Today, of course, we begin the five-day celebration that culminates with my birthday on Friday......no, just kidding. At this ripe old age birthdays are more tolerated than celebrated, but I've always taken a sort of odd pride in the fact that I share the November 30 birthdate with a number of historical figures - Winston Churchill, Mark Twain, Gordon Liddy - a few show biz folks (Ben Stiller, Kaley Cuoco, Dick Clark) and perhaps the greatest athlete of all time, Bo Jackson.
(The list goes on....Bill Idol, Jonathan Swift, Efrem Zembalist, Clay Aiken, Abbie Hoffman, Robert Guillaume, Bill Walsh, Shane Victorino, Elisha Cuthbert, Richard Crenna...it's quite a day).
But today I learned that I almost share a birthday with the greatest movie of all time: Casablanca.
Turns out that on November 26, 70 years ago, Casablanca was first screened at the Hollywood Theater in New York City, introducing the world to one of the greatest packages of romance, music, patriotism and physical beauty ever assembled.
I would estimate that I've probably watched it 40 or so times, and I feel as though I'm always picking up something new. Some subtle joke (and they're almost all subtle), some background character I hadn't noticed before, something that makes it worth watching again.
In case you haven't seen it (and if you haven't, really, what have you been doing with your life?) it's the story of former lovers Ilsa and Rick (Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart) separated by war, reunited under difficult circumstances in Morocco during World War II. Eventually they are forced to choose between their rekindled love and the need to do the "right thing" and help the resistance against the Nazis.
It's a beautiful movie, wonderfully written, with fantastic music that will appeal to the romantic in all of us. And I don't believe any movie star has ever looked more beautiful and alluring that Bergman did while playing the role of Ilsa. Watch this scene, when she and Rick see each other again for the first time.
I was smitten. Sometime in the 1980s I was watching a movie called Cousins starring Ted Danson and an actress I had never heard of, Isabella Rossellini, and I couldn't figure out why I found Rossellini so unbelievably attractive. Later I learned that she was Ingrid Bergman's daughter, and it all made sense.
Casablanca is usually listed among the top three films ever made (along with The Godfather, which you can make an argument for, or Citizen Kane, which is ridiculous) and if you haven't seen it, or haven't seen it in a few years, watch it again...and again and again. It's a treasure.