If you haven’t seen it:
Casablanca is romantic, exciting, melodramatic, and entertaining, but above all, it is iconic.
The plot concerns a cynical and world-weary bar owner, who is reunited with the girl who broke his heart years earlier. Their relationship is complicated though, by Nazis, stolen documents, and a husband upon whom the outcome of the war may depend.
If you have seen it:
That’s more like it. Scroll down past the trailer for more.
SPOILER ALERT: The plot summary and comments below contain details that might spoil your enjoyment of the movie if you have not already seen it.
The movie is set in Casablanca, North Africa, during the second world war. The town attracts many refugees who are trying to escape the war and make their way to the USA.
Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) is a bitter, cynical American who owns and runs a nightclub in Casablanca. One night, Ugarte (Peter Lorre), a petty criminal, arrives in Rick’s club. He has in his possession two “letters of transit” which were obtained through the murder of two German couriers, and would allow the bearers to travel freely around Europe. The letters would be very valuable to the refugees, as it would enable them to get to neutral Portugal, and from there, to America. Ugarte plans to sell them, but he fears he is being watched, and asks Rick to look after them. Sure enough, Ugarte is soon arrested and killed by the local police.
Meanwhile, two more refugees have arrived in Casablanca – Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) and her husband, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid). Laszlo is a fugitive Czech Resistance leader long sought by the Nazis. The couple need the letters to leave for America so that Laszlo can continue his work. When they arrive at Rick’s club we learn that Ilsa and Rick used to be lovers, in Paris, but she left him, and broke his heart.
A local underworld figure tells Laszlo that he suspects that Rick has the letters. Laszlo meets with Rick privately, but Rick refuses to part with the documents, telling Laszlo to ask his wife for the reason. That night, Ilsa confronts Rick in the deserted club. When he refuses to give her the letters, she threatens him with a gun, but is unable to shoot, confessing that she still loves him. She explains that when they were together in Paris, she believed that her husband was dead. When she learned that Laszlo was in fact alive but wounded, she had to leave immediately in order to tend to her husband. When Rick learns this, his bitterness dissolves and he agrees to help Laszlo escape, so that Rick and Ilsa can be together.
Rick makes a deal with the corrupt chief of police, Renault, to set Laszlo up for the crime of possession of the letters of transit. However, when Renault tries to arrest Laszlo, Rick double crosses him, forcing him at gunpoint to assist in their escape. At the last moment, Rick makes Ilsa board the plane to Lisbon with her husband, telling her that she would regret it if she stayed, “Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.”
When the Nazi Major who is hunting Laszlo turns up at the airport, Rick shoots him. Police reinforcements arrive, but rather than arresting Rick, Renault covers up for him. Rick and Renault then walk off into the fog with with the movie’s final line: “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Steve Sunday Says:
When I was a teenager there were a few films that brought a lump to my throat and forced me, if watching with friends, to pretend that I had I had something in my eye. There was The Elephant Man, Rocky (“Adriaaannn!”), the “death” of Baloo in The Jungle Book, “I’m Spartacus!”, and there was Casablanca. The scene in Casablanca that got me, and even today after seeing it many times, still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, is the scene where Victor Laszlo leads the singing of The French National Anthem in Rick’s Cafe. What a guy! He should be the hero of this movie, not Rick. It is easy to imagine that if this story were told from Victor’s point of view we would feel differently – a war hero escapes from a concentration camp to find out his wife was having an affair with an alcoholic nightclub owner – but no, our sympathies are with Rick. Why is that? Just because he is cool? At the end of the movie though, even Rick realizes he is not the hero, and that is why he puts Ilsa on the plane. That is in fact what makes the ending so great – Rick, finally understanding why Ilsa left him in Paris, puts his bitterness behind him, and does the right thing.
By the way, I never bought the “When Harry met Sally” argument that Victor was no good in bed – you cannot tell me that a man capable of giving the Nazis a good seeing to was not capable of doing the same for his wife.
One minor grumble – for me, the film is a victim of its own success. It is full of famous lines, and for some reason I find them hard to take seriously – especially the last five or six minutes. It’s not Casablanca’s fault though – a great movie.
Trivia Trish Says:
- The movie was based on a play called Everybody Comes to Rick’s. This play, written by a high school teacher, had been inspired by the teacher’s visit to a café in France, where a black piano player had entertained a crowd made up of of locals, Nazis, and refugees.
- “Everybody Comes to Rick’s” was commissioned immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, as the studio was suddenly desperate to produce patriotic movies.
- One of the most famous quotes from Casablanca is a misquote. Rick never actually says “Play it again Sam”.
- Bergman was 2 inches taller than Bogart, so Bogart had to stand on blocks or sit on cushions for their scenes together.
- Paul Henreid was reluctant to play Victor Laslow. He thought that playing a supporting character would damage his career.
- Dooley Wilson, who played Sam, was actually a drummer, and could not play the piano.
- Many of the actors who played Nazis were German Jews who had been forced to flee Germany. The actor who played Major Strasser was a famous German theatre actor who had been forced out of the country because he had spoken out against the Nazis.
- The plane seen in the background of the final scene is really a scaled down cardboard cut-out. The extras seen attending to it are midgets, to make the plane seem bigger.
- There was no such thing as a “letter of transit.” One of the screenwriters, Joan Alison, made the idea up. She says she always expected someone to challenge her about it, but no-one ever did.
Top 10 Rejected Lines from Casablanca
10) If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not on it, you’ll regret it … because they put your luggage on board.
9) Play it, Sam. Play Wake me up Before You Go-Go.
8) I remember every detail. The Germans wore white, the English wore red.
7) Major Strasser has been shot. Round up a good bottle of champagne and we’ll celebrate
6) We’ll always have Facebook.
5) Oh Rick, I’m driving! You’ll have to drink for both of us.
4) Of all the Starbucks in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine
3) Ilsa, I’m no good at bedtime stories, but it doesn’t take much to see that the tale of three little pigs who built their house of beans is a crazy one.
2) herez lookin @ u kid 😉 lol
1) Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful sequel
Main Cast and Crew:
Humphrey Bogart … Richard ‘Rick’ Blaine
Ingrid Bergman … Ilsa Lund
Paul Henreid … Victor Laszlo
Claude Rains … Captain Renault