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This is a film that MUST belong in every video collection in the U.S. is not
in the world. The stories about it's making are legendary from the constant
rewrites to the apocrypha of casting stories.
What is amazing to me, and the reason I believe it holds audiences almost spellbound in successive viewings, is the connection with the horrors of World War II was almost every single cast member. Sidney Greenstreet had lost a son in combat, and a number of the cast members fled Europe to escape the ravages of a Hitler regime. Even the evil Nazi character Major Strasser (played with relish by Conrad Veidt) had left Nazi Germany to escape almost sure internment and possible death in a concentration camp. Here was a man who was a legend in German film history as the murdering somnambulist (a possible warning about the Nazi soldiers to come?) and because of the vicious anti-Semitism and racism of the Germany of the '30s and '40s, we in America and in Hollywood were given a great gift.
Everyone in this film is fabulous, but it is the chemistry of Rick (Bogart) and Ilsa (Bergman) been truly holds the film together. When I saw this film almost frame by frame in the limited book series of classic films that were produced in the late 1960s, I was stunned by the subtlety of facial expressions that conveyed so much of Rick Blaine's character by a marvelous actor Humphrey Bogart. There is a reason why he was named the actor of the century.
While every person in the film becomes a real flesh and blood presence, the story of Rick and Ilsa is the center of this cinema feast.
I must confess that I have seen this picture so many times that I can recite every single line in the movie to the consternation of my wife who can't watch it with me anymore.
The line that sticks out the most for me, and which against cheers from New Yorkers whenever it plays in the theater. It is when Bogart says to the Nazis seated at his table, "There are parts of New York I wouldn't advise you to invade." And what makes this line so memorable is that Humphrey Bogart did indeed star in another motion picture for Warner Brothers where that very thing formed the basis for the script. That movie was "All Through The Night." I love this movie too, and I'm not even a New Yorker.
There have been many attempts to revisit "Casablanca," but only the original makes you really feel what it was like to live through "The Good War" in a faraway place like Casablanca in French Morocco.
Even though such trickery as midget airport workers, fog machines and cardboard cutout airplanes were utilized, this film convinces through its beautiful story with many layers, and characters that are so well realized.
If you've never seen this movie before, shame on you and see it immediately. If you only seen it once, I believe you will come back to it more than once. This is just about the most perfect film ever made and it is a miracle that that is so considering that there were so many hands in the pie. (Excuse me for my mixing my metaphors. It's late, and I get emotional just thinking about this classic film masterpiece.)
Play it again and again and again and again, Sam.
The Petrified Forest convinced the world Bogart was a bad guy. And for
years he shocked and awed the audience with roles fitting that image.
The Maltese Falcon showed a new kind hero, one with an edge. Bogart,
with all the right things to say and seemingly never losing his cool.
Then came Casablanca and the ages. The man's man comes with a heart.
Arguably, three of his best pictures. All showing a change in a man's
character and the depths of what acting is supposed to be. Maybe it was
Warner Bros all along. Maybe Bogart was simply Bogart.
What can I say about this film that hasn't been said in over 60 years since its release. Is it a great film? Yes. Is it a showcase for Bogart? If not, than what else. Was Bogart the coolest guy to ever live? Absolutely. Casablanca is a different kind of love story, more likely to infect rather than effect.
She almost makes me believe it every time. When she says, "You're very kind." Bergman was more than just beautiful. And with Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt and Peter Lorre, cinema magic was created. But to me, Bogart was the greatest actor of all time. It's hard for me to believe he died almost 50 years ago. Every time I watch his films, it's like they were made yesterday. And that's why he is timeless. I'm still trying to figure him out.
"I should never have switched from scotch to martinis." Is said to be Bogart's last words. A legend, indeed.
It's one of the great Hollywood legends how George Raft helped make
Humphrey Bogart a leading man by turning down in succession, High
Sierra, The Maltese Falcon, and Casablanca. Maybe Raft showed some good
sense in letting a better actor handle those roles. In any event we've
got some proof in the case of Casablanca.
Check out some time a film called Background to Danger that Warner Brothers did with George Raft that also featured Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. Had Raft ever done Casablanca the film would have been a routine action/adventure story just like Background to Danger. Instead with Bogey we get that, but also one of the great love stories of the century.
Humphrey Bogart set the standard for playing expatriate American soldiers of fortune in Casablanca. Right now he's between wars running Rick's Cafe Americain in Casablanca in Morocco, an area controlled for the moment by the Vicky French government. He's got his fingers in a whole lot of pies, but Bogey operates with his own code of ethics. He sticks his neck out for nobody.
Nobody except the great love of his life Ingrid Bergman who left him mysteriously in Paris as he was fleeing the oncoming German occupation. She walks back into his life with a husband, Paul Henreid who is a well known anti-fascist leader.
The rest of the film is a contest for Bogey's soul. Torn between his great love, his own anti-fascist beliefs, and certain practical necessities of operating a liquor and gaming establishment in a hostile environment.
So many things combine to make Casablanca the great film it is. Ingrid Bergman's lovely incandescence melding and melting Bogey's cynical screen persona. The indelible characterizations of Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt and the whole rest of a 100% perfectly cast film. And the revival of a great ballad which serves as Casablanca's theme song.
I say revival because As Time Goes By was introduced in 1931 in the George White Scandals on Broadway by Rudy Vallee. He made a record of it which sold quite a few disks back then. But by the merest of coincidences there was a strike that lasted two years that just began around the time Casablanca came out. The Musicians Union struck against the record companies. With no new records being made RCA Victor re-released Vallee's record and it became a monster hit on revival.
Also when Casablanca came out as if the White House had a personal interest in the film FDR and Churchill had the first of their wartime conferences in----Casablanca of all places. Jack Warner must have said a prayer for that to happen.
There are so many classic scenes and lines from Casablanca you can write a comment just by listing them. But my favorite has always been when the Germans have taken over Rick's place and are singing some of their songs, Paul Henreid goes to orchestra leader and asks him to lead La Marsellaise. With a nod from Bogey, the orchestra plays, Henreid leads them and the rest of the non-Germans in the cafe join in. Over 60 years later, one still gets a thrill from that act of defiance.
Bogart and Rains were nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. Any of the others could have been as well. As I said before Casablanca is perfectly cast right down to minor roles like Curt Bois as a pickpocket, John Qualen as a fellow resistance leader, and S.Z. Sakall as a waiter at Rick's. If there was an award for ensemble cast, Casablanca would have won it. As it was it did win for Best Picture of 1943 and best director for Michael Curtiz.
Casablanca will be seen and loved by filmgoers for generations unto infinity, as time goes by.
While there's not anything new to be said about "Casablanca", it's good to
see one of the classics still getting some attention. By most standards it
is at least very good, and there are good reasons why so many still remember
it so fondly. Not everyone who watches it today shares the opinion that it
is a classic, but it's still good to see fans of modern movies giving it a
try for themselves.
The cast is one of its main strengths, not just Bogart and Bergman but also the fine supporting cast. Rains, Greenstreet, Lorre, and the others are indispensable to the atmosphere and the story, and each has some very good moments. It does have its imperfections, but it was not expected to be a classic or blockbuster - everything you read about the production suggests that it was made in a rather slap-dash fashion, under constraints that would have wrecked most other films. It's not hard to see the little ways that this affected the finished product, such as the times when the plot strains credibility a bit, or the characters seem to behave somewhat oddly. (In particular, it might have been even more satisfying if Bergman's character had been a little stronger - Ilsa is charming, but that's entirely thanks to what Bergman does with her; the character herself as written seems somewhat shallow.)
But it turned out anyway to be an excellent combination of actors, characters, and story, a combination that more than makes up for everything else. Different viewers probably remember and enjoy "Casablanca" for different reasons, because it seemingly has a little of everything. While perhaps not perfect, it is well worth remembering and watching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Michael Curtiz's "Casablanca" opens on maps while a narrator gives a
detailed exposition of the many twists and turns of Casablanca in the
French Morocco, as a refugee route from wartime Europe...
The Nazi envoy, Major Heinrich Strasser puts it: 'Human life is cheap in Casablanca." Of course because a man may be executed in its crowded market before Marshal Pétain's portrait or where a charming girl may guarantee an exit visa by spending her night with the Prefect of Police...
Rick's Café is the point of intersection, the espionage center, the background for Allied offensive, the focal point as refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe seek to gain exit visas to Lisboa... The interesting club so well organized, leads to an open arena of conspiracy, counterspies, secret plans, black market transactions, in which the games and fights are between arrogant Nazis, patriotic French, idealists, murderers, pickpockets and gamblers around a roulette wheel, where a ball could rest on Rick's command against the settled number 22...
"Casablanca" is an adventure film which victory is not won with cannons and guns... The action, the fight, the war takes place inside Rick's walls rather than outside...
But who is this Rick? What is his magical power? His secret weapon? Rick is the anti-fascist with hard feelings, the former soldier of fortune who has grown tired of smuggling and fighting, and is now content to sit out the war in his own neutral territory... Even loyalty to a friend doesn't move him as he refuses to help Ugarte, a desperately frightened little courier who is fleeing from the police...
Emphatically, Rick says, "I stick my neck out for nobody." But we know he will do just that in a very short time, for into his quiet life comes a haunting vision from his past, the beautiful woman he still loves and bitterly remembers... She is married to an underground leader and she desperately needs those papers Rick conveniently now has in his possession... The cynical Rick's facade of neutrality begins to weaken as he recalls the bittersweet memories of his past love affair, memories triggered repeatedly when the strains of "As Time Goes By" come from Sam, his piano-playing confidante...
But "Casablanca" basic message is a declaration of self-sacrifice... War World II demanded all! The words stated by Rick at the airport had their impact: 'The problems of three people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.' It goes without saying that Bogart is incomparable when he seems most like himself... His way with a line makes "Casablanca" dialog part of the collective memory: 'I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray. You were blue.'
Intermixed in this intrigue are all the fascinating and beautifully acted supporting roles With his customary skill, Claude Rains plays Major Renault, a prefect of police who is like Bogart in many ways... He, too, claims neutrality, but is definitely against the Nazis... He is Rick's most devoted adversary, tauntingly calling the man a "sentimentalist" and delivering his share of cynically amusing lines... When he makes a small bet and is encouraged to make a bigger one, he remarks that he is only a "poor corrupt official."
Ingrid Bergman is fascinating as the lovely heroine, the mysterious impossible woman of an impossible love, the tender mood of every man, the love-affair, the quality of being romantic, the traditional woman enclosed by two rivals, symbol of a besieged Europe...
Paul Henreid is Victor Laszlo, the anti-Nazi resistance leader, seeking in Morocco the two letters of transit signed by General De Gaulle...
Sidney Greenstreet is the black marketeer on good terms with Rick, the rival owner of the 'Blue Parrot,' the acceptable face of corruption...
Peter Lorre is Ugarte, the racketeer, the dealer of anything illegal, the killer, driven into a corner by the Vichy police, who has given Rick two letter of transit...
Conrad Veidt is the very essence of German rigidity, unfeeling, unconcerned about life, but firmly believing in the foolish ideology of his Nazi compatriots...
"Casablanca" covers many highlights: The Marseillaise against the Horst Wessel song inspiring sequence; the blissful days in Paris; Ilsa's emotional words to Rick in occupied Paris; the champagne toast; Ilsa's request to Sam; the poetry of the magic words and the beautiful voice of Dooley Wilson; Captain Renault's words in the airport; and the farewell...
The magic that developed from the teaming of Bogart and Bergman is enough to make a new romantic figure out of the former tough guy... To his cynicism, his own code of ethics, his hatred of the phoniness in all human behavior, he now added the softening traits of tenderness and compassion and a feeling of heroic commitment to a cause... They helped him complete the portrayal of the ideal man who all men wished to rival...
One can look at hundreds of films produced during this period without finding any whose composite pieces fall so perfectly into place... Its photography is outstanding, the music score is inventive, the editing is concise and timed perfectly... Bogart's and Bergman's love scenes create a genuinely romantic aura, capturing a sensitivity between the two stars one would not have believed possible...
"Casablanca" is a masterpiece of entertainment, an outstanding motion picture which brought Bogart his first Academy Award nomination (he lost to Paul Lukas for "Watch On the Rhine") and won Awards for Best Picture of the Year, Best Director and Best Screenplay...
While my personal Bogey favorite is still his Sam Spade in 'The Maltese
Falcon', his cynical nightclub owner, Rick, in 'Casablanca', is also a
standout. Rather than some "off the cuff" comments, I'll quote instead from
my article on Claude Rains (from March 2000 issue of CLASSIC IMAGES) that
pretty well sums up the film:
"It was 1943's 'Casablanca', bustling with melodramatic wartime intrigue, that really put him (Claude Rains) in the forefront as one of the screen's smoothest character actors, almost--but not quite--stealing the film from Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, as the uniformed Captain Louis Renault who investigates the goings-on at Rick's notorious cafe.
Nobody associated with the film guessed that it would become a screen classic, least of all its director, Michael Curtiz, the prolific WB director to whom it was just another assignment. It went on to win the Oscar for Best Film of 1943 with an award for Curtiz' taut direction.
Oddly enough, the film's memorable airport ending was written and conceived just shortly before filming wrapped up, with neither Bergman nor Bogart knowing whether or not she would leave him for husband Paul Henried. Wartime audiences loved the film. Sydney Greenstreet, Conrad Veidt, Victor Francen and Peter Lorre all gave sterling performances and Rains was again nominated for Best Supporting actor."
And by the way, I disagree with a former comment indicating the black and white photography of this film was primitive as compared to today's. Incredible nonsense!! As a matter of fact, the film's black and white cinematography was nominated for an Oscar!
Ingrid Bergman was at the peak of her radiant beauty in this one--and Bogey was firing on all six cylinders. Great chemistry!
As time goes by, we still have 'Casablanca'...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
CASABLANCA is the best treatment ever of the ancient theme of the love
triangle. Set in World War II Casablanca, a Moroccan city under the control
of the collaborationist Vichy French government, the movie starts with a
news wire that two German couriers have been murdered and their letters of
transit stolen. Each letter will permit one person to leave Casablanca to a
Enter Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine, owner of the shady but cheerful Cafe Americaine. Rick is a cynical and hard-nosed man whose motto is, "I stick my neck out for nobody." Like many a cynic, Rick is an embittered ex-idealist, still nursing his wounds from being abandoned by his lover Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman). By chance he falls into possession of the missing letters of transit.
Enter Ilsa, who comes to Casablanca on the arm of Czech Resistance leader Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), a few steps ahead of the Nazi police. We now have three people and two letters of transit. Who will reach America, and who will stay in Casablanca?
I know no other movie that so perfectly balances humor, romance, and drama. The soul of good drama lies in presenting characters with hard choices, and few choices are as hard, or as illuminating of the protagonists' makeup, as the choices in CASABLANCA. All of the characters must decide what they will give up for love, for honor, and for themselves. The scenes of Rick and Ilsa's love, years ago in Paris, are some of the finest romantic scenes in cinema. And the humor, particularly in the person of Casablanca's Prefect of Police, Louis Renault, has contributed dozens of dry witticisms to our everyday language - "I am shocked! Shocked! - "The Germans wore gray, you wore blue." - "I was misinformed." - "It would take a miracle to get you out of Casablanca, and the Germans have outlawed miracles." So perfectly blended are these three major elements that you cannot point to a single shot or scene that should have been eliminated from the movie. Never try to watch only one scene from CASABLANCA; you will inevitably be absorbed until the very end of the film. It is little short of miraculous that the chaotically mismanaged shooting of this movie resulted in such a magnificent final product; it speaks volumes for luck and for Owen Marks' and Michael Curtiz' post-production editing.
I have never encountered a movie whose supporting cast was so perfectly realized. Every minor character is a fleshed-out, realistic individual, from Sasha to Carl the headwaiter to Rick's competitor Ferrari to the self-effacing criminal Ugarte. Claude Rains' Captain Renault ("I'm only a poor corrupt official") steals scene after scene, and Dooley Wilson's Sam is a refreshingly loyal, charismatic and sympathetic conception from an era when almost all black characters were rendered as demeaning stereotypes. The only character who tastes of the cliche is the villainous Major Strasser, which can be forgiven in a wartime production.
The only film I have ever seen as tautly effective as CASABLANCA is GLORY. Although the 54th Mass.'s story is arguably superior even to CASABLANCA for sheer dramatic power and acting talent, GLORY lacks CASABLANCA's wonderful humor and romance, which causes me to give the edge to Curtiz' classic as the better-rounded movie. I have yet to see CASABLANCA surpassed.
Rating: **** out of ****.
Casablanca is the consummate Hollywood film. It is superbly directed,
acted, and filmed. Bogart is amazing, the characters are deep and engaging.
This is easily one of the greatest films of all time. The story is timeless and meaningful, full of heart and should endure for another fifty years with no problems. A true masterpiece and the benchmark by which all other films should be measured. If you haven't seen it, you are at a profound loss. If you have then you know the greatness of this film.
Sunday, November the 20th is the anniversary of Marcel Dalio's death in
1983. It was the end of a serendipitous life. You know him. He was a
citizen of the world. Born Israel Moshe Blauschild, in Paris, in 1900,
he became a much sought-after character actor. His lovely animated face
with its great expressive eyes became familiar across Europe. He
appeared in Jean Renoir's idiosyncratic Rules of the Game, and Grand
Illusion, arguably the greatest of all films. True to his Frenchman's
heart, he married the very young, breathtaking beauty Madeleine LeBeau.
He worked with von Stroheim and Pierre Chenal. He had it all.
But then the Germans crushed Poland, swept across Belgium and pressed on toward Paris. He waited until the last possible moment and finally, with the sound of artillery clearly audible, with Madeleine, fled in a borrowed car to Orleans and then, in a freight train, to Bordeaux and finally to Portugal. In Lisbon, they bribed a crooked immigration official and were surreptitiously given two visas for Chile. But on arriving in Mexico City, it was discovered the visas were rank forgeries. Facing deportation, Marcel and Madeleine found themselves making application for political asylum with virtually every country in the western hemisphere. Weeks passed until Canada finally issued them temporary visas and they left for Montreal.
Meanwhile, France had fallen and, in the process of subjugating the country, the Germans had found some publicity stills of Dalio. A series of posters were produced and were then displayed throughout the city with the caption 'a typical Jew' so that citizens could more easily report anyone suspected of unrepentant Jewishness. The madness continued. 'Entree des artistes', a popular film, was ordered re-edited so that Dalio's scenes could be deleted and re-shot with another, non-Jewish, actor.
After a short time, friends in the film industry arranged for them to arrive in Hollywood. Nearly broke, Marcel was immediately put to work in a string of largely forgettable films. Madeleine, a budding actress in her own right, was ironically cast in 'Hold Back the Dawn', a vehicle for Charles Boyer with a plot driven by the efforts of an émigré (Boyer) trying desperately to cross into the United States from Mexico. But the real irony was waiting at Warner Brothers.
In early 1942, Jack Warner was driving production of a film based on a one act play, 'Everybody Comes to Rick's' but had no screenplay. What he had was a mishmash of treatments loosely based on the play and two previous movies. But he had a projected release date and a commitment to his distributors to have a movie for that time slot and little else. Warner Brothers started to wing it.
Shooting started without a screenplay and little plot. Principal players were cast and a director hired but casting calls for supporting roles and bit players continued and sometime in the early spring Marcel Dalio and Madeleine LeBeau were cast as, respectively, a croupier and a romantic entanglement for the male lead. Veteran screen-writers were hired to produce a running screenplay, sometimes delivering pages of dialogue one day, for scenes to be shot the following day. No one knew exactly where the plot would go or how the story would turn out. No one was sure of the ending. And, of course, they produced a classic, perhaps the finest American movie.
They produced a screenplay of multiple genres, rich with characterizations, perfectly in tune with the unfolding events in Europe and loaded with talent from top to bottom. Oh, and they changed the title to 'Casablanca'.
It is so well known, that many lines of long-memorized dialogue have passed into the slang idiom. 'We'll always have Paris', 'I was misinformed', 'Here's looking at you, kid', ' I am shocked! Shocked! To find that there's gambling going on in here!', 'Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship', 'Oh he's just like any other man, only more so', 'I don't mind a parasite. I object to a cut-rate one', 'Round up the usual suspects', and, of course, the oft quoted, apocryphal, 'Play it again, Sam'.
Madeleine LeBeau plays Yvonne, the jilted lover of Humphrey Bogart, who is seen drowning her sorrows at the bar early in the film and who later, to get back at Rick and looking for solace takes up with a German officer finding only self-hatred. She is luminous.
And when Claude Rains delivers the signature line, 'I'm shocked! Shocked! To find that there's gambling going on in here!' the croupier, Emil, played by Marcel Dalio, approaches from the roulette table and says simply, 'Your winnings, sir.' It is a delicious moment ripe with scripted irony, one among many in this film, but one made all the more so, knowing where Dalio came from and what he and his wife had endured to arrive at that line.
I have often wondered exactly when they saw the final script or if they only realised the many parallels to their own lives when the film was released.
Alas, they separated and divorced the next year, both going on to long successful careers. Dalio never remarried.
Late in his career, when Mike Nichols was looking for a vaguely familiar face to deliver a long and worldly, near-monologue in Catch-22, he turned to Dalio. Faced with a hopelessly idealistic young American pilot, Dalio, as simply 'old man in whore house', in tight close-up, delivers a discourse on practical people faced with impractical circumstances, of the virtues of expedience in the face of amorality . Using his wonderful plastic features, now beginning to sag, in a voice full of melancholy, the old man reassures the young man that regardless of what 'grand themes' may be afoot in the world, in the end, little matters but survival.
Most teenagers don't watch classics I know. But after they've seen this
one, there's no turning back! This is the classic to end all classics
(That and Gone With The Wind which rocked! but the ending was a bit
unusual.) I had been an Ingrid Bergman fan after watching Gaslight with
my drama class. It was great because I love a good mystery type thing.
Casablanca was a bit confusing at first, but I found out in the end that it has just the right blend of romance, drama, and comedy. Plus, my dad instilled in me a love for all things World War II related.
I would recommend this movie for children 15 and older, not because there's anything bad, but simply because I don't think younger children would understand it. You guys my age, this is a great Sit-down-and-watch-with-your-girl-on-a-rainy-afternoon type movie, and parents already love it, so everyone's happy.
I always say when I write these things that, even though I liked it, you might not. CHeck it out for yourself and form your own opinion.
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