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Krin Gabbard

Related: Casablanca - theory - USA


Krin Gabbard is Professor of Comparative Literature and Chair of the Department of Comparative Studies at the State University of New at Stony Brook. His life changed in 1964 when he heard the Impulse recordings of Charles Mingus. He is the author of Jammin' at the Margins: Jazz and the American Cinema (U of Chicago Press, 1996) and the editor of Jazz Among the Discourses and Representing Jazz (both Duke U Press, 1995).


Film writers often express bewilderment when faced with Casablanca's enduring appeal or, more specifically, with their own slightly embarrassed affection for the old Warner Brothers relic. "Some undefinable quality in Casablanca seems to make it better with each viewing," write Don Whitemore and Philip Alan Cecchettini in their essay on Michael Curtiz, the prolific director of Casablanca,[1] while Harvey Greenberg calls his essay on the film "If It's So Schmaltzy, Why Am I Weeping?"[2] In his famous gloss on the film, Andrew Sarris throws up his hands and calls it an "accident," singling out the work of "lightly likable" Curtiz as "the most decisive exception" to his auteur theory.[3] Richard Schickel is probably not alone in declaring Casablanca to be his favorite film, even though acknowledging its limitations as "a somewhat better-than-average example of what the American studio system could do when it was at its most stable and powerful."[4]

Even the film's cult status is problematic. Casablanca reached the full flowering of its culthood only in the 1960s when Harvard students regularly attended Humphrey Bogart film festivals during finals week. [5] More than a decade before The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Casablanca initiates would shout "The Germans wore gray; you wore blue" and "Is that cannon fire, or is it my heart pounding?" along with the projected images of Rick (Bogart) and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman). Casablanca needed twenty years to become a cult item, perhaps because it did not take the usual route to that status. The film's success within the industry -- it won the 1943 Academy Award for best picture -- was helped in no small part by the Allied invasion of North Africa, which preceded the film's initial release by a few days, and the meeting of Roosevelt and Churchill in Casablanca, which took place during the film's national release. Later, more "conventional" cult films like Rocky Horror, Pink Flamingos, and Eraserhead had much less auspicious beginnings. How can a popular wartime melodrama, promoted initially as home-front propaganda, continue to find such devoted audiences? -- "Play It Again, Sigmund: Psychoanalysis and the Classical Hollywood Text." Journal of Popular Film and Television 18.1 (1990): 6-17. (With Glen O. Gabbard, M.D.)via http://www.vincasa.com/indexsigmund1.html [Dec 2005]

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