Comic fans LOVE the anti-hero. The world weary cynic who has no illusions that everything is going to come up sunshine and roses holds a special place in our imagination and our hearts. Batman, Wolverine, The Punisher, Namor…and on and on. Jack Bauer would just be NO fun if he didn’t have his dark side. These characters are all deeply flawed, some even manic depressive. But in the end, they do the right thing (if not always in the right way).
All great anti-heroes. But…
Bogie was the first (and still the greatest) of them all.
In a Hollywood era replete with square jawed heroes like Duke Wayne, Gary Cooper and Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart was Jack Bauer, Batman, Dirty Harry and Rorsach all rolled into one. (the latter stole both Bogies trench coat and hat by the way!)
Bogie invented the anti-hero in film. Prior to Bogart the good guys were good and the bad guys were bad. No moral ambiguity. Of course this sort of character HAD existed in literature but Bogie gave it a face.
And what a face it was. Ugly in way that women loved. Craggy, weather beaten and sad. The face of Bogart was like no other.
The process that lead Bogart to creating his unique persona took place over more than a decade beginning with his turn as Duke Mantee (a Dillinger analog) in The Petrified Forest 1936, through the 1940, The Maltese Falcon (As Sam Spade) 1941, and culminating his role of Dix Steele in the classic “In A Lonely Place” 1950. But Bogart crystallized his anti-hero persona in 1942 with the release of Casablanca.
Casablanca turned 70 years old on March 21st. It remains in the minds of most film historians one of the top three greatest American sound films. The film was the culmination of several fortuitous events. An unforgettable cast lead by Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, supported by Claude Rains, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet and Paul Henried. A wonderful, if written on the fly script. And a moment in history. In short Casablanca could not have been released at a better time, just at the very beginning of WWII, this film was TIMELY.
Yet the romance was timeless. The drama of people caught up in the sweep of history and personal passion has kept Casablanca as fresh today as it was in 1942. I have personally seen this film over 75 times in every possible venue and it NEVER gets old or dull.
For the two or three of you who may never have seen the film, well I envy you because you will get to see it for the first time. And next Tuesday would be the PERFECT time because a new restoration on Bluray and DVD is about to be released. The film has been restored on a frame by frame basis and looks like what it is…a work of art.
If you like Anti-heroes. If you like Bogie. Or if you just want to see one of the greatest movies ever made, you owe it to yourself to pick this up. I have the film on VHS, DVD, HD and earlier BluRay. My best friend even has a 16mm film print! But I am going to run out to buy this new release.
So make up some popcorn, turn down the lights, watch and transport yourself to the drama, romance and passion of…Casablanca