Casablanca (1942), starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Peter Lorre, Claude Rains, Sidney Greenstreet, directed by Michael Curtiz
In the early years of World War II, the Moroccan city of Casablanca attracts people from all over the globe. Many are transients trying to get out of Europe. Most of them—gamblers and refugees, Nazis, resistance fighters, corrupt officials and criminals—find their way to Rick’s Café Américain, a swank nightclub owned by American expatriate Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart). Though we learn later that Rick once harbored enough idealism to put himself at risk to fight fascism, he is an embittered and cynical man, loyal only to himself and his own financial benefit.
A criminal named Ugarte (played very memorably by Peter Lorre) comes to Rick’s with letters of transit he obtained by killing two German couriers. The papers allow the bearer to travel freely around German-controlled Europe, including to neutral Lisbon, Portugal; from Lisbon, it’s relatively easy to get to the United States. They are almost priceless to any of the refugees stranded in Casablanca.
Ugarte plans to make his fortune by selling them to the highest bidder, who is due to arrive at the club later that night. However, before the exchange can take place, Ugarte is arrested by the police under the command of Captain Louis Renault (an incredible performance by Claude Rains). A corrupt Vichy official, Renault accommodates the Nazis. Unknown to Renault and the Nazis, Ugarte had left the letters with Rick for safe keeping, because “somehow, just because you despise me, you are the only one I trust.”
Ilsa in Casablanca
Now the reason for Rick’s bitterness re-enters his life. Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) arrives with her husband Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) to purchase the letters. Laszlo is a renowned Czech Resistance leader who has escaped from a Nazi concentration camp. They must have the letters to escape to America to continue his work. At the time Ilsa first met and fell in love with Rick in Paris, she believed that her husband had been killed. When she discovered that Laszlo was still alive, she left Rick abruptly without explanation and returned to Laszlo, leaving Rick feeling betrayed and embittered.
The next night, Laszlo, suspecting that Rick has the letters, speaks with him privately about obtaining them. They’re interrupted when a group of Nazi officers, led by Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt), begins to sing “Die Wacht am Rhein,” a German patriotic song. Laszlo orders the house band to play “La Marseillaise” in retaliation. The band leader looks to Rick for guidance; he nods, proving that despite his hard exterior, he is still willing to fight for what is right. Laszlo starts singing, alone at first, then gradually one person after another joins in until soon the entire bar is singing, drowning out the Germans. In retaliation, Major Strasser orders Renault to close the club. “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”
Play it, Sam
Throughout the film, Rick and Ilsa torment themselves by reminiscing over their star-crossed love by asking the club’s piano player, Sam (Arthur “Dooley” Wilson), to play “As Time Goes By,” a song they loved when they were together in Paris. The line “Play it again, Sam” that so many people associate with Casablanca never actually occurs — Ilsa says “Play it, Sam,” and later, Rick says “Play it!”
Later that night, Ilsa confronts Rick in the deserted cafe. He refuses to give her the documents, even when threatened with a gun. She is unable to shoot, confessing that she still loves him. Rick decides to help Laszlo, leading her to believe that she will stay behind when Laszlo leaves.
Too dangerous to leave free …
Considering Laszlo too dangerous to leave free, Major Strasser arranges to have him jailed on a minor charge. Rick convinces Renault to release him, promising to frame Laszlo for a much more serious crime: possession of the letters. However, Rick double-crosses Renault, forcing him at gunpoint to assist in the escape. At the last moment, Rick makes Ilsa get on the plane to Lisbon with her husband, telling her that she would regret staying “Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.”
Major Strasser drives up, tipped off by Renault, but Rick shoots him when he tries to intervene. When the police arrive, Renault saves Rick’s life by telling them to “round up the usual suspects“. He then recommends that they both leave Casablanca. They disappear into the fog with one of the most memorable exit lines in movie history. “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Songs in Casablanca
- La Marseillaise, (1792) Written by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle. Played during the opening credits, sung by Madeleine Lebeau and others at Rick’s.
- It Had to Be You, (1924) music by Isham Jones, lyrics by Gus Kahn
- Shine (1910) music by Ford Dabney, lyrics by Lew Brown and Cecil Mack
- Crazy Rhythm (1928). Music by Joseph Meyer and Roger Wolfe Kahn. Played when Rick turns the man away and then talks to Ugarte
- Knock on Wood (1942) music by M.K. Jerome, lyrics by Jack Scholl
- The Very Thought of You (1934) Music by Ray Noble, Played when Ferrari offers to buy Rick’s. Shen Rick sends Yvonne home. Also when Sascha kisses Rick after Rick’s good deed
- Baby Face (1926) Music by Harry Akst, Performed when Renault tells Rick that there’s going to be an arrest
- I’m Just Wild About Harry (1921) Music by Eubie Blake, Played when Renault goes downstairs and joins Major Strasser’s party
- Heaven Can Wait (1939) Music by Jimmy Van Heusen, Played when Rick is introduced to Major Strasser
- As Time Goes By (1931) Written by Herman Hupfeld
- You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby (1938). Music by Harry Warren, Played when Yvonne walks into Rick’s with the German officer
- Rick never says “Play it again, Sam.” He says: “You played it for her, you can play it for me. Play it!”. Ilsa says “Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By“‘.
- The line “Here’s looking at you, kid.” was voted as the #1 of “The 100 Greatest Movie Lines” by Premiere in 2007.
- The movie’s line “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world, she walks into mine.” was voted as the #84 of “The 100 Greatest Movie Lines” by Premiere in 2007.
- The movie’s line “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” was voted as the #65 of “The 100 Greatest Movie Lines” by Premiere in 2007.
- The line “I stick my neck out for nobody.” was voted as the #42 of “The 100 Greatest Movie Lines” by Premiere in 2007.
- The movie’s line “Round up the usual suspects.” was voted as the #32 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100).
- The line “We’ll always have Paris.” was voted as the #43 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100).
Editorial review of Casablanca, starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, courtesy of Amazon.com
A truly perfect movie, the 1942 Casablanca still wows viewers today, and for good reason. Its unique story of a love triangle set against terribly high stakes in the war against a monster is sophisticated instead of outlandish, intriguing instead of garish. Humphrey Bogart plays the allegedly apolitical club owner in unoccupied French territory that is nevertheless crawling with Nazis; Ingrid Bergman is the lover who mysteriously deserted him in Paris; and Paul Heinreid is her heroic, slightly bewildered husband. Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Conrad Veidt are among what may be the best supporting cast in the history of Hollywood films. This is certainly among the most spirited and ennobling movies ever made. — Tom Keogh
Trivia for Casablanca, starring Humphrey Bogart
- Dooley Wilson (Sam) was a professional drummer who faked playing the piano. As the music was recorded at the same time as the film, the piano playing was actually a recording of a performance by Elliot Carpenter. He was playing behind a curtain, positioned such that Dooley could watch, and copy, his hand movements.
- Conrad Veidt, who played Major Strasser, was well known in Germany for his hatred of the Nazis. In fact, he was forced to hurriedly escape the country … When he found out that the SS had sent a death squad after him because of his anti-Nazi activities.
- Many of the actors who played the Nazis were in fact German Jews who had escaped from Nazi Germany.
- In the 1980s, this film’s script was sent to readers at a number of major studios under its original title. Some readers recognized the script but most did not. Many complained that the script was “not good enough” to make a decent movie. Others gave such complaints as “too dated”, “too much dialog” and “not enough sex”.
- S.Z. Sakall, who plays the maitre d’ at Rick’s Cafe, actually has more screen time than Peter Lorre or Sydney Greenstreet.
- Rick and Ilsa standing over Sam’s piano in Paris was the first scene to be shot. Filming a tender love scene with two actors who had just met was not planned. But the filming of Now, Voyager (1942) had gone over schedule. So Paul Henreid and Claude Rains were not available. To prepare for working with Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman watched The Maltese Falcon (1941) many times.
- Madeleine LeBeau, who plays Yvonne, and Marcel Dalio, who plays croupier Emil, were husband and wife during filming. They had not long before escaped the Nazis by fleeing their native France.