Release Year: 1942
Director: Michael Curtiz
Screenwriter(s): Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch, Murray Burnett (play), Joan Allison (play), Casey Robinson (uncredited)
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid bergman, Clause Rains, Paul Henreid, Peter Lorre, Conrad Veidt
Rating: Won 3 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay. 5 Oscar Nominations: Best Actor (Humphrey Bogart), Best Supporting Actor (Claude Rains), Best Editing, Best Music, Best Cinematography – Black and White.
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #35, week 6 2015
Set in Casablanca during the early days of WWII, an American expatriate (Humphrey Bogart) meets a former lover (Ingrid Bergman) with unforseen consequences.
Casablanca is one of the most beloved Hollywood classics, its script endlessly quoted, its stars the crème de la crème of Hollywood silverscreen royalty. Humphrey Bogart (The Big Sleep, 1946) plays Rick, a character rivalled only in his own catalogue by Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade. Rick runs a bar that functions mostly as a place for people who wish to flee a Europe torn apart by war, and are looking to obtain false papers, to meet criminal types who are willing to supply these. One of these criminal types is played by Peter Lorre (M, 1931) and he and others are handled with a great deal of diplomacy and tact by the ever excellent Claude Rains (The Wolf Man, 1941) who is torn between his own laissez-faire attitudes and uptight Nazis looking for refugees. Bogart’s Rick is a melancholy creature, unable to return to America for unknown reasons, he runs his bar with a sure if slightly apathetic hand. The reasons for his melancholy becomes clear when Ingrid Bergman (Spellbound, 1945) enters the film. She famously asks her old friend Sam to play ”As Time Goes By” (no, she doesn’t say ”play it again, Sam”, noone does) and in a heart breaking scene the two lovers are eye to eye for the first time since she left him. Their story is told in flashbacks, and their painful separation is reflected in the many refugees and their pain in having to abandon their homelands. The war is most poignantly touched on in one scene where a group of Nazis in the bar start to sing a German song, prompting the other guests and the band to sing the Marseillaise. Many of the extras in this scene were actual people who had fled Europe and their tears and ardour is touching and genuine. The best thing about Casablanca is perhaps its ending, a perfectly bittersweet note to a great love story, and one that will continue to stand as one of the best pictures of Hollywood’s golden age.
It is never explained why Bogart’s character, Rick, cannot return to America. Screenwriter Julius Epstein later said in an interview that he and his brother and fellow screenwriter Philip Epstein thought long about a reason, but when they couldn’t come up with one that was good enough, they decided not to give reason at all.
When Casablanca won the Academy Award for best picture, Jack L. Warner was first man on stage, which infuriated Hal B. Wallis, who was the film’s actual producer. He was seen as a wunderkind at Warner Bros. and never forgave Jack Warner. He left the company shortly after.
Casablanca was shot and released during WWII and the nazis in the film and several extras were actually played by German Jews who had fled from Germany.
Picture Copyright: Warner Bros.