At the time of its creation in 1942, “Casablanca” was considered just another Warner brothers factory production. Even though it was “The Golden Years” of Hollywood, this film was to be just one of the 50 or so films spit out each year. The production was considered shoddy with the unruly director Michael Curtiz at the helm, the Epstein brothers practically writing the screenplay as it was being shot and the actors interested in other films during production.
Nobody knew that this film was going to be considered a timeless classic that would still be a part of film analysis classes today. What makes this a classic is the fact that it doesn’t conform to that traditional Hollywood “happily ever after” ending.
“Casablanca” was also one of the few films to have a non-hero protagonist. The character of Rick, played by Humphrey Bogart, is a cynical drunkard who abuses alcohol to show his lack in political tensions of the time. All the characters in this film make it timeless.
They all change in some way and they represent a Hollywood that the world had never seen before this film. It has an amazing ability to speak to people across all ages and combined with the intense amounts of passion and believability, it has a way of directly speaking to you.
The film opens up with a very Hollywood-ish introduction. Similar to the map introductions in the “Lord of the Rings Trilogy,” we are introduced to our setting, Casablanca. The setting, acting more like a character than a place, is a location of desperation. It seems that each person in Casablanca uses it to escape reality (smoke-filled rooms, gambling, drinking and womanizing) but they desperately want to leave for the United States.
Among the secretly desperate is the character of Rick. He is the non-bias American bar owner who seem to make more friends than he ever wanted to. His many years spent in Casablanca has made him a cynical of the world; he remains impartial by never drinking with patrons, opposing the Nazi-occupation of Casablanca and as he states several times, “I stick my neck out for nobody.”
After a few scenes into the film, we get a run down of a normal night at Rick’s bar; Nazi and Legionnaire arrests, stealing, bribing and most of all, waiting to get the hell out of Casablanca. The best aspect of this film is I find myself like ricks character.
His selfish tendencies, instead of showing a weak character, show some type of past trauma. Ricks character does not stay a cynic indefinitely. With the introduction of some delicate past information (a woman named Ilsa played by Ingrid Bergman), Rick starts to unravel. When politics and the past start clouding Rick’s mind, he is forced to choose; being impartial to the war or facing the woman who broke his heart all those years ago. The only question is; can he have both.
What I love about this film are the various hidden meanings. The characters of Rick and Louis (Claude Rains) start out with a rocky relationship. They remain selfish; not only in the war efforts but in their personal lives. As the film progresses, we see them start developing a deeper relationship, eventually leading to the signature line of the film, “Louis, I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.”
One can compare this relationship to the allied war effort. Before the films creation in late 1941, the United States remained impartial to the war effort. When Casablanca came out in 1942, the attacks on Pearl Harbor were a fresh current event. The other aspect I enjoyed was the music, specifically “As Time Goes By.”
In speaking about the music; it may be the most signature aspect of the film. There are only a few songs but they are played over and over, essentially being hammered into your mind. The main song, and most popular, is “As Times Goes By.” The song, although released in 1931, was never a major hit. It wasn’t until “Casablanca” that this song became the hit it is today. It has a certain nostalgic sense which just sucks you into the film.
Overall, the film is just amazing. Even though it was made over 70 years ago, it is still watched. It has a great love story, but it doesn’t conform to that romantic comedy genre. It has comedy, drama, action and a fabulous love story. It has a little something for every type of moviegoer.