This is the latest review of my all-time favorite films.
Casablanca (1942) | DVD Blu-Ray Instant Video
Casablanca is one of the most celebrated films of the studio system’s golden era of Hollywood. It was shot in 10-weeks, nearly all in controlled sets. There was an attention to detail in all of the bustling scenes, but no major technical feats involved in the production. This was simply an all-encompassing drama that endures because of strong performances, indelible lines, and a fantastic, well told story.
“Round up the usual suspects.”
Made and released in 1942, shortly after the United States entered World War II, there is a noticeable international element in the story and cast. Set in the Vichy-controlled title city, the story revolves around émigrés trying to escape from the Nazi occupation to freedom in America. The actors were not Americans substituting or exaggerating foreign accents, which often occurred in earlier Hollywood movies. The cast included performers from Sweden (Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa), Austria (Paul Henried as Victor Laszlo and Peter Lorre as Ugarte), England (Claude Rains as Captain Renault and Sydney Greenstreet as Signor Ferrari), Germany (Conrad Veidt as Major Heinrich Strasser), France, Russia, Bulgaria, and Denmark. Only three of the credited actors were born in the States.
“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”
The supporting actors created a realistic international atmosphere, but it was the leads that carried the love story. Humphrey Bogart was given his first true romantic lead role as Rick Blaine, the owner of the café where most of the action takes place. For once, he wasn’t playing the gangster, the heavy, or the detective. He still had the staunch attitude that made his previous roles seem hardened, but he also had the opportunity to show more emotional depth with this character. Rick takes an individualistic stance. He refuses to directly support either the émigrés or the Vichy officers. In that way, he was a metaphor for America’s entry into World War II, watching the rest of the world engage in battle but not becoming involved until it became personal. For the country, it was the bombing of Pearl Harbor. For Rick, it was when his blighted love, Ilsa, walked into his café.
“Here’s looking at you, kid.”
Ingrid Bergman matched Bogart’s emotional depth, but in a different way. She fell in love with Rick after she was told her husband had been killed in a Nazi concentration camp. When she found out that her husband was still alive, her heart – and the Hays Code – required she return to him. Her unexplained departure toughened Rick’s heart, but Ilsa never reconciled her emotions between these two men. It is apparent that her feelings wage war within her soul from the moment she and her husband, Victor Laszlo, enter Rick’s café. Bergman was quoted as saying she didn’t know which character, Victor or Rick, she was going to be with until the end was filmed. Neither did the audience.
“If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not on it, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.”
“But what about us?”
“We’ll always have Paris.”
Ilsa does not deny her love of Rick – not in the end – but both seem to accept that the circumstances don’t allow for this relationship to work out. They don’t simple refute their relationship without giving just cause. Rick and Ilsa’s relationship gets the closure it needed. They had reasons to love each other, but also accept the reason they had to be apart. That makes the ending stand out for not having a typical Hollywood ending, but still gives a resolution of their underlying desires. And, ultimately, the viewers empathize with the situation.
“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.”