Casablanca is a great romance, a stirring wartime adventure, a suspenseful action movie, and in the end, a terrific buddy movie. It’s listed again and again on the top ten lists of critics and fans alike. Its snappy lines are repeated by movie buffs the world over. What more could you want?
The plot revolves around “letters of transit” that will provide safe passage by air to Lisbon, and then to America, a rare and precious commodity indeed. And even though Blaine (Humphrey Bogart in his first romantic lead) is an embittered expatriate who would prefer to sit out the war in his café, the tightening conflict eventually forces Rick - and everybody else - to take sides.
The Cast of 'Casablanca'
His haven is disrupted when his one-time love Ilsa (the luminous Ingrid Bergman) arrives in the company of a world-renowned resistance leader Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), whom the Nazis would very much like to get their hands on. She’s looking for safe passage, first from Rick, who believes she jilted him for Laszlo, and then from the marvelously sinister Sydney Greenstreet as Signor Ferrari, owner of the rival Blue Parrot club.
Claude Rains nearly steals the movie as Captain Renault, the deliciously corrupt prefect of police, who accepts money and the favors of especially lovely refugees to arrange escapes. Peter Lorre (Ugarte) runs a cut-rate smuggling trade, and Conrad Veidt is a first-rate Nazi villain.
Bogart and Bergman shine in their only screen pairing, but it’s the flawless direction and ensemble cast that make this movie, from the nameless pickpocket in the opening sequence to the elderly Jewish couple earnestly fracturing English phrases as they prepare for the passage to America. With a few spare lines of dialog, a glimpsed gesture, a few moments on screen, all the characters are fully sketched, and Rick’s café seems very real.
As every review of Casablanca is required to note, nobody in the film ever actually says the infamous line: “Play it again, Sam,” in reference to Rick and Ilsa’s song, “As Time Goes By.” Both characters ask Wilson to play the song, but never use those precise words. Nevertheless, the misquote abounds, and was cast in cement in 1972 by Woody Allen’s film, Play it Again, Sam.
'Casablanca' - the Bottom LineThe first, best test for any movie is this: Would you see it again?
Casablanca is thrilling on the first viewing, and so richly textured it rewards watching over and over. The dialog is clever, touching and dryly funny by turns, utterly irresistible. See it once, and then see it again.
Recommended for YouIf you liked Casablanca, you may like other Humphrey Bogart films. You may also like other classic love stories, or Ingrid Bergman in another wartime love story, For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Just the Facts:Year: 1942, black and white
Director: Michael Curtiz
Running Time: 102 minutes
Studio: Warner Brothers