Sunday, November 24, 2013

Family Movie Night: Casablanca

Title: Casablanca
Director: Michael Curtiz
Original Release: 1942
Choice: Mine
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
via Wikipedia
One of the most celebrated romance stories in the history of American cinema, Casablanca wasn't expected to be anything special upon its initial release.  Made on an average budget, compared to the sweeping epics with which it is frequently compared, Casablanca was only a modest box office hit as well.  But the critics raved.  On the strength of its iconic protagonist and solid screenplay, the movie has endured and is now considered by many to be one of the greatest films ever made.  I'm not sure I'd go that far myself but it's fair to say the story holds up quite well 71 years later.  It certainly doesn't hurt that Ingrid Bergman is one of the most beautiful women in world history.



The story takes place in 1941 Morocco.  Rick (Humphrey Bogart), an American ex-pat with a shady past, owns a thriving night club in Casablanca.  One evening, an old flame (Bergman) walks into the place: Ilsa, the love of his life who abandoned him in Paris when the Nazis invaded and they were both scrambling to leave the country.  Now in Morocco, she and her activist husband are trying to stay one step ahead of the Third Reich.  Running into Rick, however, was never part of the plan.

As Bogey puts it,"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine."

It's an interesting movie to watch from an historical perspective.  The United States had just entered the Second World War by the time Casablanca was released.  In fact, the opening was rushed to capitalize on the recent Allied invasion in North Africa.  Watching in 2013, we all know how the rest of the war turned out.  But the viewing public in 1942 didn't.  The prospect of the Nazis occupying London, for instance, would have been a genuine concern. 

Casablanca is the source of film's most famous misquotation.  The line "Play it again, Sam" never actually occurs.  The initial line, delivered by Ilsa, is "Play it, Sam, for old times' sake."  The song in question is "As Time Goes By."  The song was written in 1931 by Herman Hupfeld for the Broadway musical, Everybody's Welcome.  While not yet the American Songbook standard it would become thanks to Casablanca, "As Time Goes By" would already have been familiar to many of the audience in 1942.  Dooley Wilson, the actor who played Sam, was a drummer by trade, not a pianist.  It's his voice in the film but the piano is dubbed.


37 comments:

  1. I think I'd give it a 5. It's been a while seen I've seen it, but it's a great film, and it takes a great film to be that old and still be captivating.

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    1. It's close but there are other films of the era I like better. The Philadelphia Story and Brief Encounter both have better acting and much better writing. I am very stingy with 5s.

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    2. I'm bias to The Philadelphia Story. I'm a big Cary Grant fan, love Arsenic and Old Lace, and Bringing up Baby.

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    3. I've never seen Arsenic and Old Lace - shameful, I know, but it's true. TPS really is Grant at his best. As good as the leads are in that one, I've got a soft spot for Ruth Hussey.

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    4. I'd give The Philadelphia Story a 5, as well...

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    5. TPS is easily one of my top 3, all-time.

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    6. Arsenic and Old Lace is so good!

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    7. Peter Lorre as the doctor gave it a frankenstein type feel.

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    8. Mock - I'm sure we'll get to that one.

      David - Interesting, your comment on Lorre. You refer here to his A&OL role but, of course, he's in Casablanca, too.

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  2. I'd 5 it just for the nuances, Squid, Like Rick walking into the dining room after a fracas and calming the patrons while reaching behind his back to upright an overturned cocktail glass. It's in the details. The details define the characters.

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    1. Yes, yes, excellent film - no question. But as I noted in my response to Andrew above, there are simply others of the era which I prefer. Out of the 2,500+ films I've rated on Netflix, only 48 are 5s.

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  3. One of my favorite classic movies. Amazing that it had so many writers, but was cohesive at the same time.

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    1. Even with all the whirlwind of activity surrounding it, the story is really a very simple one.

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  4. I liked this movie. Time to watch it again... :-)
    A movie I love is "Morocco" with Gary Cooper and Marlene Dietrich, the story of the cabaret singer and the Legionnaire.

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    1. I don't know "Morocco," though I do have a soft spot for Cooper. Another one for the list!

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  5. A classic because pretty much every scene is iconic, and the movie is perfectly cast. Usually when someone makes the subjective comment of "world's most beautiful" about someone from the past, I find it fairly easy to dismiss. But you're probably right in this instance.

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    1. Yes, sometimes I feel like I'm going out on a limb offering opinions. I think I'm on pretty solid ground with Bergman, too. She was more successful genetically than some of her contemporaries, too. Her children are beautiful. Poor Rita Hayworth - comparably beautiful woman and her kids look like their fathers!

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  6. I love this movie, but if you're ranking Bogart films by acting, mood, and characterization, I'd have to give the top spot to Key Largo. Up at this pinnacle, though, it's probably apples vs oranges... :-)

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    1. Another one I don't know! I haven't seen Maltese Falcon in a while but it definitely holds up well, too.

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  7. I would say this movie is a 5. Just my opinion...there are some movies I can watch forever and never tire of, and this is one of them. Ingrid Bergman is absolutely luminous, and if you can possibly drag your eyes of of her, they land on Bogie himself who shouldn't be as captivating as he is! Claude Rains, Paul Henreid, Dooley Wilson - these actors just made this film work.

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    1. Did you know that Bergman was actually 2 inches taller than Bogey in real life. I don't know if they put him on a box or her in a trench...

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    2. LOL Probably him on a box! Or forced perspective, did they use that back then?

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    3. I just now checked. According to Wikipedia, it was Bogey on a box.

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  8. I never thought about it, but it's interesting to realize that the audience watching in 1942 obviously would have no idea how the war was going to turn out. It's easy to forget that now. Had no idea about Bogey on a box but that's classic.

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    1. I had to continually remind myself of that while watching. So much they didn't know yet!

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  9. Details do define a movie, move it a notch or two. Have watched Casablanca many times. I always wondered what Bogart and Cusack did next. Join the resistance? What?

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    1. They must join the resistance or run some complicated scheme to help the resistance. No other outcome would feel right.

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  10. I just saw this on TV a few weeks back! It's one of my all-time favorite movies and one of the most quoted (and misquoted) ever. Hears looking at you kid.

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    1. Six lines appear in AFI's best quotes list, the most of any film by far. "Here's looking at you, kid" is #5.

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  11. A 5 for me because I love the way I was pulled into the story, the small details, the way the film looked and just how I felt after I watched it.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. The consensus definitely seems to be that most of you like the film more than I do. This was, I think, only the second time I've watched it all the way through and the first was about 22 years ago. It does improve with age - my age, that is.

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  12. Raul Julia's "Overdrawn At The Memory Bank" is one of many movies to pay homage to this classic...we were watching it in the birthing room while we waited for our youngest. It is everything Casablanca not...

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    1. Aww... Our choice this week (The Philadelphia Story) was one of our delivery room movies.

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