Last week, I posted the most famous movie quotes of all time, according to the American Film Institute. Now I’ll talk about what is probably the most quotable classic film of all time, Casablanca, made in 1942. Recognize these?
“Here’s looking at you kid.”
“Play it again, Sam.”
“Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
“Round up the usual suspects.”
“We’ll always have Paris.”
The movie itself resonates because it has something exciting to offer everybody, regardless of age, sex or interests. Its genre is categorized as a World War II Romance. However, it is filled with drama, film noir and comedy, crossing many genres.
Most of the scenes and story take place in Rick’s (Humphrey Bogart’s) gambling and drinking establishment, called the Café Americain. It is located in the French-controlled African port city of Morocco, with its exotic Moorish background. The Café is a meeting spot for spies, allied offensives, a crush of European refugees awaiting rare exit visas to America, the Patriotic French and of course Hitler’s ever-preying Nazis. The conspiracy and struggle is heightened by the black marketers, pickpockets, idealists and murderers that a war-torn, desperate place and time like this naturally attracts. It is a sort of sanctuary for Rick, who has in the past been a renowned international soldier of fortune, but for some reason always on the side of the underdog. He has grown tired and cynical, especially after being abandoned at the Paris train station by his haunting lost love, Ilse, as the Nazis march into the city. He wants nothing to do with loyalty and honor anymore, thus his initial famous quote “I stick my neck out for nobody.”
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As the movie unfolds, the oppression of the fascist Nazis is repeatedly conquered by sacrifice and heroism. Redemption is found by many broken under the strain of war. My favorite scene is in the Café when the Nazi soldiers begin loudly singing the German national anthem. Freedom fighter, Victor Laszlo (played by Paul Henreid), stands up and tells the band to play the French national anthem. The bandleader looks to Rick for approval, and even though Rick believes Laszlo to have stolen away his great love, Ilse, he nods for them to play it. The entire café slowly and bravely sings La Marseillaisse, drowning out and infuriating the Nazis. The scene is shot with many actors who were allies and refugees, while the war was still going on overseas and in occupied France. The tears weren’t in the script, but the actors got carried away.
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There were many additional hilarious and memorable quotes that some may miss at first, but that made my heart thrill. One was when Rick (Bogart), who is sitting at a table with the Nazis, is asked what he would think if the Germans invaded the U.S. He nonchalantly replies to their commander, Strasser, “There are parts of New York I wouldn’t advise you to invade.” Another is when the jolly café waiter, Carl (played by S. K. Sakall), says he already gave Strasser the best table because, “being a German, he would have taken it anyway.” Rick’s coolness and cynicism could never have been believably melted by any other actress than the famous Ingrid Bergman, who plays Ilse. Her incandescent beauty and warmth on screen makes you hold your breath at times. I am awed when Bogie comments about the last day he saw Ilse in Paris, with frigidness and yet deep pain. He says, “I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray. You wore blue.”
The movie doesn’t have all the high-tech effects of films today. However, if one is paying attention, you notice that every single scene is shot with admirable forethought and artistry. Unfortunately, wartime regulations at the time forced the majority of the film to be shot on studio soundstages. There was a lot of dispute over the final scene at the airfield. Many wanted a happy ending, with the renewed love between Rick and Ilse enabling them to go off into the sunset together. However, the original play ending was used. Rick delivers his self-deprecating quote, “The problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” In the end, he sends Ilse off with her husband the freedom fighter, Laszlo, because he knows that she gives him an integral strength in his resistance movement. He is however healed by their reunion in Casablanca and ready to rejoin the great fight, with his friend the French Police Prefect, Louie. It has also been speculated that the ethics overseers at the time (PCA) would have rallied against a scene where a woman leaves her husband, especially since he’s a war hero.
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Please comment on your favorite Casablanca moments.