Love Lost and the Painful Reality of Saying Goodbye

Before beginning reviews of 2 emotional films to be seen at home, I’m thinking of friends quarantined alone following the death of a spouse. Let me begin with Jack Thar and Jim McKinley who died this year. McKinley was a respected criminal defense lawyer in Federal Court, and Thar and I became great friends after battling each other in a jury trial when he was in the U. S. Attorney’s Office. I think of their courageous wives, Cynthia and Cathy.

And then there were the deaths of two other admirable lawyers, Sarge Visher and Ken
Reese. I was close to both of them, and no one loves their widows, Belle Choate and Rita, more than me. Belle, a great lawyer in her own right, combined with me on several trials over the years ranging from a drug case in Bloomington to representing multiple air traffic controllers fired by President Reagan.

But I must also mention Tommy Thompson, an old friend from law school. He and I
helped start the felony screening program while working as interns in the Prosecutor’s Office in 1972, and the death of his beloved wife, Jeanne, last year left him battling his courageous instincts few men possess.

They all mocked the world with a smile on their faces, and I feel that Thar, Visher and
Reese are somewhere yelling for me to “Shut up, open a bottle of wine and do your reviews!”

So here they are.

Mrs. MiniverMrs. Miniver (1942)

This is a historically important film in these troubling times. Directed by William Wyler
and an Oscar winner for Best Picture, it tells the endearing story of a middle class rural London family trying to survive the Nazi Blitz in 1940.

Greer Garson earns her Oscar for Best Actress playing Mrs. Miniver, an intelligent
matriarch who helps her family dodge bombs while her husband (Walter Pidgeon) departs on a rescue mission to Dunkirk. On top of that, her son Vin (Richard Ney) becomes a fighter pilot in the English Air Force.

These English families were living in a life or death struggle that resembles life in the
United States today. They fought for normalcy in an abnormal world. Young lovers embraced marriage while knowing death awaits around the corner for one of them.

In urging you to see this movie, look for the remarkable performances of Teresa Wright
and Henry Travers. Ms. Wright, who was also devastating in both The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) and The Pride of The Yankees (1942), earns her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress playing Vins’ wife Carol, a young woman who values each minute with her pilot husband.

Mr. Travers, as heartwarming here as his role as an angel in It’s A Wonderful Life
(1946), plays Mr. Ballard, an aging station master longing to finally win a Rose competition. Without saying more, the result allows him to endure the Nazi assault with a smile on his face.



CasablancaCasablanca (1942)

One of the great movies in history, it tells the story of a man who learns in World War II that the widow who captured his heart discovered that her rebel husband did not die in combat. His anguish has no cure as she wrestles with the love of two men.

Bogart, Ingrid Berman and Paul Henreid form the most captivating threesome to appear on film. On top of admiring her husband’s (Henreid) role in the war, Ms. Bergman loves them both as noted. As she walks into Rick’s (Bogart) “Gin Joint” in Casablanca, her request to Sam, the piano player (Dooley Wilson), to play “As Time Goes By” will leave you thinking of the consequences of today’s pandemic.

This movie is loaded with some great dialogue as most of you know. Unforgettable is
their departure where Rick tells Ilsa, “We’ll always have Paris. ” Or as he says goodbye, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

Yet what summarizes the importance of this classic is his statement to Ilsa that she has to leave him behind and get on the plane with Victor. “Ilsa … it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.”

Well, Rick, I hope all of us understand that. As I hunker down at home with Monica,
each evening I hope that my good friends Belle, Tommy and Rita find hope and inspiration after the death of their spouses over the past several years. To them, Cynthia and Cathy, please remember:

“That we will always have Paris.”