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Casablanca and me

May 10, 2020

One winter when I was in my teens and off school for a week with my annual case of strep throat, one of the Buffalo stations accessible to Toronto viewers decided to have a Humphrey Bogart week, screening one of his films every night at 11:30 after the local news. My mum informed me that when she’d been my age she’d absolutely loved Bogart, which made me curious. As I wasn’t going to be going to school the next day, no problem with me sitting up late to watch a film. Despite the fact that she was going to be going to work the next morning, Mum decided the loss of a couple of hours of sleep for a few nights was worth it for a trip down memory lane.

The first film they showed was Casablanca. Like my mum, I fell immediately for Mr Bogart. Honestly, how could you not?

Over the next four nights the station screened The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, To Have and Have Not and, for a change of pace, The Petrified Forest. I loved all of the films, will happily watch any of them (or pretty much anything with Bogie) to this day, but it was Casablanca that completely stole my heart.

I don’t know how many times I’ve watched the film. Lots.

There was an old cinema in the village in New York that used to show Casablanca the last Sunday of every month. It was an old, probably original print that jerked around in a few places. The best part about these screenings came right at the end, when the sound cut out just as Bogie began, “Louis, I think…” and pretty much the whole audience would yell “this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship!”

I’m fairly sure it was the first video I bought when video players became a common thing.

For years it was my touchstone, employed as a quality control test when making amorous decisions. I’d settle wannabe lovers on the sofa to watch Casablanca. If they didn’t get misty eyed when Paul Henried gets the band to play La Marseillaise (which I still do), they didn’t get to move from the sofa to the bed.

It was certainly a point in Mike’s favour when it turned out Casablanca was also his all time favourite film.

Sometime in the 1990s, quite possibly during a visit to Seattle, we bought a Casablanca poster, which was on the wall of our bedroom. When I moved back to London in 2001 I took the poster with me. It lived on my bedroom wall, first in Stoke Newington, then in Walthamstow. When I returned to Canada a decade ago, the poster came back with me.

There is no room for it on the walls of my bedroom here – too many windows and too many bookcases. So I ended up hanging it in the bathroom, first just the poster, eventually framed. It’s been there for nearly ten years and not once, until recently, have I asked myself why.

There is one spot in the livingroom that really needed a portrait, rather than landscape-orientated piece of art. I delved into a tube of nowhere-to-put-up artwork and eventually discovered a poster I’d bought at one of the many Edward Hopper exhibitions I’ve attended over the years. In a frame it went and up on to the wall. Until yesterday when I took it down.


I mean, I like it okay, it’s fine. But I don’t love it. So why has it been one of the images I look at most frequently in my house? It was suddenly inexplicable. Suddenly I realised what should have been hanging in that spot all along.


Yes! It’s perfect there. What on earth had I been thinking?

Now there was the question of what should go into the bathroom to replace the Casablanca poster. That part was easy.


For years this flamingo artwork Mike bought for me has been hanging on the only available wall space – in the kitchen near (and hidden by it when open) the door. If it hadn’t been obvious to me all along that the flamingo art print should be in the bathroom along with my flamingo mug and the flamingo mobile hanging in front of the window, it should have been clear last year after I bought my mate Ray’s raven painting and hung it in the bathroom. Of course the birds should be together.

This artwork shifting hasn’t magically made all right with the world. The pandemic is, after all, still raging. But finally figuring out where the Casablanca poster should have been all these years has definitely improved my little world.


Oh, and PS:




Happy Mother’s Day, Mum. Hope you’re having fun at the great cocktail party in the sky.

With a bit of luck maybe you and Bogie have met up.

Love ya.

From → Blog

  1. krysross permalink

    I think your rearrangements look perfect. And I’m going to watch Casablanca now.

  2. Catherine Holmes permalink

    It’s interesting that we Holmes’s seem to find the same things important! Watched Casablanca last week. You’re right the Marsellias is a tear jerker. Here’s looking at you Kid.

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