Monday, July 11, 2016

Casablanca Week(ish): Would a [GASP] sequel have worked?

I saved the most controversial for last. Would a sequel to the greatest movie of all time have worked? The correct answer is no because we all hate sequels and think it's sacrilege to consider them, especially to a perfect and timeless film with a satisfying conclusion.


Well, let's think about this for a minute. There were quasi-sequels (quasi is Latin for "not really one at all") like "Passage to Marseilles," an attempt by Warner Brothers to recapture the magic by getting the band back together, including the star, director, and several key cast members from "Casablanca." WB tried to resurrect the original in a weekly series format with "Casablanca," an hour drama starring Charles McGraw. In the 1980s, someone had the bright idea to try yet again to present the previous adventures (i.e. pre-Laszlo) of Rick Blaine, this time with David Soul!

None of these really worked, although "Passage" has its moments and I would love, love, love to see the full run of the 1955 series from Warner Archive. I will say I was pleasantly surprised by "Carrotblanca" with the great Bugs Bunny, but overall remaking, rebooting, or otherwise extending the franchise seems a silly idea.

And yet...

Part of me can't help but wonder. The movie has the perfect ending, but though we don't need to resurrect the Rick and Ilsa romance, maybe, just maybe, we could see the exploits of Rick and Louie?

Actually, that sounds like a big risk, doesn't it? The characters should live on in our imagination forever. I don't know if I need to see their witty banter translated to a more earnest setting, stripped of the air of cynicism that makes their exchanges in "Casablanca" crackle.

However, one of the best things about "Casablanca" is its sheer number of intriguing supporting characters, many of whom are brought to life not due to details in the screenplay, but due to the vivid performances by the great character actors. I do not want nor need to see Rick, Renault, Ilsa, and Laszlo again, but I would like to see some of the others. I think a sequel featuring the supporting players might--I'm hedging here, but it still seems crazy to write this--might have worked.

I know the idea of a "Casablanca" sequel without Humphrey Bogart sounds as ludicrous as an "Independence Day" without Will Smith or a "Speed" without Keanu Reeves. But go back to the 1940s, come up with a decent script (because it was such a snap getting the original "Casablanca" written, right?), and you have potential.

What you do is you focus on "Rick's Café," not on Rick. Ferrari owns the place, and he keeps it as a separate entity rather than razing it to funnel everyone to the Blue Parrot. We know that Sam is staying and getting a cut, so Dooley Wilson is on board. Assuming they're not rounded up for their resistance ties when Renault leaves the area, Sasha and Carl are still around. Even bit players like Emil the croupier and Yvonne (Rick's former fling) are interesting on screen and could have roles. And the dependable John Qualen and Curt Bois would be free to reprise their minor characters. How about Abdul the doorman? He has little to do in the original movie, but he is played by Dan Seymour, who took Sydney Greenstreet's role as Ferrari in the short-lived TV series, and presumably could do something of note in a sequel.

It's undeniable that there is a certain magic about "Casablanca," and it would have been foolish to attempt to replicate it with a blatant sequel. I still kind of wish they had tried. I just can't discard the notion that even without the big wheels, there was enough talent left to carry a compelling movie. It would not have been an all-time classic, but an unpretentious, smaller-scale flick? Hey, it just might have worked.

And if Warner Brothers had actually tried this and decided Greenstreet wasn't a big enough star to headline, you know who it could have called? That's right...George Raft!

No comments: