“Here’s Looking at You, Writer!”

May 28, 2013 § 2 Comments


Casablanca Bogie and IngridA guest post, in black and white, from Rebecca Lawton:

I’ve long believed that many lines from the Casablanca screenplay (penned by Epstein, Epstein, and Koch) may come in handy to writers as comeback statements. Because I’ve seen the movie dozens of times, all within the last five years, I’m quite familiar with the valuable advice the script provides. Here I have ranked some of the classic film’s pithier statements from tenth to first place in terms of their relevance to us literary types.

10. “You can believe that if you like.”

Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) says this to Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) when he accuses her of running out on him because life on the run would be too hard. A writer accused of wasting time by looking out the window, scribbling in a notebook, or hanging around a bar may want to retort this same line, icily. We all know we are really doing research.

9. “That is my least vulnerable spot.”

Louis Renault (Claude Rains) makes this claim when Rick threatens to put a bullet through his heart. A writer swatted on his or her weary posterior may want to point out that it’s already numb from sitting and therefore immune to feeling.

8. “Let’s get out of here. We can drive all night.”

Sam (Dooley Wilson) wants to whisk Rick away before he can get involved again with Ilsa. Any writer wishing to flee a demanding manuscript could use this to escape, at least temporarily.

7. “Aren’t you ever going to bed?”

Again, Sam to Rick. A question to put to family members, if the latter are up late and disturbing the writer’s much-needed, brain-restoring, beauty-preserving rest.

6. “I never make plans that far ahead.”

Rick brushes off his girlfriend Yvonne, who wants to know if she’ll see him that night. Writers can use this reply on anyone, anytime, if they wish to stay ready for the all-sacred call of the muse that might come at any instant.

5. “You’ve got to hide me!”

Signor Ugarte (Peter Lorre) appeals to Rick to save him when his arrest is imminent. A writer might need to request this of her roommate if Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Fuller Brush Man happen to call during her writing time.

4. “How long was it we had, honey?”

A drunken Rick inquires this of his lost love, Ilsa. An excellent question to ask of a workshop leader who is keeping the stopwatch for a timed writing.

3. ”Here’s looking at you, kid.”

The legendary toast repeated by Rick in honor of Ilsa. The writer may wish to say this to his reflection in the mirror. Sometimes we’re our only company.

2. ”I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Rick’s famous line to Louis at the end of the movie. The writer could whisper this to her pen, for example, or her keyboard. Whatever works.

1. “I’m the only cause I’m interested in.”

Rick claims that the troubles of the world are not in his department. He’s done saving the world. This is a lesser-known line from the movie, but it’s one of my favorites. My writer self often reminds my heroic self that if I’m going to save my own soul, much less the world, I need to put myself first long enough to write new words every day.

Use this line. You will need it–and the others–when the world comes calling on your time for every other endeavor but your art.


Rebecca Lawton’s debut novel, Junction, Utah, is available as an original e-book from van Haitsma Literary. Her essay collection about life as a whitewater guide, Reading Water: Lessons from the River (Capital Books), was a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller and ForeWord Nature Book of the Year finalist. She has published work in Orion, Sierra, The San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, Shenandoah, THEMA, More, and other magazines, has won the Ellen Meloy Fund Award for Desert Writers, and has been nominated for three Pushcart Prize nominations (in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry). Find her online at www.beccalawton.com.

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