Brigid: You’ve been playing with me. Just pretending you care to trap me like this. You didn’t care at all. You don’t love me!
Spade: I won’t play the sap for you!
Brigid: Oh you know it’s not like that. You can’t say that.
Spade: You never played square with me for half an hour at a stretch since I’ve known you!
Brigid: You know down deep in your heart and in spite of anything I’ve done, I love you.
Spade: I don’t care who loves who!! I won’t play the sap for you.
I won’t because all of me wants to, regardless of consequences, and because you counted on that with me the same as you counted on that with all the others.
I’ve watched this scene unfold countless times, but I rewind it anyway, watching as again the masks come off, as again the facts become clear, as again The Pretenders realize that the reality they’ve woven around themselves is an illusion. The truth will out. There are no good guys here, only graduated degrees of doctoral liars.
The hard set of Bogie’s jaw gets firmer with every tear Astor cries. The film’s lack of color is the perfect foil: In life there is no such thing as black and white.
I watch, always in horrified fascination, as he steels his resolve and she finally comprehends that there is a difference between a criminal and a not-so-good guy.
At last, the facade falls away.
She is the diamond, sharp-edged and hard.
He is the rough. The stuff that dreams are made of.
I’ve seen this scene before, innumerous times, but still I hold my breath until he makes the call. Until he finalizes his decision. Until he does the right thing.
The right thing.
Do the right thing.
The air escapes my lungs on a whoosh, and I press rewind, my faith in humanity temporarily restored.
I smile at the memories this movie conjures, and with a nostalgic sigh I press the button on the remote and think…
Play it again, Sam.