80 years ago, on January 23, 1942 a now classic movie premiered to low expectations.  Humphrey Bogart didn’t like his role, and the screenplay was considered a bit too cliché-ed.  Bogey had always played a tough guy, but here he was just a saloon operator, in French Morocco and yet everyone on screen spoke English.  It seemed a bit much, but with nothing else to do and war coming on, Bogey signed, as did Ingrid Bergman, Paul Heinreid, Claude Raines, Sidney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre. 

If, incredibly, you haven’t seen it, Casablanca was a tale of desperate people trying to survive or escape the long tentacles of the Third Reich way out there in northern Africa.  Or was it a love triangle between two men and a beautiful woman?  Or was it a vehicle for geo-politics?  Any of those three would fit, but the movie would not be complete without its weaving all three together in a seamless 100 minutes of film.

Whoever owns the rights to play Casablanca figured out that now is a fine time to put that great show in theatres so that the three generations then unborn could see it on the big screen and have that opportunity.  Kat and I were on Pensacola Beach and while I really wanted to see it in a theatre, the only cinemas showing it offered only two dates, and only 7:30 p.m. shows.  We don’t love driving at night and did not go.  I ordered it on Netflix.

Much has changed in 80 years.  Cigarettes!  Everyone smoked on camera and used them as hand props.  Censorship!  This weak-scripted movie was lucky to be pitched to Warner Brothers on December 8, 1941, a day after Pearl Harbor and a day or two before Hitler declared war on the USA.  The writers had to get approval of our government, thus making this work of art also an effective tool to boost our war effort.

The dialogue is full of stuff people have said for most of my life.  Bogart to Bergman: “Here’s looking at you, kid.”   Claude Rains to the Germans:  “We will round up all the usual suspects!”  Bogart to the camera:  “Of all the gin joints in all the world, she had to walk into mine.”  Bergman to Bogart:  “You have to think responsibly for all of us.”  Bogey to … (sorry, I forgot):  “The problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this world.” 

And who can forget Sam, the music of Rick’s Café Americain.  “Play it again, Sam.”  Or the French woman (an extra) who heartily led La Marseillaise in overpowering Die Wacht am Rhein.  In real life she had escaped the Nazi death camps and made it to the USA; her lyrics were heart-felt and soul-deep.  Ingrid Bergman’s close-ups were in soft focus, while everyone else was sharp, showing every wrinkle.

The actors, the producers, and even the writers of Casablanca hoped to make just an average show, something that would make them all some money, but no one expected a lot.  But it became one of the most popular movies of all time.  It fit those times – war requires everyone to get in step with the program and do the right thing.  That happened on-screen.  It was a love story in a time of rare divorce, and Rick’s past with Ilsa happened when everyone thought Victor Laszlo dead.  It was patriotic, with the occupied French working against the occupier Germans.  It was human, replete with love, greed, taking the easy way out, but when it really mattered – doing the right thing. 

Casablanca is one of our all-time great movies.  It is available on Netflix over the air or on DVD.  Watch it!

Here’s Sam, playin’ it again.

And here is La Marsellaise.

4 thoughts on “Casablanca

  1. Hey Blue Roadies…
    Some may say, ‘You need to get out more’ in reference to no nite driving but in spite of that your post is one of the great short reviews of Casablanca. There will always be those with negative points of view – the script, the self-righteous themes or whatever but the one everlasting feeling will always be one of ‘do the right thing’.
    Wish we had more of that inspiration & spine to overcome the ‘me,me,me – look at me’ attitudes so prevalent today.
    Thank you, we appreciate what you do……….


    1. I need cataract surgery in the worst way. It’s scheduled but still 7 weeks out. Night driving is the worst, but I will soon be able to do so again. But we still won’t except maybe an occasional movie and rarely a dinner out (but lunches are fine). Road signage is a highly mixed bag — some parks do a fine job, but others are worse than awful. And loons in the driver’s seat of the other guy’s ride are everywhere. At night, some are even snockered. (I am shocked, just shocked! “Here is your wine, sir.”)

      Thanks for the kind words, and don’t forget: I aim to please. But it’s gotta also please me.



    1. That LA Times piece is behind a pay wall, but I found something interesting in the Irish Times about an American gal who retired there and hired a piano man named Issam. There is another Rick’s Cafe Americain in The Daily Memphian which speaks of a great gyro and of all things, zucchini fries.

      It seems the world loves Casablanca.


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