Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman
'Casablanca' is a romantic war melodrama made in 1942 by Warner Brothers, directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid. It has become one of the most popular films of all time, and it offers more cult performers, unforgettable characters, quotable lines and instant clichés than any other movie from Hollywood's Golden Age.
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". It consistently ranks at or near the top of everybody's list of the greatest films of all time. In the American Film Institute's List of Greatest Movies it is currently number three.
The 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 round Rick's smoky bar in Casablanca in North Africa.
Humphrey Bogart's Rick ("of all the gin joints...") in white dinner jacket or belted trenchcoat, and Ingrid Bergman's Ilsa ("I know that I'll never have the strength to leave you again"), a vision in creations more suited to a studio floor than a desert city, moon over each other in Rick's cafe-casino as the wonderful, haunting melody "As Time Goes By" hovers in the background, transporting them back to a simpler life before the war soured everything. One of the best performances comes from Claude Rains as the cynical but romantic police chief Renault ("round up the usual suspects"), a wry observer of life's absurdities who is at once an opportunist survivor and the film's truest romantic - fully deserving of the famous final moments ("this could be the start of a beautiful friendship") that show it is he, not Ilsa who is the fitting partner for Rick's newly dedicated-to-freedom hero.
Also memorable in an large supporting cast: Paul Henried's Czech patriot Victor Laszlo, leading the patrons of Rick's bar in a rousing rendition of "La Marseilleise" that drowns out the Nazi sing-along and restores even the most ardent collaborationists and parasites to patriotic fervor; Peter Lorre's hustler Ugarte, shyly admitting that he trusts Rick becase the man despises him; Conrad Veidt's heel-clicking Nazi villain Major Strasser, reaching to make a phone call he'll never complete; Dooley Wilson's loyal Sam, stroking the piano and exchanging looks with the leads; S.Z. Sakall's blubbery major-domo Carl, a displaced Austro-Hungarian sweating despite the ceiling fan; and Sydney Greenstreet's unlikely Arab-Italian entrepreneur Ferrari, squatting befezzed on what looks like a magic carpet. Even the extras are brilliantly cast, adding to the lively, seductive, populated feel of a movie that, more than any other, its fans have wanted to inhabit - an impulse that fuels Woody Allen's charming homage in 'Play it Again Sam'.
Curtiz tells a complicated, gimmicky story, weighted down with exposition and structured around a midpoint Paris flashback that breaks most of the screenwriting rules, with so little fuss and so much confidence that the whole assembly seems seamless even though it was apparently rewritten from day to day so that Bergman did not know until the shooting of the final scene whether she would fly off with Henreid or stick around with Bogey. Lasting cult greatness came about through its attitude, but also its rare sense of the incomplete - made before the war was over, it dares to leave its characters literally up in the air or out in the desert, leaving its original audiences and the many who have discovered the film over the years to wonder what happened to these people (whose petty problems don't amount to "a hill of beans") during the next few turbulent years.
The themes of love, duty, honor and romance are universal and, when added to brilliant writing, wonderful music and masterly acting from a high quality cast, contribute to a wonderful movie, 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
CreditsDirector ... Michael Curtiz
Producer ... Hal 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