I often miss what’s going on right in front of me. Just ask my wife. That includes before the brain injury.
For example, evidently there is a significant amount of cheating going on in marriages. In anywhere from 25%  to 80%  of marriages at least one partner cheats. Eventually.
Now, I have known literally hundreds and hundreds of couples in my lifetime. I can cite exactly one case of cheating; and that was so obvious that even a drunk couldn’t miss it.
But, statistically speaking, I must have known many couples where this had happened. Even if it was only once.
I have no idea which couples to guess. Zero.
Likewise, I suppose I must be missing similar clues with regard to sexual bad behavior and sexual predation. Really. There seems now to be no end to the list of men being credibly accused of this vile behavior. In fact, as a candidate, Donald Trump even identified himself as an offender on tape. I have to wonder: Have I missed this, too, in plain sight?
“Just what is going on with men?” I found myself wondering aloud at work the other day (a dangerous thing), asking no one in particular. “What is it with all these creepy old men? How the mighty and admired have fallen: Bill Cosby, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Al Franken. Who next?” A co-worker, just out of sight, immediately piped up: “My news feed says Garrison Keillor!”
Garrison Keillor? You’ve got to be kidding me! But no, it’s true.
I found myself browsing the screenplay script for Casablanca a few days ago. Why? I was writing an email and wanted to get a quote exactly right. I’ve written about Casablanca before, in That’s Entertainment. I probably will again. It is one of my favorite movies of all time. It is a powerful story of human struggle and emotion amidst the wild throes of history. Classic Good vs. Evil, with a few gray areas. In That’s Entertainment I delved into the personal lives of two actors who played important supporting roles.
One character I didn’t discuss is Louis Renault, the French Prefect of Police in the city of Casablanca. Claude Raines plays the part and — even as a supporting character — he nearly steals the whole show. He played “a poor, corrupt public official” so well, and with such flair, that he earned a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. [He lost to Charles Coburn, from The More, The Merrier, which I’ve never seen]. It was Claude Raines who delivered the famous and frequently spoofed line: “I am shocked — shocked!! — to find that there is gambling going on here!”
I started reading at the scene where Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) sits down and talks to Sam, the piano player (Dooley Wilson). She finally convinces him to play and sing the song “As Time Goes By” by saying “Play it once, Sam, for old time’s sake” and then humming a few bars for him. He can’t resist.
“You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss. A sigh is just a sigh.
The fundamental things apply, as time goes by.”
Once you know the story, you realize this is a pretty emotional scene. Each one is having difficulty letting go of memories.
I kept reading.
The panache of Raines as Prefect Renault came out more clearly than ever before. I’ve seen the movie many dozens of times. Yet reading the script — while seeing the scenes only in my head — was different. The story was oddly different. Somehow clearer.
Renault is a powerful man, but in a difficult position. As Prefect of Police, he is, by law, one of the most powerful people in Casablanca, French Morocco. Virtually no one can leave Casablanca without his signature on an exit visa. Many people are in Casablanca because they are refugees from Europe — from the expanding Nazi empire — and they wish to do exactly that: leave Casablanca for some safe place, especially nearby Lisbon, in neutral Portugal, from where they can sail freely to America.
But Renault is in a bind, too. As an official of Vichy France, which is subject to the whims of Nazi-occupied France, he must be careful to not bring too much attention to himself. “In Casablanca, human life is cheap”; even his. Therefore, he permits very few people to leave. His choices for who leaves are typically based on two types of bribes.
The first type of bribe is cash. In fact, he probably is poorly paid for his responsibilities. This makes sense. The second type of bribe can be guessed by the fact that he is probably a lonely man; your guess assisted by inference from a scene you will please allow me to describe.
Rick Blaine, the protagonist played by Humphrey Bogart, owns and operates a night club in which he also operates an illegal casino in the back; a casino which is an open secret.
A young wife — a refugee from Bulgaria — approaches Blaine, asking whether Renault can be trusted to keep his word. Blaine acts as if he’s not paying the young lady much attention, answering somewhat curtly and rudely. He soon abruptly cuts off the conversation. He walks away, and goes directly to the Roulette wheel, where the young lady’s husband is gambling and losing badly.
He is down to a final few chips, about to quit. Blaine says softly to him, but loud enough for the croupier to hear: “Have you tried twenty-two tonight?”
The young man puts his chips on 22. Blaine and the croupier exchange knowing glances. Renault, at a nearby table, takes notice of Blaine’s presence, and with whom he is speaking.
The marble lands on 22. A 35-1 winner!
The young man is about to pick up his pile of chips. Blaine barks: “Leave it!!” He knows the young man does not have nearly enough money, yet.
The marble again lands on 22. A gigantic pile of chips — probably representing the illegal casino’s entire profits for the night — now rests near 22 on the board.
Blaine snaps: “Cash it in and never come back!”
At a nearby table, Prefect Renault’s interest in this exchange of words and chips grows to what could be interpreted as alarm. The young man soon openly approaches Renault with a fantastic pile of money. This is clearly going to be an Exit Visa bribe. But it is clearly also not what Renault intended. When it is established that they can meet at his office at 10AM the next morning, “to do everything business-like”, Renault goes over to Blaine and says: “You’re a rank sentimentalist. … Why do you interfere with my little romances?”
Oh my gosh! How had I missed this for decades? Right there in front of me. Renault was using his position of power for sexual gratification.
I don’t think any less of Casablanca, the actor Raines or the character Renault because of that. It is still a great movie and, in the end, Renault turns out to be something of a hero by standing up to Nazidom … at some sacrifice to himself. In fact, the movie ends with Blaine and Renault at the “beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Presumably based upon their mutual interest in fighting fascism.
I do, however, think a lot less of the XY half of the human race about now. I have been such a naïve simpleton. I know that most men are not pigs. At least I think not. Certainly none with whom I am acquainted — so far as I know. But with such a cannonade of credible accusations my confidence in the gallantry of the testerone-half has been severely shaken.
Hey XY. That’s you, men!!!! Let’s start noticing and calling out each others’ piggish behavior and speech. And holding ourselves and each other to high standards. The world really needs it.
“You must remember this” —
“The world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by.”
The world will indeed always welcome lovers and sentimentalists and romancers. Even when they fail. But not pigs; especially when they succeed.
Joe Girard © 2017