Warner Bros. story analyst Stephen Karnot earned his pay on December 8, 1941, when he recommended the still-to-be-produced play Everybody Comes to Rick’s to producer Hal Wallis, saying it was an “excellent melodrama. Colorful, timely background, tense mood…psychological conflict, tight plotting, sophisticated hokum. A box-office natural for Bogart or Cagney.” One year later, the movie, now renamed Casablanca and starring Bogart, opened to mostly favorable reviews. It went on to collect an impressive haul at the 1943 Academy Awards: Best Picture, Director (Michael Curtiz) and Screenplay (Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch).

Like a fine wine, the movie has only improved with age. One of the grand Hollywood pictures made during WWII, it’s a case study in classic studio filmmaking. With a flawless technique and visual flair, it keeps up a cynical tone, playing antihero Bogart against opportunistic French prefect of police Claude Raines, while it envelopes us in ultra-glossy romance (those delicious close-ups of Ingrid Bergman at her most luminous can curl your toes) and a definite good-vs.-bad moral universe (freedom fighters vs. Nazis). Fleshed out with a heralded cast of atmospheric characters (Conrad Veidt, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Dooley Wilson), the movie’s so vibrant and so much fun, it can’t possibly be 70 years old. 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Rice University, 6100 Main. For information, call 713-348-4882 or visit Free.
Fri., Jan. 21, 7 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 22, 7 p.m., 2011

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D.L. Groover has contributed to countless reputable publications including the Houston Press since 2003. His theater criticism has earned him a national award from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) as well as three statewide Lone Star Press Awards for the same. He's co-author of the irreverent appreciation, Skeletons from the Opera Closet (St. Martin's Press), now in its fourth printing.
Contact: D. L. Groover