JOHN OSTRANDER: Casablanca At 70 – You MUST Remember This
SPOILER WARNING: I’m assuming that people reading this have seen the movie and thus will be free with me discussing elements of the plot. If you’re one of those who haven’t, do yourself a favor and DON’T READ THIS. See the movie instead and have your own experience with it. Trust me. You’ll be glad you did. If you need a plot synopsis, IMDB has a good one here.
The movie Casablanca turns 70 this year and, to celebrate, Warner Bros is releasing it on Blu-Ray on March 27 and is also showing it, one night only, in selected movie theaters across the country on March 21. I’ve already got the tickets for Mary and myself.
I’ve seen the film at least twice now on the big screen and look forward to seeing it again – I’ve watched it countless number of times on DVD but the experience on the big screen is matchless. Those incredible close-ups of the three stars at the climax of the film are so stunning on a large screen.
My first experience with Casablanca, fortunately, was a showing at a second run small movie theater in Chicago (the 400) in an inspired double bill with Woody Allen’s Play It Again, Sam. I had put off seeing the film for the same reason I put off seeing or reading or listening to many things that I would later love – because people told me I had to see/read/listen to something and sometimes I’m a pig-headed idiot.
This was an audience that knew and loved the movie; they cheered and laughed at the best lines and scenes. In the famous dueling anthems scene, some audience members sang the Marseilles and the entire audience erupted into cheers when the French anthem triumphed over the Nazis. It was electrifying for the audience as well as the characters. What a great introduction to the film.
Over the years I’ve watched and became aware of different fine points of the movie. It was very much a picture of its time and reflected a reborn patriotism that came with the War effort. In a scene where Humphrey Bogart’s character, Rick, is waiting for Ingrid Bergman’s character, Ilsa, to come back to his nightclub after hours, he’s getting seriously drunk and asks his piano player and confidant, Sam (Dooley Wilson), “If it’s 1941 in Casablanca, what time is it in America?” That line isn’t just drunken slosh.
Earlier in the movie, Rick okays a credit slip dated December 2, 1941. It sets the events of the movie five days before the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor causing the United States entrance into World War II. Prior to this, much of America is isolationist and Rick embodies that. He “sticks his neck out for nobody.” He’s cynical and aloof; he never drinks with customers or employees. That all changes before the end of the film.
The fulcrum of change is the return of Ilsa, Rick’s former love in Paris before the Nazis matched in. You can’t much blame Rick for being in love with her; as played by a young Ingrid Bergman, Ilsa is radiant. Rick, however, has been burned. He was jilted by Ilsa just as they were to leave Paris together.
Rick’s change comes late in the film when he and Ilsa have been reconciled and she declares that she still loves him. Torn, upset, she tells Rick that he will have to decide for her, for everyone involved. Rick simply says, “Okay. I will.” That, however, changes everything. At that moment Rick becomes the man of action once more and everything moves forward at a gallop towards the climax.
Rick disposes of all his holdings. We assume it’s because he’s going off with Ilsa but that’s not his goal; he’s getting her out of Casablanca (along with her husband). He’s not out to kill the villainous Nazi Strasser (even though he does). He expects to wind up in jail, a concentration camp, or dead. That, more than anything else, marks him as a real hero – the degree to which he is willing to sacrifice himself.
There’s more to be said about Casablanca and I’ll say them next week. Until then – here’s looking at you, kid.
MONDAY: Mindy Newell, R.N., CNOR, C.G. (Comic Geek)
“Casablanca” is my all-time favorite film. I’ve enjoyed it since I was a kid and make it a point to watch it at least once or twice a year. When I finally bought a blu-ray player, this was the first blu-ray I had purchased (so, of course they had to come out with a new edition right afterward!).
So many great lines and moments. Strong performances. One of Ingrid Bergman’s best performances iin the film was when Sam was playing “As Time Goes By” and the camera stays focused on her. No dialogue, just a sad and comtemplative expression which got more morose as time elapsed.
My ticket has been purchased and I’m making sure I leave work a little early on Wednesday so I can see it in the theater. I’ve never seen it in that venue and look forward to seeing it with fellow admirers.
I had seen bits and pieces of Casablanca throughout my life of course but had never really sat down to watch the entire movie from beginning to end. Recently a Blockbuster Video rental store in my area was going out of business and was selling all their stock for about $5 – $10. I bought Scent of a Woman, Sin City, Punisher War Journal and Casablanca.
Casablanca is such a great film on so many levels: drama, love story, action movie, character piece. I think I already knew all that and I don’t know why I waiting so long to finally watch it.
Oh and I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, that I forgot to mention its a comedy too.
THE GREATEST MOVIE EVERY MADE!!!! whose script was changing daily. For example: up until the very last last moment absolutely NO ONE knew if Ilsa was getting on the plane with Victor or staying with Rick.
“I’m shocked, SHOCKED, to find there is gambling on these premises.”
“Your winnings, sir.”
“Are my eyes really brown?”
“What is your nationality?”
“I’m a drunkard.”
“I came to Casablanca for the waters.”
“Waters? What waters? We’re in the middle of the desert.”
“I was misinformed.”
“There are places in New York that I would advise even you to stay out of.”
I like the risque line Rick says to the woman who is trying to get an exit visa for her and her husband:
“How did you get in here? You’re underage.”
“I came with Captain Rennaut.”
“Ah, that figures.”
“My husband is with us too.”
“Really? The Captain is getting broad-minded.”