Question: How do people have this much free time in their lives to do something like this? Not knocking them, just amazed: (1) That they have this amount of time. (2) That they would choose to use their free time doing this. (3) That they came up with such an amazing recreation.
The movie To Kill a Mockingbird premiered in L.A. on December 25, 1962, then in New York on February 14, 1963, but it opened nationwide 50 years ago today. Here is the movie’s original trailer:
The movie is, of course, based on the novel by Harper Lee. Horton Foote wrote the screenplay adaptation and Richard Mulligan directed the movie. It starred Gregory Peck in arguably the greatest role of his career as single father and lawyer Atticus Finch. An IMDB plot summary:
Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his kids against prejudice.
Here is an excerpt of Finch’s summation argument in the court case:
You may listen to the entirety of Finch’s summary argument here.
The story is told through eyes of Finch’s six year-old daughter Scout played by Mary Badham:
In a pivotal scene where locals have gathered outside the jail intent on killing the defendant Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), Scout along with her brother Jem and friend Dill play a critical role:
Notice how the camera tracks through the crowd of men, intimating Scout’s perspective.
This is a powerful movie, selected by the American Film Institute as the #1 courtroom drama of all time. It is especially evocative for me because my father, an Air Force officer, attended the Air War College in Montgomery, Alabama from 1963-1964. It was my first time in the segregated South and a major eye-opening experience. George Wallace, a staunch segregationist, assumed the office of Alabama’s governor in 1963. That same year, he stood in front of the doorway of the University of Alabama in an attempt to block the entrance to some African-American students. That’s a well-known event. Less familiar is the fact that in September of that year, Wallace again tried to block the desegregation of some public schools in the state — elementary schools.
I was an elementary student at that time. It was there on November 22, 1963, a school official interrupted our class to announce that President John Kennedy had been shot. Some of the students clapped.
Movies exist for any number of reasons. To Kill a Mockingbird is much more than a commentary on racism, one reason it is such a special film. But to me at its philosophical core, it is about the power of humanity against the insanity of dehumanization.
That is a big reason why To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my very favorite movies.
For more, you may go here for commentary and video about the PBS American Masters documentary “Harper Lee: Hey, Boo”. Here is a clip featuring the author:
What are your thoughts about To Kill a Mockingbird?
Casablanca was released 70 years ago today: January 23, 1943. [It had its world premiere on November 26, 1942 in New York City.] It is one of the most iconic movies of all time, voted the #1 screenplay of all time by the WGA which is ironic because apparently there never was a finished script. Check out the Wikipedia entry on the writing of the movie:
The original play was inspired by a trip to Europe made by Murray Burnett in 1938, during which he visited Vienna shortly after the Anschluss, where he saw discrimination by Nazis first-hand. In the south of France, he came across a nightclub, which had a multinational clientele and the prototype of Sam, the black piano player. In the play, the Ilsa character was an American named Lois Meredith and did not meet Laszlo until after her relationship with Rick in Paris had ended; Rick was a lawyer. To make Rick’s motivation more believable, Wallis, Curtiz, and the screenwriters decided to set the film before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The first writers assigned to the script were the Epstein twins, Julius and Philip who, against the wishes of Warner Brothers, left after the attack on Pearl Harbor at Frank Capra’s request to work on the “Why We Fight” series in Washington, D.C. While they were gone, the other credited writer, Howard Koch was assigned to the script and produced some thirty to forty pages. When the Epstein brothers returned after a month, they were reassigned to Casablanca and—contrary to what Koch claimed in two published books—his work was not used. In the final Warner Brothers budget for the film, the Epsteins were paid $30,416 and Koch $4,200.
The uncredited Casey Robinson assisted with three weeks of rewrites, including contributing the series of meetings between Rick and Ilsa in the cafe. Koch highlighted the political and melodramatic elements, while Curtiz seems to have favored the romantic parts, insisting on retaining the Paris flashbacks. Wallis wrote the final line (“Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”) after shooting had been completed. Bogart had to be called in a month after the end of filming to dub it. Despite the many writers, the film has what Ebert describes as a “wonderfully unified and consistent” script. Koch later claimed it was the tension between his own approach and Curtiz’s which accounted for this: “Surprisingly, these disparate approaches somehow meshed, and perhaps it was partly this tug of war between Curtiz and me that gave the film a certain balance.” Julius Epstein would later note the screenplay contained “more corn than in the states of Kansas and Iowa combined. But when corn works, there’s nothing better.”
The film ran into some trouble from Joseph Breen of the Production Code Administration (the Hollywood self-censorship body), who opposed the suggestions that Captain Renault extorted sexual favors from his supplicants, and that Rick and Ilsa had slept together in Paris. Extensive changes were made, with several lines of dialogue removed and/or altered, and all direct references to sex in the film removed. Additionally, when Sam played “As Time Goes By” in the original script, Rick had remarked “What the —— are you playing?” This line implying a curse word was removed at the behest of the Hays Office, and both Renault’s selling of visas for sex, and Rick and Ilsa’s previous sexual relationship were implied elliptically rather than referenced explicitly.
Someone once described Casablanca as a B-movie that God reached down and turned into an A-movie. Works for me!
Exhibs, in selling the picture, will do well to bear in mind that it goes heavy on the love theme. Although the title and Humphrey Bogart’s name convey the impression of high adventure rather than romance, there’s plenty of the latter for the femme trade. Adventure is there, too, but it’s more as exciting background to the Bogart-Bergman heart department. Bogart, incidentally, as a tender lover (in addition to being a cold-as-ice nitery operator) is a novel characterization that, properly billed, might itself be good for some coin in the trough.
Bogart, as might be expected, is more at ease as the bitter and cynical operator of a joint than as a lover, but handles both assignments with superb finesse. Bergman, in a torn-between-love-and-duty role, lives up to her reputation as a fine actress. Henreid is well cast and does an excellent job too.
Superb is the lineup of lesser players. Some of the characterizations are a bit on the overdone side, but each is a memorable addition to the whole. There’s Claude Rains, as the charmingly-corrupt prefect of police; Sydney Greenstreet, as the polite and insidious boss of Casablanca’s underground traffic in visas; Peter Lorre, as a sinister runner of phony papers; Conrad Veidt, as the usual German officer; S. Z. Sakall, as a waiter in Rick’s and a participant in the anti-Axis underground; and Leonid Kinskey as Rick’s bartender.
Of course, no reference to Casablanca can stand without including this monumental scene:
So let’s wish Casablanca a Happy Birthday today with your memories, thoughts and feelings about the film. Do you remember the first time you saw it? What are your favorite scenes? Favorite lines of dialogue? Who is your favorite character? Where does the movie slot in on your all-time favorite list? It’s definitely in my Top 10.