Knowledge vs Appreciation

If you know that “Casablanca” was a Warner Bros. film, released in 1943, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman and that it won the Academy Award for Best Picture of that year. You have knowledge. You file it away, and that’s that.
Appreciation is a very different thing. You can appreciate the ways in which “Casablanca” skillfully blended the wartime romance with the emerging trend toward “films noir.” You can appreciate how “Casablanca” fit into the overall picture of Michael Curtiz’s career as a director. You can appreciate the contributions of its fine supporting cast: Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Dooley Wilson, Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet, Conrad Veidt and think about the ways in which their roles fit into the personae they had created for themselves as character actors. You can appreciate the camerawork of Arthur Edeson, the effective opening montage-work of Don Siegel or the rousing Max Steiner score.
Knowledge is a “one-and-done” affair, but Appreciation always draws you on, beckons you to look a little deeper. There is always more to know. How did a Warners “B” to star Ronald Reagan and Ann Sheridan become a Warners/Hal Wallis “A” picture? Why was Conrad Veidt the highest-paid member of the cast? How many re-writes did the script really go through and what were the contributions of the various writers who worked on them? Were alternate endings really filmed? Was there such a thing as a “Letter-of-Transit” and how did they really work? (You mean that NO ONE, not even Adolf Hitler himself, could countermand one?)
Knowing a film is good, but appreciating a film is always better.

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