Romantic dramas often include a stirring climactic scene when a man and a woman confront each other about the true nature of their relationship.

Two outstanding examples of such a scene were in the Michigan Theater’s final two films of its 2015 Summer Classic Film Series—Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Casablanca.

In the screenings of Breakfast at Tiffany’s on September 6 and 8, 2015, a taxi ride through Manhattan leads to an emotional conversation in which George Peppard emphatically tells Audrey Hepburn that he loves her.

In that scene, both Peppard and Hepburn get closer to the truth about the Holly Golightly facade that Hepburn’s character had adopted to survive and flourish in her circle of acquaintances.

The presentation of Casablanca on September 7, 2015 continued a Michigan Theater tradition of showing that movie on Labor Day, in part to welcome University of Michigan students back to campus.

The big romantic confrontation in Casablanca is perhaps the most famous scene in a movie that is filled with many memorable moments.

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman are facing each other on a tarmac, as an idling airplane waits to take them to a safer location. In that powerful final conversation, they both realize that she belongs with her husband Paul Henreid, despite Bogart and Bergman’s strong memories of happy days in Paris.

The enduring popularity of both movies is immensely helped by how they both build up to these scenes. No matter how often you’ve seen these films, you still come away with an appreciation of their skillful use of cinematic techniques to tell a story.

Only in a Theater

The big screen of the Michigan Theater helped me see more than any video viewing how well the movies were directed by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca) and Blake Edwards (Breakfast at Tiffany’s).

In Casablanca, I was continually amazed by the camera setups and movements in scenes that were often filled with many people.

A scene would start in the near distance, and then the camera would glide smoothly through a crowded area to its final destination—a perfectly composed frame of two or three characters who then had an important conversation.

A highlight of Breakfast at Tiffany’s was the careful, gradual revealing of the developing romance between Hepburn and Peppard, through closeups and body language. The fire escape scene where Peppard listens to Hepburn sing the lovely song “Moon River” was particularly poignant.

In comparing the two movies, I found other interesting similarities:

  • The different kinds of friendship. The final line of Casablanca when Humphrey Bogart tells Claude Raines about the beginning of their “beautiful friendship, ” as they face an uncertain future in World War II. In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Buddy Ebsen telling George Peppard that Ebsen needs a friend, to help Ebsen talk with Audrey Hepburn.
  • The defensive self-deception of Bogart as he tries to stay neutral during World War II, and of Hepburn as she flits from one new experience to another, afraid to settle down in one place.
  • The strong sense of time and place. The wartime morale-boosting intentions of Casablanca, and the breezy, modern, early 1960s feeling of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
  • And of course, two of the most memorable theme songs in movie history.

And that was a fun way to end summer, on a hot Labor Day weekend as the returning UM students once again put their stamp of youthfulness on Ann Arbor.

Autumn is Here

Now we move forward into the fall, with the Detroit Film Theatre and the Redford Theatre both beginning their new seasons on Friday, September 11, 2015.

Meanwhile, the September schedule of the Michigan Theater includes such unique events as the Spielberg: Man & Monsters series that starts September 14; the National Theatre Live series that continues on September 16; and the Electric Shadows Contemporary Chinese Film Series that begins September 22.

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Copyright 2015 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.


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