The film ‘Casablanca’ premiered in NYC on November 26, 1942.
If you have not seen it yet, it is a must-see.
And if you’ve already seen it, why not watch it again?
I’ve seen it twelve times, but who’s counting? 🙂
And bonus fact: The actor portraying the Nazi, Major Strasser, Conrad Veidt, was a German who fled Nazi Germany with his Jewish wife.
Even movie fans who don’t consider “Casablanca” Hollywood’s crowning achievement have to agree it’s among a handful of the most beloved movies the studio system ever created. It’s a tale of redemption. A hero’s journey. A heartbreaking love story. A fount of deathless dialogue. The Best Picture winner on Oscar night. And a Manichean face-off, made when the world was in the middle of one….
But to try to reverse-engineer “Casablanca,” to figure out exactly what elevates it from mere movie to masterpiece, is to disbelieve in movie magic. Of course it’s greater than the sum of its parts—the best films are….To study it too closely, in fact, is to risk bursting a delicate bubble.
That said, there remains something very basic about the now-75-year-old “Casablanca,” which premiered in New York on Nov. 26, 1942. For all its glamour, heroism and patriotism, “Casablanca” also speaks very intimately to the idea of belonging—not in the sense of nuclear family, necessarily, but in a manner classic films have often explored.
In “Casablanca,” the tears we shed for the hopeless romance of Rick and Ilsa are certainly genuine. But there’s also a pang for what we leave at Rick’s Café Américain: an idealized sanctuary—chic, cosmopolitan but somehow democratic—led by a strong (American) male, a benign despot, perhaps, but one whose rough exterior masks a heart of gold. Rick’s nightclub is also a mirror of the America to which so many minor characters are trying to flee….
Not everything in Casablanca makes sense. Those letters of transit taken from the murdered German couriers and signed by Charles de Gaulle ? (“Cannot be rescinded. Not even questioned.”) Why would the Germans have honored letters signed by Gen. De Gaulle? Why does the French prefect of police, Capt. Renault ( Claude Rains ), sound like an Englishman? Why are Rick and Sam ( Dooley Wilson ) perfectly dry when they board the train leaving Paris, after having waited for Ilsa ( Ingrid Bergman ) in a drenching rain?
But, in the end, it’s a bit like the question Rick asks, drunk and mourning for Ilsa: “If it’s December 1941 in Casablanca, what time is it in New York?” Not everything has to be right to be poetry.