Here’s look­ing at you, Casablanca

One of the great films of all time cel­e­brates its 75 an­niver­sary

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - BILL KEVENEY USA To­day

You must re­mem­ber this: “Casablanca,” per­haps the most beloved movie of all time, cel­e­brated the 75th an­niver­sary of its world pre­mière near the end of Novem­ber.

Set in De­cem­ber 1941 in the Moroc­can city of Casablanca, the film cen­tres on Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bog­art), owner of Rick’s Cafe Amer­i­cain, and Ilsa Lund (In­grid Bergman), the wife of a Re­sis­tance leader, who sac­ri­fice be­ing to­gether for a higher pur­pose: de­feat­ing the Nazis in the Sec­ond World War.

To com­mem­o­rate, here are facts, ob­ser­va­tions and quotes re­lated to a clas­sic that ranks third on the Amer­i­can Film In­sti­tute’s (AFI) list of the 100 great­est films of all time.

“Casablanca” is adapted from a 1940 play, “Every­body Comes to Rick’s,” writ­ten by Mur­ray Bur­nett and Joan Ali­son.

Casablanca is in North Africa. “Casablanca” was filmed at Warner Bros. Stu­dios in Bur­bank, Calif.

Pro­ducer Hal Wal­lis pur­chased the rights to the play in Jan­uary 1942, and the 102-minute film was screened 11 months later, a phe­nom­e­nal turn­around time by to­day’s stan­dards.

“Casablanca” pre­mièred on Nov. 26, 1942, in New York, days af­ter the Bri­tish-U.S. in­va­sion of North Africa. The film’s wide re­lease came on Jan. 23, 1943, as Pres­i­dent Roo­sevelt at­tended a con­fer­ence of Al­lies in Casablanca.

The screen writ­ers said they didn’t know how the movie would end when film­ing started. But they didn’t know how the Sec­ond World War would end, ei­ther.

Some have spec­u­lated that the ti­tle, which trans­lates to “white house,” means that Rick rep­re­sents FDR. Rick joins the Re­sis­tance in Casablanca the same month that the U.S. en­tered the war.

“Casablanca” won three Acad­emy Awards, in­clud­ing best pic­ture, di­rec­tor (Michael Cur­tiz) and screen­play (twin broth­ers Julius and Philip Ep­stein and Howard Koch).

“Casablanca” es­tab­lished Bog­art as a ro­man­tic lead­ing man and ce­mented his screen im­age as a cynic hid­ing a soft cen­tre. He was shorter than Bergman, which re­quired ad­just­ments to make him look taller.

Bergman, a Swede play­ing the Nor­we­gian Ilsa, wasn’t nom­i­nated for an Os­car for “Casablanca,” but later won three Acad­emy Awards (for 1944’s “Gaslight,” 1956’s “Anas­ta­sia” and 1974’s “Mur­der on the Ori­ent Ex­press”).

Mem­o­rable sup­port­ing play­ers Peter Lorre (as ner­vous black mar­keter Ugarte) and Syd­ney Green­street (as Rick’s restau­rant com­peti­tor, Fer­rari) worked with Bog­art on an­other clas­sic, 1941’s “The Mal­tese Fal­con.”

Could Ron­ald Rea­gan have played Rick? Warner Bros. put out a press re­lease say­ing he would co-star in the film, but that was a pub­lic­ity move; Bog­art is thought to have been the only choice.

If you have a great line, re­use it. Rick tells Ilsa four dif­fer­ent times: “Here’s look­ing at you, kid.” (It’s No. 5 on AFI’s 2005 list of the 100 great­est movie quotes of all time.)

The film has six en­tries on the AFI list, in­clud­ing Rick’s part­ing line to Ilsa, ‘We’ll al­ways have Paris,” be­fore he sends her off with Re­sis­tance leader Vic­tor Las­zlo (Paul Hen­reid). Sim­i­larly mem­o­rable: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine” and “It doesn’t take much to see that the prob­lems of three lit­tle peo­ple don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”

Cap­tain Louis Re­nault (a show-stop­ping Claude Rains) de­cides not to turn Rick in for mur­der when po­lice ar­rive, in­spir­ing the ti­tle of 1995’s “The Usual Sus­pects.” “Ma­jor Strasser has been shot,” he says. “Round up the usual sus­pects.”

The cor­rupt, witty Re­nault, a reg­u­lar at the barely con­cealed casino at Rick’s Cafe, de­liv­ers the all-time feigned-ig­no­rance line: “I’m shocked, SHOCKED, to find that gam­bling is go­ing on in here,” he says, as he’s handed his win­nings.

The mu­sic is as mem­o­rable as the di­a­logue, as ex­em­pli­fied by Rick and Ilsa’s Paris song, “As Time Goes By:” You must re­mem­ber this / A kiss is just a kiss / A sigh is just a sigh ...” Bet you’re hum­ming it now.

Drum­mer Doo­ley Wil­son, as Sam the pi­ano player, sings “As Time Goes By.” But that isn’t him on the ivories: His pi­ano part is dubbed.

No­body ever says, “Play it again, Sam.” When Ilsa ar­rives at Rick’s, she makes a re­quest: “Play it once, Sam, for old time’s sake.” When Sam hes­i­tates, she per­sists: “Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By.’” Later, in a sad, drunken reverie, Rick de­mands: “You know what I want to hear. Play it!”

As “Casablanca” closes, with Rick, joined by Re­nault, firmly en­list­ing in the Re­sis­tance, he de­liv­ers the best clos­ing line in film his­tory: “Louis, I think this is the be­gin­ning of a beau­ti­ful friend­ship.”


In­grid Bergman and Humphrey Bog­art starred in the 1944 clas­sic, "Casablanca."

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