Book Review: “Beyond Casablanca” by Jennifer Garlen


beyond casablancaThis post was written in conjunction with the 2013 Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge hosted by Out of the Past. This is my third summer book review.

This time last year I was catching some rays at Raging Rivers Water Park and listening to Jennifer Garlen and her daughter Cate talk about their favorite classic films on The Cinamentals podcast. Alas, The Cinementals is no more, but Jennifer carries on writing about film. She is the national Classic Movies Examiner on Examiner.com and also writes for her own blog Virtual Virago. She teaches college courses in literature, pop culture, and film in Huntsville, AL. She’s also crazy into legos.

Jennifer published “Beyond Casablanca: 100 Classic Films Worth Watching” in 2012. Like “Movies and the Battle of the Sexes,” “Beyond Casablanca” is a list book, compiling titles and summaries for a series of films. Unlike ZetMec’s book, Garlen provides longer, more analytical articles about each of the hundred films featured. She gives only one-line summaries, assuming you could find more detailed synopses elsewhere or by actually watching the film, followed by 2- or 3-page articles about the themes and characterisations.

At the start of “Beyond Casablanca,” Garlen provides a list of the top ten essential classic films, starting, ironically, with CASABLANCA (1941). You cannot officially call yourself a card-carrying classic movie buff unless you have seen these films. The rest of the book is devoted to the master list of 100 classic movies worth watching, in alphabetical order. There are three indexes in the back, the films chronologically, by director, and by notable cast. This makes the volume very easy to navigate if you are searching for something in particular and don’t intend to read the book cover to cover. Here’s an example of the beginning of a film synopsis:

“Beyond Casablanca” would be a great gift for someone who is just getting started at becoming a classic film fan. Old movie veterans might find it an interesting project, to watch/rewatch all the films in a certain order. It could also be the foundation for a fantastic blogathon (nudge nudge, wink wink, Jennifer!) – the blogger to watch and review the most number of films in a set period of time wins. OR It could be posed at a challenge to see who could watch and review every film on the list, in alphabetical order, in one year. The possibilities are endless!

Jennifer Garlen

Jennifer Garlen

If I would change anything about this book, I would have the films subdivided by genre. This would make it easier to sit and read, chapter by chapter. I can highly recommend this book. It is written well, but in a tone that younger audiences can also enjoy. It’s almost as if Jennifer Garlen actually knows what she’s talking about! Amazing! “Beyond Casablanca” is available on Amazon HERE in both paperback and Kindle edition. Go buy a copy, okay?

Will McKinley has written a great (I’ll be the first to admit, better) review of “Beyond Casablanca” on his website. He’s much more specific in his analysis and offers some direct quotes and examples from the book, including a great bit about THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1951). Will has taught me a lot of about classic film blogging, so I definitely recommend checking out his stuff.


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