Totally agree about The Third Man. I hadn’t seen it until a few years ago (I think I was born at exactly the wrong time), and only after reading Green’s book. I also liked Our Man in Havana — another Carol Reed-directed movie of a Graham Greene novel.

            I came to The 39 Steps via the book too. I have a weird fascination with John Buchan’s novels, despite the fact that he was politically about as far from me as is possible. Perhaps it’s because he wrote so well about Scotland — my homeland.

            Liked by 1 person

    • Move over, Sue. Don’t hog the couch (I am Garry, the self-proclaimed movie maven, using Mar’s typewriter and making a zillion typos.) Okay, what was I gonna say, Sue? Damn, it was there a moment ago and, now, it’s gone with the wind.

      Sue, I met Julius Epstein, one of Casablanca’s co-writers back in the ’70s when he was promoting “Travels With My Aunt” with George Cukor, the GREAT George Cukor. Cukor is another story, another time. Sweet Jesus, Sue! Marilyn’s keyboard is KILLING me. Yes, Sue, I’m sober and haven’t had my snfifin’ glue yet.

      Okay, okay, Sue. back to whats-his-face, Julius Epstein. Julius and brother, Phillip labored for weeks, pushing draft after draft of scripts for Casablanca, new pages delivered as the actors were on set running their lines.

      Julius Epstein told me it was a madhouse with the always excitable director, Michael Curtiz nearly going berserk on alternate days. Epstein credits producer Hal Wallis for restoring sanity to the set.

      Bogie was always in his trailer, drinking and fuming. Ingrid Bergman was pouting because she wanted OUT of the movie to do something meaningful (“Song of Bernadette” and/or Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms”. She just kept pouting. Paul Henreid’s nose was out of joint because he didn’t like taking the third billing. He had to fight to be billed over the title. Henreid’s daughter says he was underappreciated.
      Sue, Phillip Epstein said the “Casablanca” shoot was a bloody nightmare and nothing like the iconic film beloved by generations of filmgoers.

      I’ll go with Bogie’s bitter, “Of all the gin joints in the world…” I practiced that line in many gin joints..and usually got gales of laughter for my efforts.

      (I cleaned up the text. Garry doesn’t understand my spell checker!)

      Liked by 1 person

    • Su, did you see the remake of “The Lady Vanishes” w/ Elliot Gould & Cybill Shephard in the Redgrave/Lockwood roles? No, it didn’t work for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A favourite movie of mine also. The last time I watched it was on the first night of our Singapore cruise. We were excited that we got to see this classic movie onboard ship, not the first time for either of us of course but it was part of a special day. Sadly the rest of the movies on that trip did not live up to that standard.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s one of our top five movies. Maybe our top movie that isn’t a Western and seeing it in the movies was a real treat. I just got a book about how they made the movie. It was a crazy time for the actors. They didn’t have a completed script and only got their lines the morning they shot. Ingrid Bergman hated it, but Bogart and the rest of the cast loved it. For me, it’s the “singing” scene in Rick’s Cafe that’s the best part of the story. I know the way wasn’t the way it was presented … but it’s the war the way we needed it to be. Sometimes, the legend really IS better than the truth.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Tas, what a lovely (romantic?) setting to watch Rick, Illsa and the rest of the gang.

      Was it special for you? What were the other films you saw on the cruise?

      Like

      • Garry the only other film we went to see was “The Greatest Showman”. I usually like Hugh Jackman but I didn’t particularly like the film. I was expecting a period piece I suppose but I found it more of a fantasy than a historically accurate film and I didn’t care for the music. Also it was very loud. I would rather watch a classic film I’ve seen before than a lot of modern ones.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I don’t think we’ve seen that one. Unless it had a different name in this country. I don’t understand this “renaming films” thing. It can make it hard to recognize which film is which.

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          • It was the one about Barnum, not sure if it had another name overseas. I know what you mean though. I remember many years ago when David and I were in England we were chatting with a Canadian about movies. He was talking about “Airplane”, we were talking about “Flying High” eventually we realised we were talking about the same film.

            Like

            • Yes, we saw it. It was “Dumbo” here, supposedly a remake of the original, but it was NOTHING like the original. It was interesting, but it wasn’t great. Disappointing.

              In Israel it was “Flying High” and here in the US it was “Airplane.” Garry took me to see it when it first came out (here) and that was the last time he got checked for age limit. Why you needed to be over 18 to see Airplane I still don’t know.

              Liked by 1 person

        • Tas, thanks for tip on. “The Greatest Showman”. Been meaning to watch it because of subject matter.

          Anything at all to recommend it?

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          • Well Hugh Jackman is always good and the audience enjoyed it. It just wasn’t what we were expecting so I would say make your own judgement. Just don’t expect historical accuracy.

            Like

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