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Here's Looking at You Kid

"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine." This is a line from my favorite film. So, for this posts purposes, I could say: “of all the blogs, in all the internet, you’ve logged into mine 😊!!!”

I am a huge classic film buff, in fact I worked towards a minor in Film Studies, while at Ball State. I love everything about classic films, the cinematography, the set designs, the costumes, the story-lines and plots, but most importantly the great actors, actresses, and overall casts. I know they can do so much more today with films, special effects, computer animation, etc. but there is nothing finer, to me, than an old thriller like the Maltese Falcon, a war film like Twelve O’clock High, a biography like Yankee Doodle Dandy or the Glenn Miller Story, or a comedy like Arsenic and Old Lace. My BSU professor Dave Smith once coined the phrase, that would become the title of his weekly classical film slot on our local channel 8, these days were: “When Movies Were Movies!”

There are so many great films, which I will touch on next week when I post the message titled “The Gold Statue – Truly the Best…OR NOT” as we reflect on the Academy Awards, who’s 2021 version is coming up soon. But my personal favorite ALL-TIME film is Casablanca. There are many reasons I feel this film is the greatest of all time, and here are my reasons:

· I love Humphrey Bogart films and this is certainly one of, if not the, very best.

· The cast is absolutely outstanding which we will touch on in this post

· The direction and production are state of the art for 1942

· The story depicts an early WWII time period with suspense and intrigue against the Nazi’s

· It is basically a love story filled with drama, anticipation, and excitement – ALL YOU COULD ASK FOR

· Although this has no bearing on my love of this film, it is rated by virtually everyone who knows movies, in their top ten of all-time films.

Directed by Michael Curtiz, who directed 166 films in his career. He directed ten actors to Oscar nominations. He himself was nominated five times and won twice, once for Best Short Subject Sons of Liberty and once as Best Director for this film; Casablanca. He also directed such great films like, or as was stated in one of the many great lines from Casablanca; “let’s round up the usual suspects” of: Captain Blood (1935) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), dramas which today are also considered classics: Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), The Sea Wolf (1941), and Mildred Pierce (1945) and musicals Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), This Is the Army (1943), and White Christmas (1954).

But this is not intended to be a tribute to any one person – this is a tribute to the film itself, and the entire company of people it took to make such a classic production. To the entire company of great people who created the film Casablanca – “Here’s looking at you kid!”

The director was obviously great but so was the production, music, filmography, costumes, and set design. The acting was nothing less than incredible. The cast consisted of:

· Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine

· Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund

· Paul Henreid as Victor Laszlo

· Claude Rains as Captain Louis Renault

· Conrad Veidt as Major Heinrich Strasser

· Sydney Greenstreet as Signor Ferrari

· Peter Lorre as Signor Ugarte

All of these stars played main characters. But even the supporting charters were brilliant in their roles:

· Dooley Wilson who played Sam, of “play it again Sam fame (Bogie never actually said this)

· Curt Bois as the pickpocket

· Leonid Kinskey as Sascha, the Russian bartender

· Madeleine Lebeau as Yvonne, Rick's soon-discarded girlfriend

· John Qualen as Berger

· The beloved S. Z. Sakall as Carl, the waiter.

If you have seen this film, I’m sure you will agree it is a classic and you understand very well why I single out all of these people. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FILM, and you truly like good films with great stories and not just special effects and crazy plot lines, YOU NEED TO RENT OR BUY THIS FILM as it will not disappoint you.

Anyway, I could get more into the plot line and the various roles, and then spend days talking about these characters, but I want to take a moment to relate this film to life and/or work relationships, after all “We’ll always have Paris!”. What truly makes this film great, is the combined great performances of the entire cast and the crew putting together the film. Like a fine symphony who’s one hundred performers blend their music together with each other to make an incredibly beautiful sound. This film, like life relationships and successful business teams, relies on everyone doing their best to intermingle their talents with everyone else, and together magic happens.

Every success story I have ever seen has had this dynamic, several great people working together. For a successful life, surround yourself with great people. The same is the case at work, great teams yield great results. Like this film, the greatest performances in life and at work, that I have been a part of, have had several key characters or players doing their best at their little piece of life/work, and combined with all others doing the same, has always yielded success. Teams with multiple players but only one or two performers, or leaders, rarely are as efficient as the better aligned and combined all-in teams. In life it is the same, people who live alone and rarely develop or are part of a network of supporting individuals, rarely have full meaningful lives.

So, to me the easy secret is people need people (to steal a song lyric) but even more than that, people need people who align with their same values, philosophies, and as diverse as possible. We all make each other better and even though COVID has dealt a bit a of a blow to being together in community, we all need each other to be as happy, balanced, comfortable, and as successful as possible. One individual leader or being alone in this world, generally does not lead to success. As Rick told Ilsa in Casablanca; "Ilsa, I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world." As Rick, Ilsa, and Victor tried to battle against the entire German Army and the French Government, Bogey explained, rightfully so, that three people alone, were not enough to yield a successful escape from Casablanca, for Victor. One, two, or three people do not make a successful team, nor enough of a network of friends. As they say, it takes a village, in life and at work.

A great film to me is a true depiction of life. Going it alone, in life or as a business leader, rarely leads to a positive outcome. But assembling, or aligning to, a great cast of people around you, or co-workers working with you, and success is a far more likely outcome, and in some cases, it is a guaranteed prerequisite for success. Every time I meet God loving people who are caring, honest, and full of compassion, I am reminded of the final words from this film. I feel the very same way when I am fortunate enough to be a part of a great work team, also reminding me of those final words. Those final words ring true whenever we look to be a part of either good friends or work relationships. As Rick told Louis, as the film came to its dramatic conclusion: "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

Whether it’s enjoying a great classic film like Casablanca, building a great network of supporting friends, or being a key cog in an incredible work team, realizing it’s about the team or the network is the beginning. So, find yourself a good support network, build on your friendships, work to develop your teammates, and like Louis and Rick, you too can enjoy a great story as you begin these beautiful friendships.

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