In World War II Casablanca, Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), exiled American and former
freedom fighter, runs the most popular nightspot in town. The cynical lone wolf Blaine
comes into the possession of two valuable letters of transit. When Nazi Major Strasser
(Conrad Veidt) arrives in Casablanca, the sycophantic police Captain Renault (Claude Rains)
does what he can to please him, including detaining Czech underground leader Victor Laszlo
(Paul Henreid). Much to Rick's surprise, Laszlo arrives with Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), Rick's
one time love. Rick is bitter towards Ilsa, who ran out on him in Paris, but when he
learns she had good reason to, they plan to run off together again using the letters of
transit. Well, that was their original plan....
"Of course, that evocative, hauntingly sad signature tune "As Time Goes
By" has something to do with it…but it’s impossible to single out any one
element or any one performance that lifts this romantic drama to such heights as an
eternal classic that can be seen repeatedly. Yet, it’s a simple story, but a bitter
sweet love story set in the midst of war when conditions call for people to show their
best and worst sides, exercise their strengths and sometimes make difficult choices, and
maybe choices they didn’t like. The film’s humanity, its heart, comes from a
combination of the characters and their responses to the circumstances – but they are
all admirably multi-faceted, with contradictions and weaknesses overshadowed – in
most cases – by their strengths. Bogey is a splendid Rick, world weary yet far from
insensitive nor as cynical as he pretends; Ingrid Bergman creates a wonderfully modern
woman, at once strong, intelligent and individual, as well as feminine. Claude Rains is a
triumph as the policeman who finds inner moral fibre just when it’s needed. In Senor
Ferrari, Sydney Greenstreet personifies the wheeler-dealer with more to him than simple
greed and Peter Lorre’s hangdog Ugarte is funny and pathetic in equal measure. But
everyone is excellent. Some of the dialogue has passed into popular usage or legend: my
favourite, though, comes from Rains’ Capt. Renault, when Rick is threatening him with
a pistol to retrieve the valuable letters of transit. Rick reminds Renault that the pistol
is pointing straight at Renault’s heart. "That is my least vulnerable
spot," is Renault’s reply, delivered with a subtlety that manages to reflect an
inner pain, almost as if he were making a remark to his own conscience. It’s typical
of the sardonic tone of the dialogue throughout (no doubt driven by director Curtiz’
Hungarian sense of black humour).
Captain Louis Renault: What in heaven's name brought you to
Rick Blaine: My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.
Captain Louis Renault: The waters? What waters? We're in the desert.
Rick Blaine: I was misinformed.
Woman: What makes saloonkeepers so snobbish?
Banker: Perhaps if you told him I ran the second largest banking
house in Amsterdam.
Carl: Second largest? That wouldn't impress Rick. The leading banker
in Amsterdam is now the pastry chef in our kitchen.
Banker: We have something to look forward to.
Senor Ferrari: As the leader of all illegal activities in
Casablanca, I am an influential and respected man.
While love is the currency that our central characters trade in, Casablanca is also a
drama about the dislocations of war, without ever visiting the battlefield. It is a
pragmatic and darkly humorous essay on aspects of the human condition, ending on a
melancholy note that reverberates through even Renault’s semi-vulnerable heart."
Andrew L. Urban
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CAST: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Paul Henreid, Sydney Greenstreet,
Peter Lorre, Conrad Veidt and Dooley Wilson as Sam
DIRECTOR: Michael Curtiz
PRODUCER: Hal B. Wallis
SCRIPT: Joan Alison (from Murray Burnett’s play), Howard Koch, Julius and Philip
Epstein, casey Robisnon
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Arthur Edeson
EDITOR: Owen Marks
MUSIC: Max Steiner (with Herman Hupfeld’s As Time Goes By)
ART DIRECTION: Carl Jules Weyl
SET DECORATION: George James Hopkins
RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes
Academy Awards 1942 - Winner: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay;
Nominations: Actor (Bogart), Editing, B&W Cinematography, Supporting Actor (Rains)