for ‘Sam’ as played by Dooley Wilson in Casablanca (Warner Brothers, 1941)
You must remember Mississippi—never call him ‘Rick.’ At all times mister. Don’t complain of playing porter and accompanist on his flight into this desert or think of how it feels to see nonjudgmental Paris receding from the windows of a departing train, between-war jazz and freedom dissolving like so many Dear John letters in the rain into this handful of streets and cutthroat bazaars on the left bank of the middle of nowhere. Better The Mr. Charlie you know, no matter how Tough On Black Asses, than the Herr Adolph you don’t. When she walked in, back for the reprise, you knew her old refrain, and that it would be your release. Mooning eyes and love songs never go out of date. Still the same cold same-o, a case of do-for-self or die. Her kiss will be your kiss off, his sigh just a sign it’s you he’ll leave behind when its time for goodbyes, left like the piano, another fixture in the bar, a spotlight in the sand, the moat in its unsparing eye hiding its Secrets Americain. Play it Sam, play it: Because your hair is curly, Because your teeth are pearly, white as his skin — but not yours — the final fade out and Beautiful Friendship was never meant for you.