Like you, I enjoy a good movie. Casablanca, for instance, I deem a really good movie.
You’ve probably seen it but allow me to remind you of its basic premise. Leading up to WWII, the African coastal town of Casablanca became a toxic cocktail of westernized Africans, mercenary Americans and fugitive Europeans escaping Hitler’s advancing armies. Although not yet under siege by the Nazis, Casablanca was co-occupied by anti-Hitler locals as well as a Nazi presence. The rugged coastal town had attracted the best and the worst of humanity. The main setting for the movie takes place in Rick’s Café which is owned and operated by a rogue American and played by Humphrey Bogart.
Europeans were fleeing the Nazi oppression that was spreading like cancer across their homelands; many were escaping to America. But because of the havoc created by Hitler’s advancing troops, the opportunities to escape in the early years of WWII were becoming increasingly difficult. As a result, many Europeans migrated south to the northern coast of Africa and into Casablanca in hopes of catching a plane or boat to freedom.
One of the many wonderful characters in the movie is Captain Louis Renault, played by Claude Raines – the amiable, but two-faced, police captain of Casablanca. Fun loving, but notoriously corrupt, he took advantage of his office by winking at the law whenever it advanced his personal agenda.
In a pivotal scene, Captain Renault is enjoying the sorted activities of Rick’s Café personally when an influential Nazi commander, insulted by Bogie’s spiteful attitude toward Hitler, turned his underhanded influence upon Renault, pressuring Renault to shut down the club.
In a flare of soap-operatic over-acting, Captain Renault silenced the crowd and announced, “I am shocked, shocked I tell you, to learn that this establishment allows gambling in the back room. Shut it down immediately! Everyone out immediately!” With ever-increasing disgust, the Captain continued to rant—that is until he’s interrupted by the back-room casino manager who popped out and whispered, “Your winnings sir…” handing Renault a fistful of cash, which he quickly stuffs in his uniform pocket and shouts, “Out! Everybody out at once!”
Later in the story, Captain Renault witnessed a scuffle between Bogart and a Nazi official in which Bogie dispatched the Nazi. Police Commissioner Renault casually picked up the phone and called for his men to “Come at once, there’s been a murder!” When his police officers arrive with Bogart tentatively waiting, unsure of his own fate, the Captain announced, “Someone has just shot the Good Major Strasser. We must find his murderer immediately!”
Taking his police sergeant aside he instructs, “Round up all the usual suspects”.
Casablanca is responsible for numbers of iconic, oft-repeated lines—lines like “Play it again Sam…”, which, ironically, Bogie never actually said in the movie. Another one is “Here’s looking at you kid…” and “All the usual suspects”. All of these sayings quickly became part of pop-culture’s vernacular.
“All the usual suspects” is one of those movie lines that has legs. Stephen Baldwin, decades later, wrote a book titled All the Usual Suspects—which was made into a movie. Even today “All the usual suspects” implies ‘find someone to blame other than the real culprit’.
Hollywood, while offering entertainment, certainly hasn’t offered wholesome direction for life. For life-instruction, there’s no substitute for the Holy Scriptures. While studying the Scriptures, I’m challenged by the number of times it admonishes us to simply “be honest with God”.
In the New Testament, the gentle-spirited Apostle John urges against rounding up all the usual suspects but rather “On the other hand, if we admit our sins – make a clean breast of them – he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing.” I John 1:9 MSG
God is not mad at you. Let me say it again…God is not mad at you. He deeply desires to hear your confession knowing that when you are able to own up to the truth, He rushes to forgive and provide unlimited grace and strength. Be encouraged! God loves you. Yes, He does! RG
Read Ron’s column, Simple Faith, each Saturday on the Faith Page (page 3) of the Lancaster Eagle Gazette, or visit www.lancastereaglegazette.com.