A ‘Casablanca’ Valentine’s Day

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, a lot of us are still scrambling to find that gift for our special someone that conveys the love that is in our hearts.

Many have already learned, especially with the times that we are living through, that take-out dinner and a streamed movie can make for a simply spectacular night.

You’re on your own with the take-out, but as for the movie, I’ve looked at a number of lists that rank Hollywood’s greatest love stories. Titles almost invariably include the 1942 classic “Casablanca,” with the film oftentimes topping the list.

Many movie buffs view this film as close to perfection as cinema can be. The producers of “Casablanca” hit a trifecta – the perfect cast, director, and script. It was a box-office smash and a three-time Academy Award winner.

Two of world’s best known movie critics placed it at the very top of the “best films ever” list.

The late Roger Ebert noted that “Casablanca” is “probably on more lists of the greatest films of all time than any other single title…”

And Leonard Maltin gives it a rating of “the best Hollywood movie of all time.”

The film grew in popularity over the decades, and several attempts were made to do a remake or sequel. But none ever made it to completion. Thankfully, filmmakers chose to leave it in its original exquisite state.

The plot and setting were designed to be current for the times.

Filmed during World War II, American expatriate Rick (played by Humphrey Bogart) finds himself having to choose between spending his life with his true love Ilsa (played by Ingrid Bergman) or coming to the aid of her war hero-husband Victor (played by Paul Henreid).

Victor is a Czech resistance leader, who is attempting to escape from Nazi-occupied Casablanca. He desperately wants to continue his valiant fight against the Third Reich.

The times are as challenging as they can be. As Ilsa wistfully puts it, “With the whole world crumbling, we pick this time to fall in love.”

Rick’s love for Ilsa is epic. He first fell in love with her when they were in Paris, and he longed to make her his wife. While preparing to escape together from the city during the Battle of France, Ilsa suddenly leaves him without giving him any reason or explanation. Rick leaves Paris with an ache in his heart, but also with a giant chip on his shoulder.

As those of you who have seen it know, the story doesn’t end here. I’ll leave the rest for you to savor on the screen. Here’s a hint, though, without any spoiler alert needed. Love triumphs.

So how do we define love?

Well, we all know it when we feel it. Love makes us so happy that we radiate. And we aren’t able to keep it a secret, because everybody knows what we’re feeling. They can see it in our eyes or in our smiles or in our spirits. And before you know it everyone present is feeling the same thing.

We all know when love is real and when it isn’t. It’s the best feeling in the world when it comes right back at us. And the worst feeling in the world when it doesn’t.

We all know that love takes different forms across time and relationships. And we know it is never static. It is either growing or diminishing. Those who are blessed in life get to experience the ever growing love of family and friends from birth to life’s end.

Staying on the Valentine’s Day theme, I want to talk more about love itself.

I believe there is such a thing as true love; that is, love in its deepest purest form. At its core, I think true love looks the same no matter how old we are or what the relationship is.

When we feel true love for people, we try to be patient with them especially when they’re messing up and kind to them even when they’re not kind to us.

When good things come their way, we don’t feel jealous but instead feel happy for them.

We resist bragging even though it sometimes makes us feel good about ourselves, because we know it almost always make them feel bad about themselves. Same with acting like we’re somehow above them.

When someone does us wrong, we try not to get mad, or go silent on them, or hold grudges, or bring it back up again and again every time they do something else wrong, because we know how bad it makes us feel when the shoe is on the other foot. And we don’t want them to ever feel bad.

Just like with “Casablanca,” a lot of you already know the rest of the true love story too.