Top of my top five all-time favourite films is Casablanca, followed by Kes, followed by The Adventures of Robin Hood, followed by the Wicked Lady, followed by Sleepless in Seattle.
Released in 1942, despite being an A-list movie, it was nothing more to Warner Brothers than one of hundreds of films to be released by Hollywood studios during that year.
In fact Casablanca was rushed into release to take advantage of publicity from the Allied invasion of North Africa a few weeks earlier.
On first release, it was modestly received. It was buoyed up when it won an Academy Award for Best Picture.
Michael Curtiz was also selected as Best Director and Julius J and Philip G Epstein with Howard Koch were honored for writing Best Adapted Screenplay.Casablanca is based on the play Everybody Comes to Rick’s by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison.
In essence, the plot involves American expatriate Rick Blaine.He must choose between his love for a woman Ilsa and helping her and her husband Victor Laszlo, a Czech resistance leader, escape from Vichy-controlled city of Casablanca so Laszlo can continue his fight against the Nazis.
I love it for lots of reasons. It has perfect casting. Humphrey Bogart as Rick, Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa and Paul Henreid as Victor.
In support Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre,Conrad Veidt and Dooley Wilson.
You have the cool of Bogie, the glamour of Bergman and the intensity of Henreid in one of the most heart-stopping of ménage à trois.
It is impossible to categorise Casablanca.
It is a war film, spy thriller, film noir, adventure movie and, of course, love story.
It has intrigue, Nazis, freedom fighters, murderers, black marketeers, glamour and romance.
It is also filmed in black and white.
The dialogue is crisp and crackles with wit, packed with one liners.Rick: “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.”
Rick: “Round up the usual suspects.”
Strasser: “Are you one of those people who can not imagine the Germans in their beloved Paris?”Rick: “It’s not particularly my beloved Paris.”Maj Strasser: “Can you imagine us in London?”Rick: “When you get there, ask me.”
Rick: “Looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Rick: “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
Rick: “You played it for her, play it for me. If she can stand it, I can. Play it.”
The latter quote, of course, refers to one of the most beautiful love songs ever written - As Times Goes By.
The score also includes the equally lovely It Had to Be You and The Very Thought of You.
The film stirs the soul. Think of the scene where Laszlo conducts the band and Rick’s customers into a rendition of La Marseillaise to drown out the Nazis singing Deutschland über Alles.
It breaks the heart. A man forgoes his love for a woman for his rival’s far more noble and world-changing cause.
He does it humbly and without reward of any kind.
It is nerve-shredding with the tension racked up until it is almost unbearable.
Will Rick get Ilsa and Victor’s letters of transit out of Casablanca, will Major Heinrich Strasser catch them before they can escape, will Ilsa get on the plane with Victor or remain on the tarmac with Rick?
Watch it. If you don’t, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest ...