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No. 3, February 2000
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Copyright 2000  www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.

Casablanca
Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Sydney Greenstreet, Claude Rains, Peter Lorre

 
Casablanca is one of the great classic movies thanks to its timeless ingredients: lost love, romance, intrigue, mystery and melodrama set against the background of the Second World War. The music score by Max Steiner also has its fair share in Casablanca's success (As Time Goes By). Last but not least come great actors such us Humphrey Bogart (Rick/Richard Blaine), Ingrid Bergman (Ilsa Lund), Paul Henreid (Victor Laszlo), Claude Rains (Captian Louis Renault), Sydney Greenstreet (Ferrari), Peter Lorre (Ugarte) and Conrad Veidt (Major Strasser).
 
In 1942, Hollywood's studio system was at its peak. Every major studio made a film a week. Casablanca was just one of them. Its succes was therefore less than predictable. Playwright Murray Brunett had been on a trip to Europe. A place in southern France inspired him to create the story in which Rick's Café Américain comprises the center where most of the action takes place. The Epstein brothers adapted the play for the big screen. Luckily enough for the producers, just a few days before the release of the film in 1942, the Allied forces had landed in Casablanca, a name that therefore caught the attention and imagination of movie-goers. Casablanca got an Oscar for "Best Picture" in 1943. It's worldwide success began after Humphrey Bogart's death in January 1957. By 1977, Casablanca was the movie most frequently shown on television.
 
In the film, Casablanca is a place in unoccupied France (Marocco) where persecuted persons desperately look for exit visas to escape from Nazi influence. Corrupt officials, crooks and dubious fortune-seekers try to profit from the refugees desperate situations. German couriers get killed and Letters of Transit signed by General DeGaulle are for sale. An underground movement leader who had escaped from a concentration camp and had been chased through Europe by the Nazis wants to buy the two Letters of Transit on the black market for his wife and himself.
 
Great lines define the different characters of Casablanca. Among the memorable exchanges is the scene in which Captain Louis Renault, the police prefect of Casablanca, asks the Americain club owner Rick: 
Renault: What brought you to Casablanca?
Rick: My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.
Renault: The waters? What waters? We're in the desert.
Rick: I was misinformed.
 
In another scene, Rick asks Renault: 
Rick: Why do you think I would help them [the underground movement leader and his wife] out? 
Renault: Because I suspect that under that cynical shell you are at heart a sentimental. [Renault gives two examples proving this, the second:] In 1936 you fought against the Fascist.
Rick: Against money. 
Renault: But the winners would have paid you much better.
 
Moviegoers learn from German Major Strasser about Rick: "You weren't always that neutral. We have a complete dossier on you. 'Richard Blaine, American. Age 37. Cannot return to his country.' The reason is vague."
 
In a flashback moviegoers learn about Rick's past in Paris that he had a brief but intense affair with a Norwegian woman - who turns out to be the underground leader's wife. The affair ended the day the Germans invaded Paris. She did not come to the train station to escape with Rick. In Casablanca she tells him that only during their last days in Paris did she learn that her husband had not died in the concentration camp and that was why she could not join him again.
 
In 1942, movie censorship reigned supreme and improper sexual content was eliminated from Casablanca, for instance a woman who was to have said: "It used to take a villa at Cannes, or at the very least, a string of pearls. Now all I ask is an exit visa."
 
One of the most quoted lines of the film is: "Play it again, Sam." That is a misquote since Ilsa actually said: "Play it Sam. Play 'As Time Goes By'". Dooley Wilson (Sam) sings a number of songs in Casablanca, among them As Time Goes By. But he only pretended to play the piano. The actual piano playing was dubbed by studio musician Elliot Carpenter. By the way, the song As Time Goes By was not commissioned for Casablanca but composed by Herman Hupfeld for a 1931 Broadway revue called Everybody's Welcome.
 
The script for Casablanca was not finished when production started. Michael Curtiz even could not tell Ingrid Bergman whether her character Ilsa would end up with Rick or Laszlo. So he asked her to "play it in between". That of course added to the film's magic. Three weeks after production had finished, Humphrey Bogart was asked to record a supplementary line during the last scene of the movie that is famous today. As we can see Rick and Captain Renault from the back walking away, Rick says: "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
 


Get Casablanca on DVD from Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, Directmedia Schweiz, Amazon.com, Amazon Canada (2 DVDs), Amazon.co.uk.
 
 

 

www.cosmopolis.ch
No. 3, February 2000
current edition & archives
Art  Film  Music  History  Politics  All Previous Articles
Links  For Advertisers  Feedback  German edition  Travel

Copyright 2000  www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.