You must remember this: Victor and Ilsa are visiting the cafe because he has an appointment to pay Ugarte a very large sum of money in exchange for documents which will provide safe, unencumbered passage out of Casablanca and into the free world. As they enter the club, Ilsa passes a familiar figure seated at the piano, and shortly thereafter, addressing Captain Renault, she speaks a line which causes me to cringe each time I hear it: She says, "The boy [emphasis added] who is playing the piano ... somewhere I've seen him". In 1942, when this movie was made, it was perfectly acceptable for an adult Negro male to be called a "boy".
After Ilsa persuades Sam to sing "As Time Goes By", a visibly agitated Rick suddenly appears, and seems on the verge of striking the poor musician because we are hearing a melody Sam has been forbidden ever to play. During the strained chat between Ilsa and Rick, their last meeting is recalled. Rick says: "I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue", to which she replies: "Yes. I put that dress away. When the Germans march out, I'll wear it again". Correction: In that flashback scene at La Belle Aurore, she is wearing a very conservative little mousy kind of suit, not a dress. But then, as far as I'm concerned, not one of Bergman's outfits really make any sort of memorable fashion statement. I think the movie's much revered costume designer Orry-Kelly lost his sketch pad and much of his creativity somewhere along the heavily traversed Santa Monica Boulevard.
Fast-forward forty years to my Ingrid Bergman story ...
On August 29, 1982, I was in a Tokyo studio, recording what was to become an album titled "As Time Goes By", the song featured on the cd.
Feeling rested and relaxed after an afternoon nap, a shower and comfortable satisfaction about the song list, I began work on my make-up. While standing in front of the bathroom vanity, I felt a sudden jolt of heat fill the small space. I really thought the infra-red heating fixture in the ceiling had somehow surged itself into the "on" position since I certainly hadn't engaged the switch myself.
As the warmth lingered, the strong presence of Ingrid Bergman was startling, comforting and undeniable. My first reaction was astonished delight, followed by the more sensible assumption that since I was to record "As Time Goes By" in a few hours' time, my vivid imagination had stimulated an image of the beautiful woman who portrayed Ilsa Lund.
The few moments of intensity began to dissipate, then gently vanished altogether. I felt elation, gratitude and humility, in that order. Finally, it was time to meet my colleagues in the lobby of the hotel to make the journey to the studio.
Hours later, after a jolly drinks/supper party, the TV news announced that Ingrid Bergman had passed away on that date in London. I discovered later that this information was incorrect. At the end of her long ordeal with the cancer which would claim her at a relatively young sixty-seven, she asked her third husband to take her to their Swedish island home which became the site of her death. I believe beyond question that Ms. Bergman entered my space to bestow a sort of imprimatur, a fleeting little form of encouragement I think of whenever I sing "As Time Goes By".
Her daughter Isabella Rossellini will present an Ingrid Bergman Tribute at London's Royal Albert Hall on September 6th this year.