It can be regarded almost as the perfect movie blend: passionate love interest, fascinating characters, humour, tragedy, honor, bravery and a wartime drama created and performed during the war it was actually depicting.
ReceptionThe movie's premiere was in November, 1942 but it did not get major recognition until its general release in January, 1943 when a Roosevelt-Churchill summit was scheduled to be held in the real- life Casablanca. It was this fortuitous timing which sent the picture into orbit and to Oscar success.
The movie received eight Academy Award nominations and won three, for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. In 1989, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In the American Film Institute's List of Greatest Movies it is currently ranked number three.
PlotThe story line interweaves the strands of a classic love triangle - two men competing for the love of a beautiful woman - with political espionage during WWII, all centering around Rick's smoky bar in Vichy-controlled Casablanca in North Africa. One night in walks the beautiful Ilsa, played by Ingrid Bergman, who broke Rick's heart in Paris just before the German occupation and turned him into a bitter cynic. Ilsa brings her husband with her, Victor Laszlo, a Czech Resistance hero, played by Paul Henreid.
Ilsa and Victor have come to Rick's bar to collect two letters of transit -exit visas- which will enable Victor to get to Lisbon to escape the Nazis, personified by Major Strasser, (played by Conrad Veidt), who are hunting him.
As the lovers gaze at each other in Rick's cafe the wonderful melody "As Time Goes By" plays in the background, transporting them back to a simpler pre-war life
ProductionLate in 1941 Warner Bros. producer Hal B. Wallis was alerted to an unproduced stage play called 'Everybody Comes to Rick's', by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison. In late December of that year he bought the film rights for $20,000 and changed the title to 'Casablanca'.
As well as Bogart, Ronald Reagan and George Raft were considered for the part of Rick and Hedy Lamarr and Ann Sheridan for Ilsa. The role of Sam was originally conceived as female and Ella Fitzgerald and the then unknown Lena Horne were considered.
Another important addition to the team was veteran composer and conductor, Max Steiner, also already on the Warner staff, who contributed the rich romantic score which emphasises the torrid love interest at the heart of the movie.
All of the filming was done in the Warner Bros. studios except for the famous final scene which was filmed at Van Nuys airport, north-west of Los Angeles. During production, none of the actors or crew considered the movie as anything other than a modest, medium budget potboiler. Yet they created a masterpiece.
Michael Curtiz was one of Warner's best contract directors. He delivered a complicated story, but told it well. The unusual central flashback to Rick and Ilsa in Paris is essential to the plot and is done with such confidence that the whole screenplay seems faultless, even though much of it was written whilst filming was taking place. Even Ingrid Bergman did not know until the final airport scene was shot whether she would end up in Lisbon with Henreid or in Casablanca with Bogey.
The final words of the movie are justly famous and they were added several weeks after the end of filming. "This could be the start of a beautiful friendship." They were written by the man who bought the film rights at the outset - Hal B. Wallis.
Quotable Quotes'Casablanca' is one of the most quoted of all Hollywood movies. Here are a few of the most famous lines:
Captain Renault: "Round up the usual suspects"
"This could be the start of a beautiful friendship."
Rick: "We'll always have Paris"
"Here's looking at you, kid."
"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine."
"I'm the only "cause" I'm interested in."
"You played it for her, you can play it for me!"
(Not "Play it again, Sam!" - a misquote from Woody Allen's movie)
Major Strasser: "What is your nationality?
Rick: I'm a drunkard.
Captain Renault: That makes Rick a citizen of the world."
Summary'Casablanca' is still fresh today. Its wonderful, crisp black and white cinematography, adds to its allure. Its themes of love, duty, honor and romance are universal and, when added to brilliant writing, inspiring music, suspense, strong dialogue, masterly acting from a high quality cast, and deep feelings of patriotism, all contribute to a movie masterpiece, fully deserving of its great reputation.
Main CastHumphrey Bogart ... Rick Blaine
Ingrid Bergman ... Ilsa Lund
Paul Henreid ... Victor Laszlo
Claude Rains ... Captain Renault
Conrad Veidt ... Major Strasser
Sydney Greenstreet ... Signor Ferrari
Peter Lorre ... Ugarte
S.Z. Sakall ... Carl (as S.K. Sakall)
Madeleine Lebeau ... Yvonne
Dooley Wilson ... Sam
Joy Page ... Annina Brandel
John Qualen ... Berger
Leonid Kinskey ... Sascha
Curt Bois ... Pickpocket
One of the key features of 'Casablanca's success is the fact that each performer seems perfect for the role and each gives the performance of his or her life.
Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957)Bogart is ranked by the American Film Institute as the number one Greatest Actor of All Time. That is quite an accolade and in 'Casablanca' Bogart gives us indications of his future greatness. He started his movie career as a romantic lead but made his name as a gangster in 1936 in 'The Petrified Forest'. He appeared in many other classic movies including 'The Maltese Falcon' in 1941, 'To Have and Have Not' in 1944 and 'The African Queen' in 1951. As Rick, in his white dinner jacket or trench coat he is intensely charismatic and gives a magnificent performance as a macho man with a romantic heart.
Ingrid Bergman (1915-1982) One of the most naturally beautiful of Hollywood actresses, Bergman's chemistry with Bogart gives the movie its fizz and sparkle. She radiates innocence, mystery and passion at will, sometimes all at the same time. She is the perfect romantic interest and we easily believe that two men are in love with her.
Claude Rains (1989-1967) Rains, an accomplished and experienced Hollywood actor, gives a first class performance as police chief Renault, a cynical observer of the dark side of the city. Although notionally on the Nazi side, he retains the audience's sympathy, and it seems fitting that the film ends with he, and not Ilsa, as the other half of a "beautiful friendship".
The supporting cast is large and memorably accomplished. Paul Henreid copes manfully with the difficult job of being Bogey's love rival and leaves no one dry eyed as he leads the bar patrons in singing "La Marseilleise" in order to drown out a group of loud Nazi singers.
Peter Lorre's sly hustler Ugarte, Conrad Veidt's classic heel-clicking Nazi bad guy Major Strasser, and Dooley Wilson's Sam, caressing the piano and exchanging meaningful looks with the lead actors, are all perfect in their roles. Sidney Greenstreet was a veteran British stage actor who did not start his movie career until the age of 62. As the crooked Ferrari he oozes an evil sophistication.
CreditsDirector ... Michael Curtiz
Producer ... Hal B. Wallis
Production Company ... Warner Bros. Pictures Inc.
Story ... From a play by Murray Burnett, Joan Alison
Screenplay ... Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch
Music ... Max Steiner
Format ... B & W
Initial Release ... 26 November, 1942
World Premiere ... 23 January, 1943
Running Time ... 102 minutes
Academy Awards3 Wins:
Best Picture ... Warner Bros.
Best Director ... Michael Curtiz
Best Screenplay ... Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch
5 Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Actor ... Humphrey Bogart
Best Supporting Actor ... Claude Rains
Cinematography (B & W) ... Arthur Edeson
Film Editing ... Owen Marks
Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture ... Max Steiner