Review: Casablanca (1943)





Michael Curtiz


Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch (Play: Everybody Comes to Rick’s by Murray Burnett, Joan Alison)


102 min.


Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, S.Z. Sakall, Madeline LeBeau, Dooley Wilson, Joy Page, John Qualen, Leonid Kinskey

MPAA Rating


Buy/Rent Movie




It’s been called the greatest film romance of all time. That kind of appellation has been tossed around almost as frequently as the lines in the movie Casablanca. However, the moniker isn’t far from the truth as the film is certainly one of the finest examples of screenwriting in the history of film.

A popular nightclub in the French Moroccan city of Casablanca is the setting for dark intrigue, love and murder. The only way out of Casablanca is with the right papers, which aren’t cheap and if you’re a resistance leader like Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), they are impossible to come by. Enter Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart),proprietor of Rick’s Café Américain. Through a strange twist of events, he endsup with such papers and Victor wants them. Unfortunately, one thing stands inthe way. The woman who walked out on Rick as the Germans invaded Paris has just walkedinto his “gin joint” on the arm of the respected rebel. Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman)wants to flee with her husband but she must first come to terms with herex-lover.

Casablanca has long been one of the most quoted films ever released. Lines like “here’s looking at you, kid” and “you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life” have been such an integral part of the modern lexicon that many who’ve never seen the film may be unfamiliar with the origin. Why is the film so quotable? Perhaps it’s because the dialogue in Casablanca is as timeless today as it was when it was written in 1943. Watching the film, you might even think the director decided to employ some black-and-white technique like Steven Spielberg did in Schindler’s List.

Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch adapted Murray Bennett and Joan Alison’s play Everybody Comes to Rick’s to the screen. The result is a story about the perils oflove during a time of war. Where everyone is looking out for himself, it’s difficult to find your way when all you want is to be loved and have someone love you in return. What Rick and Ilsa shared in Paris was nothing compared to what they shared in Casablanca. Rick comes to understand why Ilsa abandoned him and Ilsa comes to understand just how much Rick really cared for her.

Bogart’s performance here is as stiff as ever. It works. Rick isn’t a cold-hearted man, he’s just a rationalist. He believes that there is little inside of his control, so he takes care of everything he can and lets the rest brush by him. However, in many of the more intimate scenes, Bogartdoesn’t seem well suited as a love interest. Much of the chemistry the audiencefeels between the two can be attributed to Bergman’s passionate performance. Bergman was one of the screen’s most talented actresses and through movies like Casablanca and Gaslight, she emerged as one of the most sought after actresses and it’s not hard to see why. She had grace, beauty and, the most absent of quality among such thesps, talent. Bergman kept Casablanca afloat and though her character is far from the liberated woman many would expect to see nowadays, she is nevertheless an inimitable presence on the screen.

When Casablanca premiered in Los Angeles in 1943, the United States had already entered the Second World War and Britain was preparing an invasion of Morocco. At the time, many considered the film to be only a slight piece of escapism. When looking back at the glossy pics of the 1940s and how many of them looked at the war through rose-tinted glasses in an attempt to parlay success into support of the war, Casablanca really was a different motion picture. There were the standard jabs at the Germans and a few at the French but overall, the film was about far more than just a single romance. The Casablanca of the film was a place to escape lives of persecution and hope to find a way out. The romance fit perfectly into this picture as Rick and Ilsa were not only trying to escape the war, they were trying to escape each other. What better backdrop was there for such a destined love affair?

“It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.” Today we can.

Review Written

October 24, 2006

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