Watched Casablanca after dinner at Parcel 104 last night. My wife wanted to see it for Valentine’s Day, and there’s a fairly new deluxe edition out on DVD, with a second disc full of bonus features. Humphrey Bogart’s Rick is the quintessential liberal figure of WWII: he’s got a misty leftist past (supporting the Communists in the Spanish Civil War), his business isn’t all that profitable, but his staff is well paid, and his cafe, like America itself, is a haven and melting pot for refugees all around the world. He starts off the film (set at the beginning of December, 1941) as an isolationist, and ends it by selling his bar, getting Ilsa on the plane to America with freedom fighter Victor Laszlo, and becoming a partisan once again, along with his new best friend, free-French policeman Louis Renault, played wonderfully by Claude Rains. (Renault is from the province in France where they speak the King’s English perfectly; Jean-Luc Picard will be born there 400 years later.)
Hollywood was certainly liberal in WWII, but as I understand its past from books like Neal Gabler’s An Empire Of Their Own it wasn’t quite leftist, despite the best efforts of reds like Dalton Trumbo. But if Hollywood were to make Casablanca today, Rick would chuck it all, move back to America with Ilsa and do his best to dodge the war on terrorism, and probably dub Victor Laslzo a Nazi, terrorist, or racist himself. Look at Hawkeye, as played by Alan Alda in the M*A*S*H TV series: a draftee, the minute his hitch is up, he’s getting out of Korea just as fast as he can. He can’t see any difference between the communists and America, and while he’s a dedicated and brilliant doctor from a New England state (!), he turns a complete blind eye to the devastation and terror that will befall North Korea after the war.
For America–not just the liberal left of WWII and their president, but the formerly isolationist Republicans as well–Pearl Harbor was a turning point and a rallying point. For today’s left, 9/11 never happened. FDR became a hero for millions of Americans for willing to wage a two front war against the Japanese and the Germans–again, not just of the left, but for the right as well (President Reagan, Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole and both Presidents Bush have all praised him). But for the left, stoked by Al Gore, Howard Dean, and John Kerry, President Bush is an enemy of freedom himself.
As cynical as Bogey’s character was in Casablanca, what would Rick say about that?
UPDATE: As I was saying…