Casablanca - 1942

I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

Casablanca - Premier November 26, 1942. General release Jan 23, 1943. Directed by Michael Curtiz

Casablanca belongs to that small selection of classic Hollywood films that are inescapable even for movie fans who eschew old movies: as a cultural reference it shows up everywhere. As a corrupt (but somehow likable) Vichy policeman, Claude Rains set the mold for corrupt but likable authority figures that have been copied many times. Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart's alive/dead love affair is another template copied many times, and Bogart's delivery of the cynical, bitter (but tinged with humor) lines (screenplay by Howard Koch, Julius, and Philip G. Epstein) is the godfather of the avalanche of biting, cynical dialogue that shows up in so many films in the post-war years, and is a stylistic trail that leads to James Dean, Marlon Brando, and all of their imitators, too.

Not bad for a movie that in many ways is just an update of older movie themes about adventure in foreign lands and ideas about love, hate and remembrance that can be seen in a cruder form in pre-code movies. But Casablanca organizes these things in a new way, streamlines it, and then makes it all seem larger than life and worthwhile by adding in sacrifice and patriotism, a combination of influences only possible (and possibly only believable) because of the timing of World War II, when Nazi gangsters were real and joining the fight despite misgivings was a genuine thought process people experienced, and at the time Casablanca was released, defeat of the Axis powers rampaging on the earth was very much a debatable proposition.


Original Page May 19, 2015 | Updated March 2018

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Letters from Hollywood: Inside the Private World of Classic American Movemaking

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