When You Get Really Close to a Movie Screen, Film Emulsion Looks like…
Boiling Sand
Lisbon…

I’m in Lisbon for a couple of weeks, which has a deep cinematic history due to its neutrality in World War 2.

In his memoirs, British film director Michael Powell wrote that during the war, Lisbon was one of the few places that well-connected Brits could get away for a while from the Blitzkreig. Powell was having an affair with Deborah Kerr at the time and that was their periodic escape. He wrote that since it was a neutral city, the person beside you in the hotel elevator might be a Nazi spy. There were also refugees and escapees in the city. [Remember, Lisbon was the hoped-for destination of Ilsa and Victor Laszlo in CASABLANCA.]

Actually, I have read in many respectable sources that CASABLANCA was originally set in Lisbon. There was a famous casino here that drew people of international affairs (e.g., author Ian Fleming was a regular, where he keenly observed the movements and activities of a Yugoslavian secret agent, whom he later amalgamated with his own personality into the character of James Bond.]

Fortunately for Warner Brothers, changing the setting and title to CASABLANCA helped immortalize this film: only a couple of days after the movie was released, Casablanca was the center of a major military action and was suddenly in all the news. The public stampeded the theatres to see more about the city.

This week, as our plane approached Lisbon, I suddenly flashed on the juicy 1950s bio-pic, WITH A SONG IN MY HEART, where actress Susan Hayward portrayed singer Jane Froman who was crippled when a plane with U.S.O. entertainers crashed in Lisbon’s Tagus River during World War 2. [I re-viewed that movie after my first visit to Portugal, and I was astonished at how geographically accurate the view of Lisbon was from inside the cockpit of the doomed plane in that film.]

One more cultural rhyzome: GONE WITH THE WIND actor Leslie Howard disappeared on a flight from Lisbon to London during World War 2, presumably shot down by the Germans.

So the Cinema Goddess has left many footprints on this sexy, exotic, gorgeous city.

Doug / PoMo Joan

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