Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Getting "The Nod"

This morning I read a review of "Tough Without a Gun," the new biography of Humphrey Bogart.

To my surprise, I learned that the American Film Institute voted him the greatest male film star of all time. (Hepburn won the honor for greatest female actor.)

Imagine my greater surprise, when a few minutes after reading the review, I met a woman who had never seen a Bogart movie.

She had never seen "Casablanca." <sigh> She asked, "It's something about him leaving in an airplane, right?" Not really, but sort of.

Here is the movie's pivotal scene in which Rick gives the nod

giving his house band permission to play the French national anthem "La Marseillaise," making clear where his sympathies lie.

Even if you understand no French, the song is chilling. Its defiance is even more blood-curdling if you know that the cafe goers are telling the Nazis:

Arise children of the fatherland
The day of glory has arrived
Against us tyranny's
Bloody standard is raised
Listen to the sound in the fields
The howling of these fearsome soldiers
They are coming into our midst
To cut the throats of your sons and consorts

Makes 'The Star-Spangled Banner' look like 'Mary Had a Little Lamb."

Bogart is on screen for about five seconds. Amazingly, he had no idea what he was supposed to be nodding at, as this interview with the movie's director makes clear.

It all came together in the cutting room. At the hands of a good editor/director.