Classic Movie Review: Casablanca (1942)


Title: Casablanca
Release Date: November 26, 1942
Director: Michael Curtiz
Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures
Summary/Review:

I watched this as a special Valentine’s Day viewing through the Brattle Theatre’s streaming service.

I remember the first time I watched Casablanca as a teenager and realized that it really was as good as everyone said it was.  Yes, it’s a great romance, but it’s so much more than that.  Or, to put it better, it’s about love but not just the romantic love of a man and woman, but love for humanity.

Let’s explore the ways in which Casablanca is great.  First, there’s the dialogue. The movie is filled with familiar quotations and it can be a bit jarring to hear them in context.  But that demonstrates just how well the film is written.

Next, there’s the cast.  Not just Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman as the star-crossed Rick and Ilsa, but everyone.  Claude Raines as the gleefully corrupt Captain Louis Renault, Peter Lorre as the sketchy Signor Ugarte, Dooley Wilson as the pianist Sam (even though he was  drummer in real life), and S.Z. Sakall as the conscientious waiter, Carl (apologies to Paul Henreid, you did fine as the noble Victor Laszlo, you just got overshadowed). It’s notable for an American production of that time that most of the cast were born outside the United States. In fact, many minor characters and bit parts were played by actual refugees and exiles from Europe.

Which leads to my final point.  This movie was made while World War II was still going on. In fact, it was fairly early in the war, and the United States had just entered the conflict.  The Fall of Paris, depicted in the movie as a long ago memory, happened less than two years before it was recreated for the movie.  No one involved in making this knew how the war would turn out, and indications at the time pointed toward an Axis victory.  This makes the shows of defiance and sacrifice by the characters depicted in the film all the more powerful.

I’m going to finish this review with a couple of silly questions:

  • How did Rick get from Paris to Morocco and establish a large and successful cafe in less than two years?  From what we know about him, he doesn’t seem to have the experience as a restaurateur, the money to pull it off, or the time to get himself so well established in the community.
  • There must be Rick/Louis slash fiction out there.  I’m not the only one seeing this, right?

Casablanca is a deserved classic and if for some iconoclastic reasons you haven’t seen it, get over yourself and give it a viewing.

Rating: *****

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