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Here’s looking at the lasting fascination of ‘Casablanca’

Here’s looking at the lasting fascination of ‘Casablanca’
Alan K. Rode, above, and George Feltenstein will be in Buena Vista Library’s auditorium at 7 p.m. Tuesday to discuss Rode’s latest book, titled “Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film." (Photo courtesy of the Burbank Public Library)

The 1943 film “Casablanca” is arguably one of the most famous motion pictures of all time, and though it is 75 years old, it still sparks the interest of many people.

Last week, the Buena Vista Branch Library in Burbank held a screening of the movie, and now the library will be continuing to feed people’s curiosity about the classic movie by hosting author Alan K. Rode and George Feltenstein, senior vice president of theatrical catalog and marketing for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, who will talk about what made the film a timeless piece.

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On Tuesday, which marks the 75th anniversary of the national release of “Casablanca,” Rode and Feltenstein will be in Buena Vista Library’s auditorium at 7 p.m. to talk about the film and discuss Rode’s latest book, titled “Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film,” a biography about the famed director of “Casablanca” and many other movies, which include “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “White Christmas” and “The Adventures of Robin Hood.”

Rode said it was serendipitous that his book, published by University Press of Kentucky, was released in November, the same month that “Casablanca” made its world premiere. He added that he is looking forward to chatting with Feltenstein, who is a fellow film buff and historian.

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“He’s a person that’s very knowledgeable about the history and the context of ‘Casablanca’ and how, after 75 years, we’re still discussing this movie,” Rode said.

“‘Casablanca’ is one of the most revered commercial American films ever,” Rode added. “It’s occupied this rarefied position in our popular culture that very few films could either aspire to or hope to achieve, and it’s been written about ad nauseam by many people.”

Though many of Curtiz’s films are memorable and highly touted, Rode said people often forget to credit Curtiz for his dedication to the craft of filmmaking.

“He was a maestro with the camera,” Rode said. “When you see the opening scene in Rick’s Cafe, it’s this long dolly shot with a smoky atmosphere — you see Dooley Wilson playing the piano … and then it goes into [a shot of] a bunch of European immigrants scheming to get out of Casablanca.”

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In fact, Rode said many of the immigrants cast in the film were actual Jewish immigrants who had fled Europe during World War II. Curtiz had also helped his family living in Hungary leave the country before it was occupied by the Nazis.

What made the film really stand out, Rode said, was the timing of its release, which was during World War II, and the film’s ability to teach the audience about making the right decision.

“It came to reflect the difference between right and wrong in a world that was clearly divided,” he said. “You knew what being on the right side meant during World War II. Humphrey Bogart’s character of Rick Blaine clearly used that wartime patriotism about doing the right thing, even to the point of letting the woman that he loved go off with her husband when she loved him just as much.”

The message is enduring, Rode added.

“Doing the right thing never goes out of style,” he said. “It’s part of human nature, and I think that’s one of the reasons for the eternal appeal of the film.”

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