According to Jill Chamberlain, author of “The Nutshell Technique: Crack the Secret of Successful Screenwriting“, Casablanca could have been a slightly better film if Humphrey Bogart‘s Richard Blaine had been more emotionally demonstrative.
Blaine, she says, is a little too taciturn and reserved, and that “a lot of modern audiences, particularly younger people, don’t even get what happened. Younger people don’t get it because he has such a tough outer shell.”
[Partial paraphrasing]: “Jimmy Stewart would have let us see the hurt. We need to feel [Blaine’s] inner struggle…he doesn’t articulate that, the dilemma he has, the weight of the world’s fate on his shoulders…we don’t see what’s going on behind the mask…we have to read between the lines quite a bit. Bogart won’t let us feel his pain.”
Earth to Chamberlain: It’s precisely because Blaine’s true feelings are buried under a crusty and cynical shell that the character is so memorable. The whole film would collapse if Blaine were to weep and quake with pain a la George Bailey on the snow-covered bridge in It’s A Wonderful Life.
Does Chamberlain believe that the finale of Only Angels Have Wings would have been more satisfying if Cary Grant‘s character had unloaded emotionally like Tom Cruise does at the end of Jerry Maguire? I wonder.