Mom on Film: As Time Goes By With Casablanca

My mother was, among other things, a teacher and a movie lover. One of the many gifts she shared with me was a love

of the movies. She introduced me to

Katharine Hepburn, whom I aspired to be like,

although I never had the cheekbones, as well as

Ingrid Bergman who, Mom

wisely pointed out, was one of the most beautiful women in the world and had, like me, a round face.

Humphrey Bogart,

Cary Grant,

Jimmy Stewart,

Gene Kelly,

Peter O'Toole,

James Dean,

Paul Newman and

Robert Redford were my cinematic heroes and

heartthrobs long into my teen years, and still set the bar for male actors I admire. Mom taught me, from an early age,

that classics, be they literature, clothes or film, are classics for a reason; they stand the test of time. A lot of

Mom's lessons have stuck with me and informed my parenting style and, like her, I delight in sharing the classics with

my children.

So tonight, after a movie-viewing hiatus, I watched my favorite movie of all time, a classic, with my 10- and 12-year-old daughters. We watched it because it had been several years since I had last seen it. They never had seen it and it seemed

time they did, and because Mom also loved this film, and she died last month, before having a chance to share it, or

even a conversation about it, with them. The film is Michael Curtiz's 1942 masterpiece, Casablanca.

Watching Casablanca with the girls was a soul-satisfying experience. It felt as if I was sharing with them not only

crucial bits of cultural information, but insights into myself and maybe even a peek into one of life's great

mysteries -- true love.

Casablanca's dialogue has been integrated into our vernacular, and even those who have not seen it have likely heard, or

even used, some of its lines themselves. "Here's looking at you, kid"; "This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship";

"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine"; "Round up the usual suspects"; and the

misquote, "Play it again, Sam" (Bogart actually says, "You played it for her, you can play it for me ... if she can

stand it, I can. Play it!"): all these lines hail from the film. Now the girls know the origins of these phrases and will hear

and maybe even use them with fuller understanding and appreciation.

Not that the girls understood the film entirely. This is a film they will undoubtedly watch many times over the years,

and each time they will get something more from it. The concept, for example, of Vichy France as opposed to unoccupied

French Africa is a subject fit for an entire college course. Claude Rains' character, Captain Renault, cooperates with the Nazis, but

is also a friend of Bogart's hero, Rick; so, is he good, bad, or like most human beings, complicated? Ilsa is in love with Rick but also loves Victor; how can one woman love

two men at the same time? How could Rick love Ilsa so much and still send her away? As time goes by, perhaps they

will find answers to some of their questions; perhaps some they will simply enjoy pondering and never settle upon

absolute solutions. Often, the unanswerable questions are the most interesting ones.

No matter how many times my daughters see it and no matter what conclusions they do or do not draw from it, they will hopefully

always remember that the first time they watched Casablanca was with me, their mom. Just like the first time I

watched it was with my mom. That strikes me as not only a fine tradition, but a classic one.