Why we still love Casablanca

How much do we love it?

Casablanca (1942) was voted the greatest film by readers of the Los Angeles Daily News in 1997. It is also regarded the “best Hollywood movie of all time” by the influential Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide. In 2006, the Writers’ Guild of America declared Casablanca‘s screenplay the best ever written.

No 3: 100  Greatest Movies of All Time by Entertainment Weekly

No 4: AMC Movie Guide The Greatest 100 Movies of All Time

No 5: on IMDb Top 100 Greatest Movies of All Time (The Ultimate List)

It was so popular that, in 1957, a tradition began of screening Casablanca during the week of final exams at Harvard University, tradition that continues to the present day.

So it’s clearly an exceptionally popular film by any standard.

Perhaps one reason is that the film stars possibly two of the most stylish people ever to grace the silver screen. Bogart  as Rick Blaine and Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund.

 Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.
Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

Bergman appeared to be dressed straight out of the pages of Vogue (despite travelling with her fugitive Czech Resistance leader husband, Victor)

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The final going away outfit
The final going away outfit

Bogart does pretty well, defining the white dinner jacket

Bogart

and the trench  coat

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As well as the characters being stylish, the script abounds in famous and memorable lines

“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

“Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By’.”

“Round up the usual suspects.”

“We’ll always have Paris.”

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

Rick’s toast to Ilsa, “Here’s looking at you, kid”, used four times in the film, is not in the draft screenplays, Apparently Bogart used it while teaching Bergman to play poker and found its way into the film.

There are also many memorable lines, some corny, some not so corny

“Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time.”

“Not an easy day to forget.” “…I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.”

“Where were you last night?”  “…That’s so long ago, I don’t remember.”

“Will I see you tonight?” “…I never make plans that far ahead.”

“What in heaven’s name brought you to Casablanca?” “…My health, I came to Casablanca for the waters.” “The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert.” “...I was misinformed.”“Remember, this gun is pointed right at your heart.” “…That’s my least vulnerable spot.”

Another reason is that it’s a grown-ups fairytale. When we first meet the dour sardonic Rick, he is clearly the wounded hero-in-waiting.  And when Ilsa comes on the scene, it’s clear what he has been waiting for. She is a fairy princess beyond belief.

Their love story unfolds in a flashback to their time in Paris immediately before the German occupation.  They had decided to leave Paris together   but at the last moment Ilsa sends Rick letter saying that she will not be going with him.

It is not until they meet again in Casablanca that Rick finds out why: her Resistance leader hero husband, who she thought was dead, had suddenly turned up.

In true fairy tale fashion, Rick and Ilsa find they still love each other and it’s clear from the scenes where she appears with her husband, Victor that there is very little passion between the husband and wife.

Victor and Ilsa: Clearly not one of the great romances.
Victor and Ilsa: Clearly not one of the great romances.

This only serves to heighten the poignancy of the relationship between Rick and Ilsa and heightened the anticipation of the fairy story ending where Ilsa tells Victor that she no longer loves him and must leave him for Rick.

But the fairytale does not play out in that way. Rick helps Victor and Ilsa escape to Lisbon and, in the final scene, heads off to join the French Foreign Legion where, when you think of it, he’s probably going to be happier than he would have been with Ilsa.

One thought on “Why we still love Casablanca

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