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Casablanca Poster

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

A wartime romantic movie, considered by many to be one of the most romantic (and best) movies ever made.

This 1942 Warner Brothers film featured a screenplay by Howard Koch, based on an unproduced play, Everybody Comes to Rick's, by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison; this screenplay was in turn enhanced by the brilliant dialogue of the brothers Julius and Philip Epstein. The film was handed over to ace director Michael Curtiz, and the respected film composer Max Steiner provided the score. Early studio press releases had it that the film would star Ronald Reagan, and Ann Sheridan -- but this was just the studio's publicity department needing to put someone famous's name in the release, otherwise the announcement wouldn't get printed. George Raft also made a play for the lead role, but the studio had always planned the film as an A-list picture and had never considered anyone but Humphrey Bogart for its starring role.

The setting is Casablanca, Morocco in December 1941; the city is a melting-pot hotbed of refugees from Nazi oppression who are all desperately trying to make their way to the United States -- and freedom -- while trying to avoid the Vichy French authorities, their German masters, and opportunistic criminals. At the center of the story is protagonist Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), the bitter, cynical American owner of Rick's Café Americain -- which professes absolute neutrality to all, from the ruthless German commander Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt) and the corrupt, cynical French police chief Louis Renault (Claude Rains) to the desperate refugees and criminals who use his bar as a convenient place for dealings of all kinds.

Rick's claims of neutrality are pushed to the limit by the arrival of Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) -- the woman who broke Rick's heart when the Germans entered Paris -- and her husband Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), a Czech resistance leader and Major Strasser's current favorite target. Ilsa had abandoned him upon learning that her husband, once thought dead, was still alive; now she and Victor need Rick's help in securing vital letters of transit that will allow them to leave the country and continue to fight the good fight against the Nazis. When it is gradually made clear that Ilsa -- despite being with her husband -- still loves Rick, Rick finds himself struggling with his heart, his anger, his gradually-revived sense of idealism, and the question of whether to sacrifice this new chance at happiness for the cause of something that is greater than all of them.

Casablanca was the winner of three Oscars at the 1944 Academy Awards: Best Screenplay (for Howard Koch and Julius and Philip Epstein), Best Director (for Michael Curtiz), and Best Picture. It was also nominated in five other categories, including Best Actor (for Bogart), Best Supporting Actor (for Rains), and Best Score (for Max Steiner).

As an interesting side note: in his World War II espionage history Istanbul Intrigues, historian and political columnist Barry Rubin described the "Byzantine" City of Spies in the title as "a real-life Casablanca".

Not to be confused with the poem Casabianca.


Here's lookin' at you, Tropes:

  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Turns out, Victor wasn't dead, causing much angst for Rick.
  • Affably Evil: Seemingly Louis, at first, but ultimately subverted (the evil part that is, not the affable).
    • Even the Nazis are relatively affable at times.
  • Affectionate Pickpocket: The guy who puts his arms around visitors and warns them about thieves while robbing them.
  • The Alliance: The Allies. Which they go out of their way to demonstrate.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Louis Renault, full stop. He has this perpetual selfpleased, cheery smile and jovial attitude, appears to enjoy being around Rick a lot, drops Ho Yay moments every second scene. Granted, he seems to enjoy his lots with chicks here and there, maybe is playing the french stereotype a bit too much, and maybe is If It's You It's Okay, but that's where the "ambiguously" part plays in, isn't?
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Ilsa gets one right after failing to shoot Rick.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Signor Ferrari has a nice ring.
  • Bad Guy Bar: "Rick's Cafe Americain". But then, everybody comes to Rick's.
  • Bad Samaritan: The "vultures everywhere" guy.
  • Batman Gambit: The outcome of Rick's eventual scheme depended heavily on the character of the people involved.
  • Betty and Veronica: Victor and Rick.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty: Almost everyone knows the classic line, "Play it again, Sam." ...except the line never appears. It's simply "Play it, Sam." With the "again" later on. Hence the title of Woody Allen's film Play It Again, Sam, which has Allen's neurotic Jew being given advice on how to pick up ladies from the ghost of Bogart. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Rick gets one immediately after (apparently) turning Victor Laszlo over to Renault.

  Rick: Stay where you are, Louie. I wouldn't like to shoot you, but I will if you take one more step.

    • Renault gets a subtle one himself, simply by uttering an immortal line at the opportune moment, just as it looks like Rick will be arrested for murder.

  Renault: Major Strasser has been shot. Round up The Usual Suspects.

  • Billed Above the Title: Bogart and Bergman, obviously, but also Paul Henreid as Victor Laszlo. It was compensation for having to take such a thankless role.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Rick lets Ilsa leave with Victor and is forced to leave Casablanca for his role in the pair's escape. On the bright side, Victor and Ilsa are able to get away from Casablanca to continue to lead the fight against the Nazis for the resistance, and Rick has his sense of idealism revived.
  • Black Best Friend: Sam is a prototypical example.
  • Bowdlerization: The first German dub was so thoroughly denazified (by about 25 minutes) that it told a completely different story. It took them 23 years to make a faithful dub.
    • To this day, any reference to fascism or Italy is missing from the Italian version.
  • Brooklyn Rage: Rick quips that there are parts of New York that it would not be a good idea for the Germans to invade.
  • Call Forward: "It's December 1941 and all of America is asleep...".
    • Specifically, from the date on the marker Rick signs at the very beginning, the movie begins on December 2, 1941, and ends on December 5, 1941.
  • Catch Phrase: Casablanca has six quotes on the AFI's 100 top film quotes list, more than any other movie.
    • "Here's looking at you, kid.", "Play it, Sam.", the quote above. It's so hard to pick a page quote.
  • Character Development: Not just one, but two with Rick and Louis, who start the movie perfectly happy to drink or screw themselves to death without a care for what goes on outside Casablanca. Rick struggles to hold on to his shallow, cynical life even toward the end, when he claims he's no good at being noble while outdoing the nobility of even Laszlo (Laszlo, after all, has every reason to believe he can escape from the Nazis again; Rick was assuming he'd be summarily shot or turned over to the Nazis).
    • Louis' change of heart is more sudden but no less complete: Strasser's death was clearly on either he or Blaine, with Louis' lie obvious either way. His subordinates could have turned them both in for a promotion.
  • The Chessmaster: Rick is first seen playing chess. We never see him play against an opponent, suggesting that he plays against himself[1]. When finally called into action, Rick is seen manipulating other characters - even Ilsa - into setting up the final move.
    • Bogart was an accomplished chess player in Real Life.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Louis, who admits as much, saying that he "goes with the wind."
    • Arguably Rick as well, who betrays most of the cast at some point or another, although he usually does it for a good reason.
  • City of Spies: Technically, city full of refugees and smugglers.
  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: "We haven't decided whether he committed suicide or was shot trying to escape."
  • Crowd Song: The French National Anthem scene.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Several, most notably Capt. Renault and Rick, resulting in a movie with some of the snappiest dialogue in film history.

 Captain Renault: What in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?

Rick: My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.

Captain Renault: The waters? What waters? We're in the desert.

Rick: I was misinformed.

  • Default to Good: Rick, and then Captain Renault.
  • Despair Speech: Rick's dialogue in his famous "All the Gin Joints" scene once Elsa shows up smacks of this, despite not technically being a speech.
  • Digital Destruction: Gloriously inverted: The 70th Anniversary Blu-Ray has more grain and better shadowing than its predecessor.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: When Rick learns of Ilsa, he has his famous, "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine" scene, drinking rather heavily while his pianist tries to snap him out of it.
  • DVD Commentary: Roger Ebert makes one awesome commentary track. He breaks down things such as shot design, subtle character motivations, the "La Marseillaise" awesomeness and the MacGuffin disaster.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Pretty much everyone.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Rick. According to Louis, anyway.

 "If I were a woman, and I were not around... I should be in love with Rick."

  • The Empire: The Nazis, of course.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Early on, Rick lets Ugarte get dragged away by the authorities to his death, asserting that "he sticks his neck out for no one". It was a bit of a shock for a main character to be so cold. In the DVD (with pause function!), Rick's face clearly shows a moment of sympathy for Ugarte before the tough veneer reasserts itself. His line that he sticks his neck out for no one, which comes as Ugarte is being dragged away, comes across as more of an effort to convince himself and justify his seeming coldness.
    Later on, Rick telling a refugee what numbers to bet on to get the money to get out of Casablanca. Louis notes that he's not as cold as he's trying to convince himself to be.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Averted. Major Strasser's the first person to guess Rick's idealism isn't quite dead.
  • Fake Nationality: Austrian actor Paul Henreid played Victor Laszlo, who's Czech (though his name actually sounds Hungarian).
    • Win a bar bet: name the three Americans in the cast. Everyone gets Bogie, most get Dooley Wilson (Sam) ... and then there's 17-year-old Joy Page, playing the newlywed Bulgarian refugee Annina. Have one on me.
  • Film Noir: Heavy shadows, morally conflicted and deeply wounded cynical protagonist, Bittersweet Ending, Humphrey Bogart... yeah, it counts.
  • Flash Back: Of Rick and Ilsa's time together in pre-occupation Paris, and how exactly Ilsa left Rick.
  • Flippant Forgiveness:

 Ugarte: You are a very cynical person, Rick, if you'll forgive me for saying so.

Rick: I forgive you.

  • Forced Perspective: That plane, with the maintenance crew working on it? A scale model, and midgets.
    • A cheap cardboard scale model, at that. The scene's fog, in addition to being atmospheric, was used to hide how fake the plane looked.
  • Follow the Leader: After the success of this movie, Hollywood decided they should try and get Humphrey Bogart to make it again. And again. Annnnd again. To Have and Have Not is pretty similar (and very good), but could possibly claim plausible deniability. Tokyo Joe and Sirocco, on the other hand, are just Casablanca again in other countries with crappier supporting casts, writers, and directors.
  • Foreshadowing: During said flashback, Rick and Ilsa dance to ... Perfidia.
  • Four Philosophy Ensemble: Rick as the Cynic, Ilsa as the Conflicted, Victor as the Optimist, and Louis as the Apathetic. All four start off as textbook examples of their respective philosophies, and their Character Development largely entails these philosophies being challenged by the events of the film.
  • Funny Foreigner: "What watch?" "Ten watch." "Such much?"
    • This is a literal translation from German to English. Doesn't rise to the level of a Blind Idiot Translation.
    • They were played by the same two actors who played Lou Gehrig's parents in Pride Of The Yankees.
    • The "vultures everywhere" guy (Curt Bois) uses this as a cover for his pickpocketing.
  • Gaussian Girl: Ingrid Bergman is not shown in focus at any point in the film.
  • Genre Roulette: It's a film noir/war movie/comedy/drama/caper/romance with a side order of adventure (and propaganda).
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: "Louie must be getting broad-minded." Yes, folks, that's a gay joke in 1942.
    • When Ilsa meets a drunken Rick after the bar is closed, his line about a 'tinny piano' is subtly referencing a brothel, implying she is a prostitute.
  • Good Guy Bar: Rick's Cafe Americain.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars - Victor Lazlo has a good one, Major has an evil one.
  • Guile Hero: Rick.
  • Heel Face Turn: Louis and Rick. A tad different and late in the latter's case.
  • Hello, Nurse!: Ilsa. According to Rick, Victor, and Louis, anyway. And a pretty big slice of the audience, both then and now; Ilsa is played by Ingrid Bergman, after all.

 Louis: Ms. Lund, I was told you were the most beautiful woman who had ever come to Casablanca. That was a gross understatement.

  • Heroic BSOD: Rick gets two. First when Ilsa leaves him in Paris, and again when she reappears in Casablanca.
  • Hollywood Kiss: Rick and Ilsa
  • Hollywood Tactics:The good guys show horrible tradecraft.
    • For instance, a courier walks up to Victor Laszlo and announces himself as "Norwegian" (ever heard of the phrase "need to know" guys?). Victor Laszlo knows every resistance leader in Europe and yet is way deep in enemy territory. Indeed the Allies might be tempted to think that He Knows Too Much.
    • Most Real Life couriers are mercenaries and wouldn't know who they are working for. And of course resistance leaders wouldn't always trust each other either. Sometimes They Were Struggling Together.
  • Hypocritical Humor: "I am shocked -- shocked! -- to find gambling going on in here." "Your winnings, sir." "Oh, thank you very much."
    • A more subtle example is Rick's repeated claim that he "sticks his neck out for nobody," and then spends pretty much the entire movie sticking his neck out for one person or another.
  • Iconic Song Request: "Play it, Sam. Play As Time Goes By."
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: A defining theme of the movie. Although this is justified more than the trope typically is. "If that plane takes off and you're not on it, you'll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life." Also, he was talking about the work Laszlo was doing more than just being with him.
    • Not just Rick, though. Both of them care more about her safety and happiness than which of them "wins".
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold
    • Rick Blaine: "I stick my neck out for nobody." Sure you don't, Rick. Sure you don't.
    • Signore Ferrari, much lesser extent: "I am moved to make one more suggestion; why, I do not know, because it cannot possibly profit me, but, have you heard about Signor Ugarte and the letters of transit...?"
  • Karma Houdini: OK, Capt. Renault turns good at the end, but he's still spent much of the war collaborating with the Nazis, including murdering prisoners at their command, and he's corrupt to boot.
    • It can be argued that someone who openly moves against the Nazis like Louis does is making such a personal risk that he can't possibly be a Karma Houdini.
    • Is being corrupt in a Nazi regime a bad thing? He was arranging exit visas for people who legally shouldn't have been allowed to leave (good), although he was charging a lot for this service (bad). He's still causing quite a bit of trouble for his superiors, even if his motives are less than altruistic.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Rick, again. He gets better.
  • Lady of War: Ingrid Bergman seems to be a Distressed Damsel trying to be a Lady of War. More important, what she really is, is every soldier's favorite princess. Which might make this a successful attempt at inspiring the world war II version of Courtly Love from fans.
  • Leitmotif: Three:
    • Most famously, "As Time Goes By", which symbolizes the romance between Rick and Ilsa.
    • "La Marseillaise", which, in addition to representing Paris and France, also symbolizes La Résistance, and the Allied cause as a whole.
    • The opening of the Deutschlandlied (the German national anthem, here played in a minor key to make it sound more sinister) represents Nazi Germany, and Major Strasser in particular.
  • Les Collaborateurs: The police, particularly Louis -- unusually, he redeems himself. "I go with the wind, and right now, the prevailing wind blows from Vichy."
    • The fact that he says this directly to his Nazi superior officer makes it even more ballsy.
      • Louis is in fact all cool with his normally extremely controversial behaviour of opportunism. He, for instance, at one point nonchalantly informs Rick that he will go to his Nazi Superior to lick ass for his own sake.
  • MacGuffin: The letters of transit, which are fictional. And don't make sense. While never actually being used... since before the plane left, Strasser was dead and Renault was sympathetic... which also means Rick could have gotten on the plane along with Ilsa and Laszlo. And who the heck cares anyway?
    • The people at the other end of the plane's flight would care. Which was Lisbon, not exactly a safe haven (It may have been Portugal, but if the German government made enough of a stink of things then the Lisbon authorities could have arrested everyone there.)
      • It's implied the letters of transit don't require additional identification, and grant unimpeded access to transportation, allowing someone like Laszlo to carry them untouched.
        • They need names filled in, and the proper ones, so likely additional identification is required--but they likely mean that the bearer(s) are not to be blocked at checkpoints. Given that they were being transported with the names not yet filled in, most likely the original intended bearers were spies who would need such papers to return after finishing their current mission(s).
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: Conrad Veidt as Major Strasser - It has been reported, though not verified, that Veidt identified himself as Jewish on Nazi questionnaires as an act of protest.
    • Ironically all of the German actors in the film were Jews or German expatriates who fled the country when the Nazis took over, only to play Nazis in Hollywood.
      • Which most of them (Veidt in particular) were pleased to do, seeing it as a form of resistance by telling the world what the Nazis were like.
  • The Messiah: Victor Lazlo
  • Messianic Archetype: Victor Laszlo.
  • Music for Courage: The French national anthem scene. This scene might have been even more pointed if real-world IP law hadn't intervened. The scene as shot used the old German WW 1 martial air "Die Wacht am Rhein". The scene as written used the Nazi anthem (and officially during Nazi Germany the second part of the National anthem after "Deutschland Ueber Alles"), "Das Horst-Wessel-Lied." The song was still under copyright to The Nazi Party in Germany, which in most cases would not be a problem (because the Allies did not recognize Nazi Germany's copyrights)... if the film were to be only played in Allied nations. The scene could have gotten Warner Brothers in legal trouble in neutral nations where it would be screened, especially if those nations still had diplomatic relations with Germany.
    • Anyway, the melody of Die Wacht am Rhein fit beautifully with that of the Marseillaise.
    • Watch the Nazi at the back in the shot where Maj. Strasser is conducting. He accidentally sings a bar of the Marseillaise!, then looks embarrassed. Some fans have a bet on whether that was a fortunate blooper that was left in, or deliberate.
    • There was a Real Life counterpart that resembled this scene remarkably where the American adventurer George Earle started a Bar Brawl with some Germans in a bar in the Balkans over what music was to be sung. FDR thought it a funny story and called it "The battle of the bottles."
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: Lazlo tries to use this to scare the Nazis, but Strasser doesn't buy it.
  • Nice Hat: Ferrari's fez.
  • Non-Singing Voice: This almost happened to Dooley Wilson. Also, he was a drummer, so his piano playing was dubbed in. You can have some fun by watching him do jazz chords while the piano plays a soulfully minimalist melody.
  • Noodle Incident: The reason Rick can't return to America is never disclosed in the film. The writers apparently attempted to come up with the reason numerous times, but eventually decided to leave it to our imaginations, and hung a lampshade on it by having Renault bring up various theories. By the end of the movie, Rick does all three: cheats on his bet with Louis about Victor's escape, rekindles the love affair with Ilsa (even as she leaves with Victor), and shoots Major Strasser.

 Renault: I've often speculated why you don't return to America. Did you abscond with the church funds? Run off with a senator's wife? I like to think you killed a man. It's the Romantic in me.

Rick: It was a combination of all three.

    • "Richard Blaine, American... Cannot return to his country -- the reason is a little vague..." However, if you check out That Other Wiki and its entries about the Neutrality Acts of the 1930s, and then recall Rick's record as specifically referenced by Renault and later Laszlo, the reason becomes a little clearer....
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Several, but perhaps most noticeably Claude Rains as a Frenchman.
  • Notable Original Music: The catchy little call-and-response ditty "Knock on Wood" was the only song written for the film.
  • Oops I Thought My Husband Was Dead: Ilsa in the Backstory.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Peter Lorre as Ugarte (also something of a Dead Star Walking) and Sidney Greenstreet as Ferrari.
  • Persona Non Grata: Rick is an unwilling ex-pat from the United States, and just about everybody there is also displaced from their homeland for one reason or another.
  • The Quisling: Louis Renault, at least until the end.
  • Reality Subtext: A number of the actors and extras were actually refugees of Nazi oppression, including Conrad Veidt, who played Major Strasser. This added extra meaning to the Marseilles scene, as most of the emotion from the actors was genuine.
    • It also adds more meaning to Ugarte's arrest, since his actor Peter Lorre was a Jew who fled Nazi Germany to escape exactly what happens to Ugarte. The line where he begs Rick, "Hide me!" particularly stands out, now.
  • Romantic False Lead: An unusual twist: Either Victor or Rick could be considered a False Lead once you know the Backstory. In the DVD commentary, Roger Ebert points out that no matter with whom Ilsa leaves at the end, she's leaving with the wrong man.
    • Ingrid Berman claims that she consciously attempted to avoid this trope by presenting Ilsa as having to decide between two men she genuinely loves, each in his own way.
    • What happened was that the script was getting rewritten even as they were filming. No one knew who Ilsa would leave with until the very last rewrite.
    • In any case, though, the Hays Code wouldn't have allowed the showing of a movie in which she left her husband for another man in that fashion.
  • Running Gag: Ferrari swatting flies in his rathole club.
    • Vultures. Vultures everywhere.
  • The Scarpia Ultimatum: The scene with a young Bulgarian couple trying to buy passage to Lisbon from Captain Renault. He wants either an enormous sum of money or sex with wifey. In the end, Rick helps them raise the money by letting them win at roulette. As opposed to most examples on this list, Captain Renault apparently always does keep his word, and is willing to take the money if they do happen to have it.

 Renault: I'll forgive you this time. But I'll be in tomorrow night with a breathtaking blonde, and it will make me very happy if she loses.

  • Screw the War, We're Partying: Until Victor's arrival, the majority of Rick's clients.
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids: Rick starts out nursing this view. It doesn't last, though.
  • Slasher Smile: Conrad Veidt (whose face was the original model for The Joker) has still got it.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Pretty much the point of the movie. "I suspect that under that cynical shell you are at heart a sentimentalist." Of course, Louis is right when he says that of Rick. And because Rousseau Was Right, it turns out to be true of everyone, even the local crime lord and corrupt, lecherous Louis himself.
  • Stood Up: Rick at the train station at the end of the flashback.
  • Theme Tune Cameo: "As Time Goes By" is now the official Vanity Plate jingle for Warner Bros., the producer of Casablanca.
  • Threshold Guardians: Rick, who has the letters of transit that Victor and Ilsa need to leave Casablanca. Rick is perhaps one of the few Threshold Guardians in fiction to be The Protagonist.
  • Those Wacky Nazis - Not insane or out-and-out evil like modern views, but not good, obviously.
  • Throw It In: "Here's looking at you, kid," (yes, the most famous line in the whole movie) was improvised by Bogart during the Paris scenes and only written into the rest of the film afterwards.
  • Title Drop: Here of the (unproduced) play it was adapted from. Captain Renault's "Everybody comes to Rick's". The word "Casablanca" is spoken many times, too. Justified, being the city in which the story is set.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Not actually the case with the real trailer, but the VHS release of the movie is preceded by an infuriatingly long special/blurb that repeatedly features every single even remotely well-known moment from the film somewhere in the 15-20 minute range. But you can Never Trust a Trailer when it comes to the original (which is available on the DVD). Although it shows most of the well-known and dramatic moments, it also contains a number of scenes and lines that were never in the original film.
  • Train Station Goodbye: The film that made this scene famous. Ironically, no one is there to say goodbye to Rick - just a note.
  • Triang Relations: Number seven, initially.
  • World War II: One of the classic films from this period - and, you know, revolving around it. It IS a propaganda movie, after all.
  • Wretched Hive: The city of Casablanca itself.

Notes

  1. In reality, Bogie was playing chess by mail with an American soldier, as was his hobby at the time.
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