DIRECTOR: Michael Curtiz
It’s 1942. World War Two had now been raging for three years and D-Day was at least a year away. The Nazi concentration camps had been imprisoning political activists as well as Jews etc. since the mid 30’s, but their true horror was yet to be revealed to the world.
Hollywood was still in it’s the midst of what would become known as its golden age, with the likes Of Humphrey Bogart becoming major a stars. global Icons. Casablanca rightly was one of the films that cemented his reputation, after the success of the Maltese Falcon and High Sierra.
Casablanca is summed up with the opening explanatory monologue. Casablanca in Unoccupied French Morocco, is a stopping off point on the way to Lisbon and then the U.S. as people try to escape Nazi Occupied Europe, and as such has become a place were people buy their way through the ruthless and the criminal. Life is cheap and everyone is out for themselves.
Rick, Bogart, runs a bar at its heart, and mild corruption manages a marriage of convenience with the French chief of police, Claude Rains. Then his old flame, Ingrid Bergman arrives with her husband who is a major threat to the Nazi’s stranglehold over occupied France. They are trying to escape the German’s and Rick may well be their only hope. The thing is that Ilsa, Bergman, left him with a ‘dear John’ a couple of years earlier and broke his heart.
The beauty of this film is that the character of Rick and the excellent performance of Bogart. He is a sharp-tongued, loner who runs his establishment for his own ends and seemingly has compassion for no man, but when she turns up, the other side to his personality comes out. This is a man with broken heart, a fountain of compassion and the slow release of information about his past reveals that he is far from a man who looks out for number one as we have led to believe.
He often favours the underdog but this may well be the exception. Casablanca has a famous conclusion and the fact that he kind of gets the girl, but lets her go is the magic of this romance. He loved her enough to let her go.
But a great, bitter sweet romance it may be, it’s still funny, with a wonderful script, littered with witty dialogue that still works today, along with the noire setting complete with the pouring of hard liquor and the drowning of sorrows everytime something emotional happens. This is to me the high watermark of cinema’s so called ‘Golden Era’, and the cast did this film a great deal of service, bringing some many moments to a film with a running time just shy of 100 minutes.
I believe that this is a must see film, that even if you don’t love it, I very much doubt that you’ll hate it.