As Time Goes By…
Seventy years ago today, at the Hollywood Theater—at the corner of 51st and Broadway in New York City—the greatest (well, in any case, our favorite) motion picture ever filmed made its debut.
We’ve seen Casablanca countless times, and, God willing, we’ll see it many more times before we depart this mortal coil. It’s well nigh perfect. The world’s been a better place for the past seven decades for it being around.
The Hollywood was eventually renamed the Mark Hellinger Theatre, playing host for decades to live Broadway productions.
Today, the building, its interior largely unchanged from its days as a movie palace, is home to Times Square Church. If you find yourself in Manhattan and wish to make a pilgrimage to the spot where this great picture was first screened for the public, now you know where to go.
You screened it for her, you can screen it for me…
Like most movie buffs, we occasionally are asked to name our favorite movie.
At first thought, it seems a difficult question. After all, there aren’t many genres of movies we don’t enjoy, and we happily watch pictures more than a century old and the latest releases. We have a list of favorite directors as long as our arm and a list of favorite actors and actresses as long as our leg.
But in the end, it’s really not that tough a call. For our money, Casablanca is the perfect movie—or the closest we’ve ever seen to it. Amazing performances from the whole cast, from Bogart and Bergman down to the tiniest bit roles. A witty, suspenseful, and moving script that deftly combines romance, drama, and humor and features some of the most celebrated dialogue and memorable scenes ever committed to celluloid.
We’ve seen Casablanca a dozen times or more, most of those on a big screen, surrounded by a collection of appreciative fellow movie buffs. It’s one of the benefits of living in a city like New York; we get to see an amazing range of movies from across a century-plus of cinema in theatres.
But there are plenty of burgs where a movie classic like Casablanca can be seen only on television, on a DVD or when Turner Classic Movies airs it. So I got excited—not for myself, but for the millions of Americans living somewhere other than NYC or Los Angeles or Chicago or San Francisco or half dozen other cities that have outlets for viewing classic movies in theatres—when I learned that on Wednesday, March 21, TCM is commemorating the movie’s 70th anniversary with a one-time digital screening of this classic in more than 335 theatres across the country. There will be an introductory short starring TCM host Robert Osborne, who will “take audiences behind the scenes of this epic love story.”
Every theatre is showing the movie at 7 p.m., so in each time zone, thousands of moviegoers will be watching it simultaneously. We love that.
There’s a good chance there’s a participating theatre near you. If you’ve never seen this wonderful movie on a big screen with an audience of fellow movie fans, you owe it to yourself to attend. Tickets went on sale today.
Goodbye to another glorious gal
We just learned of the passing yesterday of the wonderful Gloria Stuart. Stuart, who turned 100 on July 5 of this year, lived a nice, long life, of course, but we’re feeling blue nonetheless.
As some regular readers will recall, we were fortunate enough to interview Ms. Stuart eleven years ago on the occasion of the publication of her memoir, I Just Kept Hoping [you can read the interview here], and we found her utterly delightful. She was, at age 89, as witty and as sharp as one could hope to be at that age. She was also charming and engaging and not a little flirty, and we have harbored a little crush on her ever since.
Ms. Stuart had an impressive, if brief, Hollywood career in the 1930s, acting opposite the likes of Claude Rains, James Cagney, Nancy Carroll, Walter Pidgeon, Lee Tracy, Pat O’Brien, Melvyn Douglas, Dick Powell and many others, and she was friends with many other luminaries, Humphrey Bogart and the Marx Brothers among them. And we were pleased to learn that she had gotten a kick out of the career resurgence she experienced late in life.
Screen Play magazine once named Ms. Stuart one of the 10 most beautiful women in Hollywood, and we think that honor still holds today, even all those beautiful women later. But as By Aljean Harmetz and Robert Berkvist wrote in an obituary that appeared in The New York Times, Stuart was “more than a pretty face. She was a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild and helped found the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, an early antifascist organization.”
She also undertook a career as an artist, teaching herself to paint. Her first one-woman show was at NYC’s Hammer Galleries in 1961. Beginning in the 1980s, she began a new career at a printer, designing hand-printed artists’ books, even organizing her own imprint, Imprenta Glorias.
What a gal.
We’ll remain ever grateful for our brief encounters with Ms. Stuart, and we sincerely hope and pray that she will rest in peace.
Spring is here!
Why doesn’t the breeze delight me?
Why doesn’t the night invite me?
Maybe it’s because nobody loves me.
Spring is here I hear
---Spring Is Here, Lorenz Hart, 1938