ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Casablanca: Timeless or Dated?

Updated on March 11, 2018
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Theatrical Release PosterLeft to Right Victor (Paul Henreid), Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), Captain Renault (Claude Rains), and Rick (Humphrey Bogart)Rick & Ilsa (Bogart & Bergman)Ferrari (Sydney Greenstreet) and Rick (Humphrey Bogart) A trench coat clad Rick on the tarmac.
Theatrical Release Poster
Theatrical Release Poster | Source
Left to Right Victor (Paul Henreid), Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), Captain Renault (Claude Rains), and Rick (Humphrey Bogart)
Left to Right Victor (Paul Henreid), Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), Captain Renault (Claude Rains), and Rick (Humphrey Bogart) | Source
Rick & Ilsa (Bogart & Bergman)
Rick & Ilsa (Bogart & Bergman) | Source
Ferrari (Sydney Greenstreet) and Rick (Humphrey Bogart)
Ferrari (Sydney Greenstreet) and Rick (Humphrey Bogart) | Source
A trench coat clad Rick on the tarmac.
A trench coat clad Rick on the tarmac. | Source

Credentials

This 1942 film was named the best screenplay of all time by the Writers Guild of America in 2006.[i] The American Film Institute lists “Casablanca” as the third greatest movie of all time.[ii] The American Film Institute lists 6 lines from the movie as the top movie quotes. This is twice as many as any other film.[iii] Despite the movie’s acclaim it wasn’t a box office success. It cost about $950,000 to make and as of November 16, 2017 it grossed slightly over a million in the U.S.[iv] “Casablanca” created a generation of devoted fans and has picked up more fans over the decades. This movie has been copied and parodied countless times. It is on the list of 1001 movies you must see before you die.[v] This article contains spoilers.

[i] United States Movie Database, (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0034583/trivia?ref_=tt_trv_trv), last accessed 3/10/2018.

[ii] United States Movie Database, (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0034583/trivia?ref_=tt_trv_trv), last accessed 3/10/2018.

[iii] United States Movie Database, (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0034583/trivia?ref_=tt_trv_trv), last accessed 3/10/2018.

[iv] United States Movie Database, (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0034583/?ref_=nv_sr_1), last accessed 3/10/2018.

[v] United States Movie Database, (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0034583/?ref_=nv_sr_1), last accessed 3/10/2018.

The Movie

“Casablanca” has all the makings of a good date movie. It’s a combination of love and intrigue. Thanks to the Hays Code the movie is one adults can watch with their children. What adults know by implication will go over children’s heads. “Casablanca” has an array of legendary stars who were in excellent roles to show off their talent. The story is told with back stories and with some flashbacks. This is the story in chronological order.

Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) has to flee America and can never return for reasons he never tells. He fought on the side of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War.[i] Rick moved to Paris. Sam (Dooley Wilson) is a piano player and Rick’s friend. Ilsa Lund Laszlo (Ingrid Bergman) believes her husband Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) is dead. Rick and Ilsa meet. By mutual agreement they don’t talk about their respective pasts. They have a whirlwind affair. The German army is closing in on Paris. Rick and Ilsa plan to take the train to Marseilles and from their leave France. The plan is for them to meet at the train station. At the train station Ilsa sends a note to Rick telling him she can’t see him again. Rick and Sam take the train and make their way to Casablanca.

Casablanca, Morocco is under the control of Vichy France. Vichy France is technically neutral but follows Germany’s will. Many people attempting to escape the Axis come to Casablanca and there attempt to get the necessary passes to gain passage to Portugal, which is really neutral. Rick owns a nightclub, Rick’s Café Americain. The nightclub has an illegal and crooked casino. The chief of police Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) permits Rick to stay open because Rick arranges it so Captain Renault wins at the casino. Captain Renault also takes bribes of money or other favors to give people the necessary passes. Signor Ferrari (Sydney Greenstreet) is a businessman whose business also includes selling people passes and other illegal activity. Another shady local character is Ugarte (Peter Lorre). Rick dislikes Ugarte. Ugarte murders two German couriers and steals their letters of transit.[ii] Bearers of these letters can travel anywhere without question.

The movie begins with the announcement of the couriers’ murders. An airplane flies Major Heinrich Strasser (Conrad Veidt) and his entourage to Casablanca. Captain Renault meets them at the airport. Captain Renault tells Major Strasser he knows how important the case is so his men are rounding up “twice the usual suspects.” Ugarte asks Rick to hold the letters of transit for him. Ugarte trusts Rick because Rick doesn’t like him. The police kill Ugarte while trying to arrest him. This leaves Rick with the letters and a respect for Ugarte. Ilsa and Laszlo enter Rick’s café. She sees Sam at the piano and asks him to play “As Time Goes By”. Sam reluctantly plays the song and an angry Rick reminds Sam he never wanted to hear that song again. He sees Ilsa and realizes it’s cruel fate that she came into his place. Victor wants to make his way to a free country so he can made anti-Nazi broadcasts. Victor learns Rick has the letters of transit and offers to buy them. Rick refuses. Rick’s party line is he is has found fighting for causes is unprofitable. Rick doesn’t let a Nazi official gamble at his casino. He lets a young man win at his casino so he and his wife can buy exit visas. Victor tells the band to play “La Marseillaise” in response to the German officers singing “Die Wacht am Rhein”.[iii] The band leader looks at Rick and Rick nods approval.

Ilsa tries to talk Rick into giving her the letters of transit. Rick refuses even at gunpoint. At the tarmac Ilsa wants to stay behind with Rick. Rick tells her she must go. Among other things he tells her: “If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him (Victor), you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.” Ilsa gets on the plane with Victor. Rick and Captain Renault decide to go to join a Free French[iv] garrison.

[i] The Republicans were those loyal to the democratic Second Spanish Republic. The Nationalists were counter-revolutionaries. The Soviet Union sent “volunteers” to fight on the side of the Republicans. Germany and Italy sent “volunteers” to fight on the side of the Nationalists.

[ii] Letters of transit was a construct for the movie. There never were such documents.

[iii] Originally the Germans were supposed to sing “Das Horst Wessel Lied”, the NAZI party anthem. There were possible copyright issues so they decided to use “Die Wacht am Rhein”.

[iv] Free French were French military units fighting with the Allies against the Axis.

It’s Timeless

World War II is long over but movies set in World War II are still popular. The scale of the conflict means there is likely to be an interest in World War II for as long as humans write history. The unambiguous struggle between good and evil is an eternal struggle.

Casablanca is a timeless story about love that can’t last. It is a story of two people who meet by fate and fall in love. When Ilsa learns her husband is alive she sends a note to Rick saying she can’t see him again and returns to her husband. Fate brings Rick and Ilsa together and forces them to deal with their past. Victor is not a bad man or a bad husband. He is a good man who loves his wife and is fighting for a good cause. Should Rick and Ilsa decide love is all that matters? Should they decide there are more important things than how they feel about each other? What separates Casablanca from many movies about impossible love is their love is not impossible. They can decide to stay together. They go their separate ways by choice and a sense of responsibility. These are timeless questions. These are also questions most people face at some time in their life.

An excellent example of the film’s relevance happened in 2015. Terrorists carried out a series of attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015. Many in solidarity with France shared the La Marseillaise clip from the movie on social media. During the evacuation of the Stade de France the evacuees sang La Marseillaise.[i] A uniting anthem is a good way for people to show their enemies they may be down but they are not out.

[i] United States Movie Database, (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0034583/trivia?ref_=tt_trv_trv), last accessed 3/10/2018.

It’s Dated

Humphrey Bogart had the persona of being a “tough guy” and he brought that to this film. To a modern audience that may seem a case of miscasting. Rick’s behavior could be construed as weak. He has an affair with a woman and by mutual agreement they don’t talk about their past. That should have given them both reason to believe a spouse might be involved. Ilsa gives Rick a “Dear John” note and Rick is heartbroken. His obstinance in not selling Victor the letters of transit could be seen as childish or worse.

Major Strasser is a typical “comic book” Nazi. He is nasty and inept. The Germans apparently figured the letters of transit weren’t peace treaties so they couldn’t just consider them scraps of paper. They feel Victor Laszlo is a threat to them. Victor Laszlo is in a seedy city where the Germans can control the local police and the Germans can’t get Laszlo arrested or killed.

Ilsa and Victor enter a nightclub which has a large sign that reads “Rick’s Café Americain”. Ilsa sees Rick’s friend Sam. She asks him to play “As Time Goes By”, which was her and Rick’s song. Sam claims he might have forgotten how to play it. Ilsa is still clueless that Rick might be around and Rick wouldn’t want to hear that song.

When a German Banker (Gregory Gaye) wants to gamble at the casino Rick tells him his money is only good at the bar and he is lucky his money is good there. Rick doesn’t like Nazis and he runs a crooked gambling casino. Rick apparently only steals from people he likes. This may be consistent for Rick. When Rick felt he had to stash the letters of transit he put them in Sam’s piano. Rick seems a good friend not to have.

After the Germans lose the battle of the songs the indignant Major Strasser orders Captain Renault to have the Rick’s café closed down. Rick has to pay the price for Victor Laszlo’s pointless grandstanding. Rick asks Renault why he is being closed down. The real answer to the question is intuitively obvious. Captain Renault tells Rick, “I’m shocked! Shocked to find that gambling is going on in here”. The Croupier (Marcel Dalio) hands Renault some money and tells him, “Your winnings sir”. Without skipping a beat Captain Renault replies, “Oh, thank you very much”, puts the money in his pocket and continues ordering people to get out. Such a scene would seem to put a movie in the campy category today.

Captain Renault was a likeable character in 1942. He is a self-described corrupt civil servant. In Casablanca people are trying to get out before the Germans tighten their grip enough that getting out would be impossible. Those not able to get out would be in mortal danger. Captain Renault wants favors from a young married woman (Joy Page). Rick lets her husband (Helmut Dantine) win at the roulette table so they can get the bribe money. It’s amazing everyone at the Roulette table didn’t leave the casino immediately. Captain Renault tells Rick there will be another woman playing tomorrow and he would like it very much if she loses. Could he be passed off as a likeable character today?

Ilsa goes to Rick to plead with him for the letters of transit. When Rick refuses to give them to her Ilsa pulls a gun on him and demands to know where they are. He tells them they are right here. Then he tells her if Victor and the cause mean so much to her she should shoot. Rick even steps closer to make it easier for her. To call this the ultimate in stupidity is an understatement. Ilsa doesn’t kill him. Maybe they played a game of chess. A whirlwind affair means more to Ilsa than a marriage. Ilsa plans to stay with Rick. Ilsa tells Rick she will let him do the thinking for both of them.

One of the themes of the movie is Americans should not be bystanders in the war. In the 21st century it’s difficult to picture America not being involved in major international conflicts. On the tarmac Rick says: “Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” In 1942 the audience could see these words as a message they should concern themselves with their duty to the world and not their personal problems. All sides were giving that message to their people. Is that message what caused the world’s problems in the first place? Where would Rick and Ilsa be in 1946? Would Ilsa regret getting on the plane for the rest of her life? Would Rick regret telling Ilsa to go for the rest of his life? Would Paris be a heartbreaking memory for them?

Your Opinion

See results

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      4 weeks ago

      Thank you for reading and commenting. It's true all movies eventually become dated. Some age better than others. A few movies become timely years after their release.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      4 weeks ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      For me it is off its time. We should never forget modern movies will in time be dated.

      Thanks Robert for reminder of this classic

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      2 months ago

      Time is always a problem. It seems with many things it's either the time or the money.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      2 months ago from sunny Florida

      Hoping to find the time soon to find it and become a fan. Angels are headed your way ps

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      2 months ago

      Yes, it is one of those movies people should view for the time capsule value if no other reason.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      2 months ago from sunny Florida

      I have never seen this movie...now I will have to view it. You have presented some thought provoking ideas here and I will have to decide where I stand after viewing it. Thanks for sharing. Angels are on the way this morning ps

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      5 months ago

      Thank you Frank and Linda for reading and commenting. Casablanca seems to still be going strong after 75 years. It is quite a legacy for all involved in making this film.

    • liesl5858 profile image

      Linda Bryen 

      5 months ago from United Kingdom

      I watched this movie a long, long time ago when I was younger and I enjoyed it so much. Thank you for sharing and well done for this well written hub. Voted as well.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      5 months ago from Shelton

      Call me what you will. but it's timeless... I could watch it once a week and still feel good about it.. Great choice for a review.. and you have chosen a timeless masterpiece...

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      6 months ago

      Since they have been classics this long they will probably remain classics as long as people watch movies.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 months ago from Houston, Texas

      You are correct in writing that both of these movies...Casablanca and The Sound of Music had Nazi antagonists. Considering the long lasting effects of what happened during that time, those movies will probably remain classics for a long time to come.

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      6 months ago

      Good point, it has passed the test of time. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      6 months ago from USA

      I’ve never watched this so I appreciate the summary and discussion. The fact that we still hear about it suggests it’s timeless.

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      6 months ago

      It could be a generational thing. Casablanca and The Sound of Music both had Nazi antagonists. They both had escaping the Nazis as a plot. One was a musical and the other was a film noir.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 months ago from Houston, Texas

      I think that I have happily watched The Sound of Music over and over again much more than Casablanca. Of course that is a year or years apart between viewings. That seems to be a favorite movie for many people just judging from how often it is shown.

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      6 months ago

      Thank you for reading and commenting. For many people this is one of their favorites.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 months ago from Houston, Texas

      My husband says this is one of his favorite movies. We purchased it and watch it on occasion. Will have to do it again sometime. I voted that it is timeless.

    • Ravishar313 profile image

      Ravi Sharma 

      6 months ago from India

      I haven't watched the movie yet, but I'm sure gonna do.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)