Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Play It Again, Sam


Yes, Woody knew, and I know, and every movie buff in the world knows that Bogey never said that. He said “You played it for her, you can play it for me! If she can stand it, I can! Play it!” Just as every movie buff in the world knows that Charles Foster Kane was alone in the room when he muttered “Rosebud.” (Or was he? We never saw the whole room. The nurse came running through the door when the snow globe crashed and broke. Maybe she had the 1940 equivalent of a baby monitor. He could afford that, or three or four nurses as well.) But “Play it again” had entered the language, correct or not. And it makes a hell of a good title.

We open with the final scene from Casablanca, played in its entirety. Only gradually do we pull back and see it is Woody sitting in a theater, watching it with rapture in his eyes. And we end with a re-creation of the scene, also in B&W, with Woody as Bogey and Diane Keaton (in the first of eight screen collaborations with Woody) as Ingrid. He is convincing her that she must get on the plane with his best friend, Tony Roberts, and thus he can say “I’m saying it because it’s true. Inside of us, we both know you belong with Dick. You’re part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.” And she says something like “That’s very romantic.” And he says, “It’s from Casablanca. I’ve been waiting all my life to say that.” And it all works, because all through the movie Bogart is at his shoulder, telling him how to go about getting dames, something he is totally inept at.

This was based on a play by Woody, with a screenplay by Woody, but it was directed by Herbert Ross. As usual to me, the dialogue is much more effective than the physical comedy. Woody’s character is so hopeless with women that it stops being funny. When he goes blundering around smashing stuff, it never feels quite real, it usually looks like he’s doing in on purpose. And it’s hard to believe anyone could be so stupid as to utter some of the lines he says. But the rest of the movie is first-rate.