David Altshuler, M.S.
(305) 978-8917 | [email protected]

Play it, Sam

“Go ahead and shoot, you’d be doing me a favor” quips Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine in Warner Brother’s classic Casablanca. Ingrid Bergman—spoiler alert, she was married, not widowed, when they were dating in those sparkling flashback scenes—has blown back into his life. Rick is inconsolable, if a tad self-absorbed. Romantic? Yeah. Dark? Sure. Audiences across generations have felt for the heart broken hero. But realistic? Not so much. 

Because while every pot has a lid, and every pididdle has a padaddle, it’s another argument altogether to suggest that there is only that one exact person who could have made the casino owner happy. Pining and moaning throughout the war makes a good film, but c’mon Bogey. Your casino is filled with appropriate potential partners. You’re stunningly handsome. You have a good job. Getting drunk and ignoring Dooley Wilson’s thoughtful invitation to go fishing is kinda childish dontcha think?

And immature and ill-advised I gotta say. Get over yourself. Put on your big boy pants. Did you not hear her when she said she was already married? Turns out her husband wasn’t murdered by the 20th century’s most efficient killers. She didn’t lie to you. Stuff happens. More to the point, I don’t know that Bogie and Elsa had a rosy post-war future anyway. Can you imagine that masculine, gun-toting, hard-drinking, tuxedo-wearing, easily insulted guy being on time to pick up the kids from soccer practice? Me neither. And patient enough to help with homework? I don’t buy it. Had Bogey not walked off into cinematic history with Claude Rains, I give his marriage to Ilsa three years, tops.

One and only one woman could’ve made this guy happy? And he was going to put down the bottle and help with the dishes? I dunno. Bogey’s character’s predilection for alcohol would be easier to write out of the script than real life. Reminds me of students who are so enamored of Duke University, say, that they feel their lives will be incomplete, imperfect and downright dismal if they end up at Tulane, Emory, or the University of Miami instead. Be happy with yourself first and you’ll find the partner who completes you, it is said. Whereas if you’re waiting for another person to make you happy, it might be a long semester. Similarly, a legitimately strong student knows that they will be successful in the classroom wherever they end up.

William Daniel Phillips
Nobel Laureate

You took BC Calculus in 11th grade along with four other AP classes? You studied efficiently and effectively, understood the material, got good grades? What could possibly go wrong with your education? You’re going to be fine. Wherever you go to college. William Daniel Phillips attended Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA. Would you argue that Dr. Phillips would have won two Nobel Prizes in Physics has he matriculated at a better-known institution? Robert Noyce found Grinnell College in Iowa. Then he founded Intel. You may not have heard of that 1600-student liberal arts college in the Midwest, but you have heard of Intel. Intel makes processors. You’re using a device with an Intel Processor right now to read this essay. Noyce’s Intel has sold billions of processors. Billions with a “b.” Had Dr. Noyce studied somewhere other than Grinnell he would have been more accomplished? Nah.

The takeaway? I don’t know if the fictional Rick Blaine would ever have found romantic fulfillment with anyone other than Ingrid Bergman. But I feel strongly that who you are is more important than where you go to college. Focus on the reality rather than the indicia of ability. Absent a world war interfering with your romance or your education, you’ll going to accomplish great things. And there are any number of colleges that will help you get there.

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3 thoughts on “Play it, Sam

  1. Martin

    Hard to imagine Ingrid/Elsa cooking (maybe a souffle?) while she wipes a runny nose. They’ll always have Paris but probably not the Bronx or Levittown. But such concerns aren’t worth a hill of beans in the world they live in. Anyway, Bogie/Rick did have a good thing going with that young French waitress Yvonne/Madeleine Lebeau who wept real tears in her moment singing the Marseilles (“Vive la France!”). But it’s tough to resist when Ingrid shows up.

    Grinnell is a good college and should be nobody’s second choice (unless they’ve already gotten a full ride at Middlebury) or are committed to doing physics at MIT (and been admitted). Noyce did Grinnell and Moore started college at San Jose State. As you say, it’s not where you go but what you do when you get there that counts.

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