By Alycia Skerry
“With the coming of the second World War, many eyes in imprisoned Europe turned hopefully, or desperately, toward the Americas.” So begins what is widely considered the greatest love story in cinema, the 1942 box office smash hit “Casablanca.”
This movie is one of my favorites, and since it’s so iconic, it’s not hard to love. Here are some other reasons why you should check it out.
The story is set in occupied French Morocco during WWII. It revolves around a romance torn apart in the wake of the German invasion. This film is said to be not only the best romance film but best film ever made altogether, and I can’t find any disputing evidence that can convince me otherwise.
Casablanca is a place of waiting for brave souls hoping to leave warring Europe and escape into America. Rick Blaine is the tough-guy owner of a popular nightspot in Casablanca. Ask anyone what the stand-out acting performance in this movie is and they’re bound to mention Humphrey Bogart’s Rick. Rick is a classic movie hero, and everything an actor dreams to play: strong and unwavering, yet broken inside; a hardened man with a secret past. Claude Rains’ character, the French prefect of police, says, “If I were a woman, I should be in love with Rick.” Well, I’m a woman, so if Rick were real, I might not be able to help myself.
Rick hides some coveted “letters of transit” for an acquaintance, and when his acquaintance is arrested for the murder of two German soldiers, Rick has no choice but to hold onto them. These letters serve as exit visas for anyone who can obtain them.
Enter Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), leader of the resistance against the Nazi party. This guy is pure nationalism, with a white stripe in his hair. When he shows up at Rick’s Café with a lady (Ingrid Bergman) on his arm, everyone knows who he is, but no one’s about to make a scene, considering the place is crawling with German soldiers. It’s not long before we learn that Ilsa, the woman he’s with, has met Rick before.
Rick is now forced to deal with the mother of all awkward situations. Will he furnish his romantic rival with an exit visa to support his noble cause, or will he vie for Ilsa’s affections?
This is my favorite romances of all time. That aspect of the story is just a small fraction of the film, but it’s one of the best parts. What the screenwriters have created here is the perfect love triangle, making it nearly impossible for Ilsa (and for the audience) to decide which man deserves her love. On one hand, Rick and Ilsa have an incredible relationship. We’re treated to an extensive flashback in which we see who they are really, and what they were before, and what they did and what they said.
On the other hand, Victor is possibly the only person who can compete with Rick’s heroism, and in a way, Victor is more of a hero than Rick can ever be. He’s already escaped a Nazi concentration camp once, and he has a scar to prove it. He’s prepared to do whatever is necessary to get to America, where he can continue fighting back against the Nazi army. If he can’t leave, his entire operation is at stake.
That’s as much as I can say about the plot without giving anything more away.
Moving on to the next facet: the writing. This movie is more quotable than “Mean Girls”. If I said, “I stick my neck out for nobody,” “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid,” or “Play it, Sam,” odds are you may have heard these phrases before. I could go on forever: “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” “We’ll always have Paris.” There are endless quotes for endless occasions.
This is just the kind of movie that you can sit down alone and watch to analyze, or watch with a few friends and make comments. Whatever you do, this is a must-see. Four stars.