What I Learned From Casablanca

I saw Casablanca for the umpteenth time last night. It’s a wonderful movie and the more times I see Casablanca, the more I enjoy it. There are individual elements of the film you can easily criticize, but overall it is fantastic.

Here are the most important things I took away from Casablanca this time around.

1. Even the not famous lines are great.

Casablanca had something like a million different writers and a million different contributors to the screenplay. And yet somehow it all comes together perfectly. For every famous line (“Here’s looking at you, kid”) there are at least five just as clever and sharp exchanges.

Like this exchange between Rick and Sam:

Rick: If it’s December 1941 in Casablanca, what time is it in New York?
Sam: What? My watch stopped.
Rick: I’d bet they’re asleep in New York. I’d bet they’re asleep all over America.

2. I want a piano playing sidekick.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vThuwa5RZU]

The unsung hero of Casablanca will always be Sam. He puts up with the Rick-Ilsa romance, even though his face always reads, “Bitch, please.” Too bad Dooley Wilson vanishes from the last 30 minutes of the movie. Sam should be serenading that final scene from the tarmac.

3. Casablanca has more people of different nationalities in it than a United Colors of Benetton commercial.

It makes sense given the film’s central plot (refugees hoping to escape to America) that number of nationalities represented. But trying to keep track of who’s American, Norwegian, Bulgarian, Czech, or Vichy French can give you a headache. At least the Nazis are always in uniform.

4. When you are a fugitive, always dress fashionably.

Ingrid Bergman could give a lesson on how to look your best while escaping from a war-torn continent.

5. And always pack plenty of hats.

This is something I always wonder about fashionable women in classic Hollywood films. Where do they fit all their hats in those tiny suitcases? Rita Hayworth in The Lady from Shanghai also had an outfit and hat for every occasion.

6. Everyone is upstaged by Sydney Greenstreet in a fez.

Or does the fez upstage Sydney Greenstreet? Think about it.

In addition to Greenstreet, Casablanca has fantastic supporting actors. Many of these actors are uncredited but they would have long careers in Hollywood . Peter Lorre and Conrad Veidt are two of the more recognizable faces. John Qualen, Marcel DalioLeonid Kinskey, Curt Bois, Leon Belasco, and many other supporting cast members make brief but memorable appearances in the movie.

7. This is Humphrey Bogart’s movie.

The more times I see Casablanca, the less I care about Ilsa. Sure, she’s gorgeous but compared to Humphrey Bogart’s Rick, Ilsa is just okay. (Though Ilsa is significantly better than Paul Henreid’s stiff and boring Laszlo.) Bogart is at ease in his performance. Rick isn’t a hero; he just does what he has to do. Bogart is largely why Casablanca is so memorable. Almost any actress could have played Ilsa but no other actor could have played Rick.

8. One last very important thought.

See Casablanca relates to everything.


3 thoughts on “What I Learned From Casablanca”

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