Casablanca (1942)

Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains,
A cynical nightclub owner protects an old flame and her husband from Nazis in Morocco.
  • 8.5 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch, Murray Burnett, Joan Alison, Writer:
  • Michael Curtiz, Director:
  • Producer:

Trailer:

10 / 10

A masterwork for all time...

There is a scene about halfway through the movie Casablanca that has become commonly known as 'The Battle of the Anthems' throughout the film's long history. A group of German soldiers has come into Rick's Café American and are drunkenly singing the German National Anthem at the top of their voice. Victor Lazlo, the leader of the French Resistance, cannot stand this act and while the rest of the club stares appalled at the Germans, Lazlo orders the band to play 'Le Marseilles (sic?)' the French National Anthem. With a nod from Rick, the band begins playing, with Victor singing at the top of HIS voice. This in turn, inspires the whole club to begin singing and the Germans are forced to surrender and sit down at their table, humbled by the crowd's dedication. This scene is a turning point in the movie, for reasons that I leave to you to discover.

As I watched this movie again tonight for what must be the 100th time, I noticed there was a much smaller scene wrapped inside the bigger scene that, unless you look for it, you may never notice. Yvonne, a minor character who is hurt by Rick emotionally, falls into the company of a German soldier. In a land occupied by the Germans, but populated by the French, this is an unforgivable sin. She comes into the bar desperately seeking happiness in the club's wine, song, and gambling. Later, as the Germans begin singing we catch a glimpse of Yvonne sitting dejectedly at a table alone and in this brief glimpse, it is conveyed that she has discovered that this is not her path to fulfillment and she has no idea where to go from there. As the singing progresses, we see Yvonne slowly become inspired by Lazlo's act of defiance and by the end of the song, tears streaming down her face, she is singing at the top of her voice too. She has found her redemption. She has found something that will make her life never the same again from that point on.

Basically, this is Casablanca in a nutshell. On the surface, you may see it as a romance, or as a story of intrigue, but that is only partially correct.

The thing that makes Casablanca great is that it speaks to that place in each of us that seeks some kind of inspiration or redemption. On some level, every character in the story receives the same kind of catharsis and their lives are irrevocably changed. Rick's is the most obvious in that he learns to live again, instead of hiding from a lost love. He is reminded that there are things in the world more noble and important than he is and he wants to be a part of them. Louis, the scoundrel, gets his redemption by seeing the sacrifice Rick makes and is inspired to choose a side, where he had maintained careful neutrality. The stoic Lazlo gets his redemption by being shown that while thousands may need him to be a hero, there is someone he can rely upon when he needs inspiration in the form of his wife, who was ready to sacrifice her happiness for the chance that he would go on living. Even Ferrai, the local organized crime leader gets a measure of redemption by pointing Ilsa and Lazlo to Rick as a source of escape even though there is nothing in it for him.

This is the beauty of this movie. Every time I see it (and I have seen it a lot) it never fails that I see some subtle nuance that I have never seen before. Considering that the director would put that much meaning into what is basically a throw away moment (not the entire scene, but Yvonne's portion) speaks bundles about the quality of the film. My wife and I watched this movie on our first date, and since that first time over 12 years ago, it has grown to be, in my mind, the greatest movie ever made.

10 / 10

The Fundamental Things Apply...

"Casablanca" remains Hollywood's finest moment, a film that succeeds on such a vast scale not because of anything experimental or deliberately earthshaking in its design, but for the way it cohered to and reaffirmed the movie-making conventions of its day. This is the film that played by the rules while elevating the form, and remains the touchstone for those who talk about Hollywood's greatness.

It's the first week in December, 1941, and in the Vichy-controlled African port city of Casablanca, American ex-pat Rick Blaine runs a gin joint he calls "Rick's Cafe Americaine." Everybody comes to Rick's, including thieves, spies, Nazis, partisans, and refugees trying to make their way to Lisbon and, eventually, America. Rick is a tough, sour kind of guy, but he's still taken for a loop when fate hands him two sudden twists: A pair of unchallengeable exit visas, and a woman named Ilsa who left him broken-hearted in Paris and now needs him to help her and her resistance-leader husband escape.

Humphrey Bogart is Rick and Ingrid Bergman is Ilsa, in roles that are archetypes in film lore. They are great parts besides, very multilayered and resistant to stereotype, and both actors give career performances in what were great careers. He's mad at her for walking out on him, while she wants him to understand her cause, but there's a lot going on underneath with both, and it all spills out in a scene in Rick's apartment that is one of many legendary moments.

"Casablanca" is a great romance, not only for being so supremely entertaining with its humor and realistic-though-exotic wartime excitement, but because it's not the least bit mushy. Take the way Rick's face literally breaks when he first sees Ilsa in his bar, or how he recalls the last time he saw her in Paris: "The Germans wore gray, you wore blue." There's a real human dimension to these people that makes us care for them and relate to them in a way that belies the passage of years.

For me, and many, the most interesting relationship in the movie is Rick and Capt. Renault, the police prefect in Casablanca who is played by Claude Rains with a wonderful subtlety that builds as the film progresses. Theirs is a relationship of almost perfect cynicism, one-liners and professions of neutrality that provide much humor, as well as give a necessary display of Rick's darker side before and after Ilsa's arrival.

But there's so much to grab onto with a film like this. You can talk about the music, or the way the setting becomes a living character with its floodlights and Moorish traceries. Paul Henreid is often looked at as a bit of a third wheel playing the role of Ilsa's husband, but he manages to create a moral center around which the rest of the film operates, and his enigmatic relationship with Rick and especially Ilsa, a woman who obviously admires her husband but can't somehow ever bring herself to say she loves him, is something to wonder at.

My favorite bit is when Rick finds himself the target of an entreaty by a Bulgarian refugee who just wants Rick's assurance that Capt. Renault is "trustworthy," and that, if she does "a bad thing" to secure her husband's happiness, it would be forgivable. Rick flashes on Ilsa, suppresses a grimace, tries to buy the woman off with a one-liner ("Go back to Bulgaria"), then finally does a marvelous thing that sets the whole second half of the film in motion without much calling attention to itself.

It's not fashionable to discuss movie directors after Chaplin and before Welles, but surely something should be said about Michael Curtiz, who not only directed this film but other great features like "Captain Blood" and "Angels With Dirty Faces." For my money, his "Adventures Of Robin Hood" was every bit "Casablanca's" equal, and he even found time the same year he made "Casablanca" to make "Yankee Doodle Dandy." When you watch a film like this, you aren't so much aware of the director, but that's really a testament to Curtiz's artistry. "Casablanca" is not only exceptionally well-paced but incredibly well-shot, every frame feeling well-thought-out and legendary without distracting from the overall story.

Curtiz was a product of the studio system, not a maverick like Welles or Chaplin, but he found greatness just as often, and "Casablanca," also a product of the studio system, is the best example. It's a film that reminds us why we go back to Hollywood again and again when we want to refresh our imaginations, and why we call it "the dream factory." As the hawker of linens tells Ilsa at the bazaar, "You won't find a treasure like this in all Morocco." Nor, for that matter, in all the world.

10 / 10

.....it's still the same old story, a fight for love and glory, a case of do or die, the world will always welcome lovers, As Time Goes By."

It's one of the great Hollywood legends how George Raft helped make Humphrey Bogart a leading man by turning down in succession, High Sierra, The Maltese Falcon, and Casablanca. Maybe Raft showed some good sense in letting a better actor handle those roles. In any event we've got some proof in the case of Casablanca.

Check out some time a film called Background to Danger that Warner Brothers did with George Raft that also featured Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. Had Raft ever done Casablanca the film would have been a routine action/adventure story just like Background to Danger. Instead with Bogey we get that, but also one of the great love stories of the century.

Humphrey Bogart set the standard for playing expatriate American soldiers of fortune in Casablanca. Right now he's between wars running Rick's Cafe Americain in Casablanca in Morocco, an area controlled for the moment by the Vicky French government. He's got his fingers in a whole lot of pies, but Bogey operates with his own code of ethics. He sticks his neck out for nobody.

Nobody except the great love of his life Ingrid Bergman who left him mysteriously in Paris as he was fleeing the oncoming German occupation. She walks back into his life with a husband, Paul Henreid who is a well known anti-fascist leader.

The rest of the film is a contest for Bogey's soul. Torn between his great love, his own anti-fascist beliefs, and certain practical necessities of operating a liquor and gaming establishment in a hostile environment.

So many things combine to make Casablanca the great film it is. Ingrid Bergman's lovely incandescence melding and melting Bogey's cynical screen persona. The indelible characterizations of Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt and the whole rest of a 100% perfectly cast film. And the revival of a great ballad which serves as Casablanca's theme song.

I say revival because As Time Goes By was introduced in 1931 in the George White Scandals on Broadway by Rudy Vallee. He made a record of it which sold quite a few disks back then. But by the merest of coincidences there was a strike that lasted two years that just began around the time Casablanca came out. The Musicians Union struck against the record companies. With no new records being made RCA Victor re-released Vallee's record and it became a monster hit on revival.

Also when Casablanca came out as if the White House had a personal interest in the film FDR and Churchill had the first of their wartime conferences in----Casablanca of all places. Jack Warner must have said a prayer for that to happen.

There are so many classic scenes and lines from Casablanca you can write a comment just by listing them. But my favorite has always been when the Germans have taken over Rick's place and are singing some of their songs, Paul Henreid goes to orchestra leader and asks him to lead La Marsellaise. With a nod from Bogey, the orchestra plays, Henreid leads them and the rest of the non-Germans in the cafe join in. Over 60 years later, one still gets a thrill from that act of defiance.

Bogart and Rains were nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. Any of the others could have been as well. As I said before Casablanca is perfectly cast right down to minor roles like Curt Bois as a pickpocket, John Qualen as a fellow resistance leader, and S.Z. Sakall as a waiter at Rick's. If there was an award for ensemble cast, Casablanca would have won it. As it was it did win for Best Picture of 1943 and best director for Michael Curtiz.

Casablanca will be seen and loved by filmgoers for generations unto infinity, as time goes by.

10 / 10

"I should never have switched from scotch to martinis."

The Petrified Forest convinced the world Bogart was a bad guy. And for years he shocked and awed the audience with roles fitting that image. The Maltese Falcon showed a new kind hero, one with an edge. Bogart, with all the right things to say and seemingly never losing his cool. Then came Casablanca and the ages. The man's ? man comes with a heart. Arguably, three of his best pictures. All showing a change in a man's character and the depths of what acting is supposed to be. Maybe it was Warner Bros all along. Maybe Bogart was simply Bogart.

What can I say about this film that hasn't been said in over 60 years since its release. Is it a great film? Yes. Is it a showcase for Bogart? If not, than what else. Was Bogart the coolest guy to ever live? Absolutely. Casablanca is a different kind of love story, more likely to infect rather than effect.

She almost makes me believe it every time. When she says, "You're very kind." Bergman was more than just beautiful. And with Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt and Peter Lorre, cinema magic was created. But to me, Bogart was the greatest actor of all time. It's hard for me to believe he died almost 50 years ago. Every time I watch his films, it's like they were made yesterday. And that's why he is timeless. I'm still trying to figure him out.

"I should never have switched from scotch to martinis." Is said to be Bogart's last words. A legend, indeed.

10 / 10

I've loved this film for thirty years.

Casablanca is a film about the personal tragedy of occupation and war. It speaks to the oppression of the one side - and the heroism and self-deprecation of the other. From opportunists, to isolationists - from patriots to disenchanted lovers - the film has everything a man or woman would enjoy. Bravery, courage, intrigue, romance, beauty and love. Leading actors to please any appetite. Watching this film is to step back to a world that doesn't exist - yet to know it. It is to experience lives that have never been lived - but are "real to you." It is to know pain and joy, pride and pity for characters that are a fiction - yet are so real that you can't help but get lost in their story.

Amazing cast, memorable dialogue, unforgettable story. Through this film, Casablanca will always live in my heart and I will think of its characters as family.

Seeing it for the first time is truly the start of a romance with ideals that will live in you long after credits end.