If this film weren’t tweaked ever so slightly, I think Warner Brothers could have found it eminently actionable. That’s how much it reminds me of Casablanca.
There is, of course, the romantic commonality of Paris. The brash, iconoclastic hero’s permanent sidekick is a first-rate piano player, and a bit of a slacker. The love-target was a continental waif who owed so much to her admirable protector that their marriage (of gratitude and cradle-robbing convenience) seemed inevitable. And the hero is so entirely at-home in his expatriated ex-patriot adventure that he radiates a uniquely winning American (and disaffected [almost unAmerican]) confidence that natives and tourists recognize and bow before. This citizen of the world reflects the maturation of the formerly-insular American character — as the stormclouds of global war gathered, AND in the chillier, atomic aftermath of that more violent conflict.
Rick, the drunkard, and Jerry, the painter, are practically the same guy. Ilse and Lise, Sam and Adam, Victor and Henri…in fact the closer I look at both films, the more alike in wit, structure, engine, tone and personalities the seem. It’s really only the similarly-polished crisp finishes of their respective skins that makes them seem markedly different (dancing&singing versus labyrinthine plot twists) — and the fact that the couple walking toward Destiny at the end of the movie is two dark guys in the earlier film. Go figure. Between Wilson, Raines and Levant, I wonder which one is and was the most invisible man. Even if these comparisons aren’t breathtakingly original, I think they serve to highlight variations in zeitgeist and backlight the silhouette of the mysterious specter of national will, especially in context of international crises. Call it Mentertainment, because Gentertainment was the exclusive province of Fred Astaire (or maybe Hugh Heffner).
Neither cinematic masterpiece gets any older with frequent re-exposure, unlike most things. All hail The Freed Unit!
- The Wizard of Oz (1939) (associate producer) Babes in Arms (1939) Strike Up the Band (1940) Little Nellie Kelly (1940) Lady Be Good (1941)
- Babes on Broadway (1941) Panama Hattie (1942) For Me and My Gal (1942) Cabin in the Sky (1943) Best Foot Forward (1943)
- Du Barry Was a Lady (1943) Girl Crazy (1943) Meet the People (1944) (executive producer) Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) The Clock (1945)
- Yolanda and the Thief (1945) The Harvey Girls (1946) Ziegfeld Follies (1946) Till the Clouds Roll By (1946) Good News (1947) Summer Holiday (1948)
- The Pirate (1948) Easter Parade (1948) Words and Music (1948) Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949) The Barkleys of Broadway (1949)
- Any Number Can Play (1949) On the Town (1949) Annie Get Your Gun (1950) Crisis (1950) Pagan Love Song (1950) Royal Wedding (1951)
- Show Boat (1951) An American in Paris (1951) The Belle of New York (1952) Singin’ in the Rain (1952) The Band Wagon (1953) Brigadoon (1954)
- It’s Always Fair Weather (1955) Kismet (1955) Invitation to the Dance (1956) Silk Stockings (1957) Gigi (1958) Bells Are Ringing (1960) The Subterraneans (1960)