Oh Humphrey. I remember watching Casablanca for the first time, in Hamburg in English, many eons ago. I was maybe 13 or so. Ever since, I have loved you and loved to be you. The first non-fictional biography I read was yours.
When I am in despair, I am you, knocking over that glass of whiskey in Rick’s Bar. When I am trying to be stoic, I am you, trying to be stoic, in just about every picture you’ve ever been in. When I am trying to be tough, I am you at the end of The Big Sleep, counting to three. First I shoot the vase, then I shoot the guy in the arm, then he goes through the door and he is mowed down by a machine gun. Or I shoot Major Strasser (although Conrad Veidt is really one of the good guys). That’s how tough we are.
I know what a gimlet is because of you and every time I drink one, I think of you. When I feel a certain way, I want to smoke a cigarette because of you. I never do, but I think of you smoking and wish I could, too. Well, ok, sometimes I also think of Bette Davis when I want to smoke, too.
I never liked Paul Henreid because of you, until I saw Now, Voyager. Then I finally understood why Ingrid Bergman liked him, too. I still like you better. I never liked Lauren Bacall, either, because of you. I still don’t.
You’re the only one of the Hollywood guys of the golden era I actually really like, everyone else pales in comparison. Yes, there are good guys, guys I wouldn’t mind being with, guys who are breathtakingly or ruggedly handsome, guys who are gentle and guys who are tough, and plenty guys who are incredibly ridiculous, but I never want to be them.
Even Gregory Peck – who is terribly handsome – can’t beat you. He’s always too good to be really real. You can be evil, cruel, a gangster, a killer, but never a heel who can send Audrey Hepburn to Paris alone while she thinks you love her. Which you do, I mean, who doesn’t love Audrey Hepburn.
So I am you, on the inside at least. When you smile, and smile you do, when you suffer, and suffer you do, I smile, I suffer. I watch your face and see the kind of tough person I want to be, who does the right thing quietly, makes the hard decisions and lives on.
Here’s looking at you, kid, here’s looking at me.