Casablanca VS Private Benjamin

The dangers of exhaustion, self-pity, and an eagerness to be rescued are no small dangers.

I’ve watched Casablanca a lot. I love it for it’s classy filmmaking, the wartime plot and easily hated enemies of life and romance; Ingrid Bergman’s beauty, and Humphrey Bogart’s skill in transitioning from a loveable, enterprising buffoon in African Queen to the height of handsome worldliness in Casablanca.

But over and over again I am struck by this: Holy shit, Ingrid! You got what you asked for.

It’s a guy’s dream movie, and up until the end, not bad for the girls. When Ilsa so memorably falls into Rick’s arms and says, “I can’t think anymore! You decide! You think for both of us!”  and Rick answers, “All right, I will!” we all melt. It’s ideal. Everything’s going to be all right.

On close inspection we see Rick’s wheels turning. Just how much does he want this young, bright, idealistic beauty in his life. How telling was it after all that he didn’t stay in Paris & risk his life to find her then. His drunken despair on parade when she reappears is Rick’s drama, Rick’s tribute to tortured love. It only lasts as far as the misty tarmac.

Whereupon Bogart forces Ingrid into the arms of a man who by description is Indiana Jones but in the flesh is a sexless aristocrat. Whoa!

What the writers did not do IN THE FINAL SCENE was put a gun into Ilsa’s right hand making the freedom fighting whosie get on the plane without her, leaving her left hand free to slap sense into Rick. And she’d have been some babe if she had done. Then maybe all us girls would have had a feisty adventuress for a role model, not some ultimate sop who trades her chance at an electrifying life for position and comfort in the arms of that unlikely safe man, and calls it honorable. She shows no outrage. She cries. She looks confused. She starts thinking Rick may be more trouble than he’s worth too, and this husband guy makes her look noble. Private Benjamin hadn’t been dreamed yet. Thanks, Goldie.

Being rescued has a lot of down sides, whether we long for it periodically or every minute of the day. Abandon the thought. Our own empirical experiences and resourcefulness are ultimately better on every level. It’s always good to have Paris but silly to suppose that once is enough for a lifetime.


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