Why This Movie Remains Classic Hollywood Entertainment

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Why This Movie Remains Classic Hollywood Entertainment

NOTE:  This is a portion of our review of CASABLANCA. For the full review, including a breakdown of content, violence, sex, language and nudity, click here.

CASABLANCA is an alluring, classic movie which depicts those fleeing the Nazis to Morocco during World War II. Hundreds of civilians have fled from all over German-occupied Europe into Casablanca for their chance at escape. CASABLANCA is a three-time Academy Award winner and deserves each and everyone as the story details one of the most intricate modern time periods to date.

Rick Blaine is a successful American who runs a saloon in the heart of Casablanca. Like the rest of French Morocco, Casablanca is run by the puppet French government installed by Nazi Germany when it began occupying France. Ugarte, a regular customer at Rick’s, stole two letters of transit (visas) from German couriers after he murdered them. After asking Rick to hold onto them for him, Ugarte runs out of the cafe when the French police come to arrest him and is presumably shot to death. Major Strasser, the new commanding officer sent by the Germans to oversee Casablanca, order the French police to search for the individual who has possession of the letters.

Rick supports people leaving Casablanca as he previously fought Fascists in Spain during 1935 and sold guns to help Ethiopia. There is a black market in Casablanca, and it all happens at the saloons. The Blue Parrot is the other saloon in town which also serves those trying to escape Casablanca. In Rick’s cafè, his former flame, Ilsa, comes enters with (unknown to Rick) her husband Victor Laszlo, who spent a year in concentration camps for publishing works against Nazi Germany and its brutal military oppression of Europe.

Rick is hesitant to help Ilsa because they had a previous relationship in Paris years prior to him coming to Casablanca. As the German soldiers advanced on Paris, Ilsa and Rick were going to flee to together, but Rick received a note from Ilsa at the train station at the very last moment vaguely detailing why she couldn’t join him. Ilsa later reveals to Rick that she couldn’t join him in Casablanca because she was already married to Victor who had been in the concentration camp while the affair was happening. She explains that she had received word that Victor had died, but the rumor turned out to be false.

Despite Ilsa’s pleading, Rick denies he has the letters of transit from Ugarte. Even if he did have them, he says, he still wouldn’t give them to her. As the movie unfolds, it’s clear that Rick has become cynical and disillusioned because of the sudden end to their affair and the seemingly unstoppable might of Nazi Germany.

Set in December 1941 just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, CASABLANCA is one of the most acclaimed and beloved movies made during the Golden Age of Hollywood. As such, it has lots of romance, adventure, heartbreak, and rousing patriotism. The emotional impact of this potent combination is aided by an abundance of great dialogue, wonderful performances and a climax that has thrilled moviegoers for 77 years.

Although word has it the two main screenwriters, Julius and Philip Epstein, were putting the final touches on the script (including coming up with an ending) during production, CASABLANCA turned out to be the epitome of a well-structured script. Developed from an unproduced play, the plot moves along at a fine clip, and the dialogue, characters and acting are incredibly memorable, great enough to win the Oscar for Best Picture AND Best Screenplay in 1943.

In the movie, Humphrey Bogart delivers an iconic performance as the cynical hero, supported by appealing performances from Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa and Paul Henreid as Ilsa’s courageous husband, Victor. The three stars are supported by a tremendous cast of Hollywood character actors, many of whom themselves managed to escape from the clutches of the Nazi war machine. Those European escapees include Hungarian actor S.K. Sakall, French actress Madeleine Lebeau, German stars Peter Lorre and Conrad Veidt (whose wife was Jewish), and Marcel Dalio, the Jewish star of two beloved French movies from the late 1930s, GRAND ILLUSION and RULES OF THE GAME. Topping the supporting cast is the Shakespearean trained British actor, Claude Rains, who plays the erudite but corrupt head of the French police in Casablanca, Captain Reynaud. Of course, who can forget the performance of Dooley Wilson as Rick Blaine’s friend and the star performer at Rick’s Café American. It’s hard to find a better ensemble than this in any movie you care to name.

Essentially, however, CASABLANCA is Humphrey Bogart’s movie. He plays a world-weary soldier of fortune from America, who’s lost optimistic, patriotic fervor and compassion for other human beings. “I stick my neck out for nobody,” Rick assures anyone who will listen. Thus, ultimately, the story in CASABLANCA is how Rick overcomes his cynicism and regains his compassion and patriotism to take another sacrificial stand against Hitler and his National Socialist minions. In the end, after Rick’s heartfelt speech to her, Ingrid Bergman’s character acknowledges Rick’s sacrifice, saying, “God bless you.”

That said, CASABLANCA does have one glaring moral flaw, in the scene where Ilsa comes to Rick’s apartment above the café to try to force Rick to give her the letters of transport so she and Victor can escape the Nazis’ clutches. She points a gun at Rick, but he tells her, “Go ahead and shoot. You’d be doing me a favor.” Of course, Ilsa can’t bring herself to pull the trigger. A tear then rolls down her cheek, and she turns away. Moved by her emotional conflict, Rick goes to her. She confesses she still loves him, and they kiss. Moments later, she tells Rick that he’ll have to do the thinking for the two of them. Thus, this scene shows Ilsa giving into her feelings for Rick, even though in Paris she discovered her husband was really alive and has been with her husband ever since the Germans marched into Paris and Rick left on the train without her.

MOVIEGUIDE® advises caution for this flaw and some violence, but there’s no doubt that CASABLANCA remains a masterpiece of Hollywood entertainment.

NOTE:  This is a portion of our review of CASABLANCA. For the full review, including a breakdown of content, violence, sex, language and nudity, click here.

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