1 Year, 100 Movies: #3 Casablanca (1942)


For 1 Year, 100 Movies, I will watch all of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list (compiled in 2007) in one year- and will complete a goal on my 2013 Manifesto. Come along on the ride with me- oh, and please pass the popcorn!

Casablanca” is a beautiful blend of drama, comedy, romance and suspense. Parts of the film are almost dream-like in quality, especially with the added elements of danger, and despite the dated plot line, this film seems to be outside time itself. It continues to be hailed as America’s go-to favorite film, a true timeless classic, and the most loved romance. This film is run like a Swiss watch, with not a moment wasted- but the pace is such that you float away with it, getting lost in the love, the classic lines, the beautiful scenery and that unforgettable tune, “As Time Goes By.”

Casablanca” is the story of Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), an ex-freedom fighter who runs an American nightclub in Casablanca, and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), Rick’s true love who deserted him when the Nazies invaded Paris. World War II is still in its early stages, and Rick, having had his heart broken has made a place for himself in Casablanca- the crucial point for those wishing to make it to America. His cafe has become a haven for refugees looking to purchase illicit letters of transit, even though he claims to be politically neutral. A petty crook, Ugarte (Peter Lorre) comes to Rick’s cafe and boasts to Rick of the letters of transit he has obtained by murdering two German couriers. These papers would allow the owner to travel anywhere in the German-controlled Europe, and to the neutral Portugal- the jumping off point for refugees to escape to America. He plans to sell them at the club, but before he can is arrested, and dies in custody.

The famed rebel Victor Laszio (Paul Henreid), and his wife Ilsa, arrive at Rick’s cafe. Victor wishes to speak to Rick, and in the meantime, Ilsa recognizes Sam, (Dooley Wilson), Rick’s friend and house pianist. She asks him to play “As Time Goes By”- for old time’s sake. It is a stunning emotional moment. Rick storms over, furious that Sam is playing the song he ordered him to never play again, and sees Ilsa!! Victor makes inquires, and finds out that Rick may have the letters of transit. He speaks with Rick about them, but Rick refuses to sell them at any price- telling Victor to ask his wife the reason. They are interrupted by German Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt), (who has come to Casablanca to make sure Victor does not make it to America) who is singing “Die Wacht am Rhein”, a German patriotic anthem with a group of German officers. Victor orders the band to play “La Marseillaise”, the national anthem of France, which Rick okays- this act gets the club closed down.

That night Rick has Sam play “As Time Goes By” for him, saying if she can stand it, he can too. Ilsa confronts Rick after the song, but he refuses to give her the letters of transit, even after she pulls a gun on him. She cannot shoot him, and confesses that she still loves him- and explains how she thought her husband dead during a botched attempt at escape from a concentration camp when she met Rick in Paris. She found out that he was alive and injured- needing her help- the same day that she was meant to escape Paris from the Nazi invasion with Rick – and that was the reason she abandoned him with only a letter. Rick’s bitterness is gone after he finds out the truth, and he agrees to help, leading her to believe that she will stay with him when Victor leaves.

Victor is arrested on a minor charge, and Rick gets Renault to release him, convincing Renault that he will set Victor up with a much more serious crime- possession of the letters of transit. He also tells Renault that he and Isla will be leaving for America together. They go forward with the plan, and as Renault tries to arrest Victor as arranged, Rick forces him at gunpoint to assist in their escape. At the last moment, Rick makes Isla board the plane to Lisbon with her husband Victor, telling her she would regret it if she stayed- “Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.” ‘They will always have Paris’, and finally he lets her go with what is maybe the most famous movie line, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

Strasser was tipped off by Renault, and as he shows up alone and tries to intervene, is shot and killed by Rick. After the police arrive, Renault hesitates, then tells them to ’round up the usual suspects.’ Renault suggests to Rick that they join the Free French in Brazzaville, and as they walk away into the fog, Rick says ‘Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

This lovely romantic film is wrapped up in an entirely satisfying and logical manner- if not a completely happy one. It makes the most sense for the film, and reveals the true depth of the emotions involved. These characters loved and lost- and give it all up for what is right because of their selflessness for the other. It’s a beautiful thing.

In my humble, non-professional, average movie-goer opinion this movie earns:



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