090 - Casablanca (1942)

Casablanca tells the story of a cynical bar owner in unoccupied French territory during the start of the Second World War.

Rick (Humphrey Bogart), an exiled American fighter, runs the best bar in Casablanca during the start of the Second World War. At this time, France owns Casablanca free from German rule although all sorts of nationalities can be found within the town. Casablanca is notoriously difficult to get away from due to the need for a visa from the police captain Renault.

Externally, Rick is neutral to everyone although he is able to perform subtle favours for those who he feels deserves them. He finds himself in possession of two illegal visas marked for the attention of the Czech underground leader Victor Lazslo (Paul Henreid) and, as Rick looks to pass on the visas immediately, his mind is changed as he meets his old flame (Ingrid Bergman) who is now Lazslo's wife, Isla Lund.

Rick must choose between allowing Lazslo to escape and continue his fight for freedom or keep the passes and the woman he once loved close by.

Theatrical Poster
Source: FreeArtLondon
When Casablanca was released there was no big racket, no fanfare and no huge celebrations. It was, in 1940's America, just another film on the Hollywood production line. Casablanca's success - it is second of the AFI's 100 movies, currently 18th on the Internet Movie Database and regularly included in greatest movie lists worldwide - and what sets it apart from its contemporaries is down to a number of other factors.

Firstly is its numerous quoted lines. During a 2005 CBS production, the American Film Institute revealed its 100 movie quotes of all time and arguably Casablanca came out on top, taking six of the hundred spaces. Humphrey Bogart takes these words from the paper and he converted them into phrases that the world would remember for 60 years. They have appeared in numerous media outlets, from the hit movie "The Usual Suspects" whose title was inspired by Claude Rains' line to Alternative Rock group Fall Out Boy who made use of Bogart's line for their song "Of All The Gin Joints In All The World".

Casablanca is difficult to place into a single genre. Its setting could place it firmly into a film about war but there is very little violence. A love story (re)develops between Isla and Rick giving all of the material for a romantic or, with the inclusion of Lazslo, a drama film about a man's denial of the love of his life. Rick's sharp wit gives the final comedic touch as his numerous well-executed lines help to keep the audience in touch with Rick's cynicism.

The film rightly went on to win three academy awards but Bogart's performance was criminally overlooked in favour of Paul Lukas' role in Watch on the Rhine. The subtle soundtrack was rightly given its nomination as its title song "As Time Goes By" was cleverly re-used throughout Rick and Isla's more passionate moments.

With Casablanca, it's so embedded in our society that if you've never seen Casablanca then you've still seen Casablanca. A beautiful, well-scripted film worthy of it's place towards the top of any movie list. Play it again, Sam.