"Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
Casablanca is a wartime romantic movie, considered by many to be one of the most romantic (and best) movies ever made.This 1942 Warner Bros. 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 eponymous City of Spies as "a real-life Casablanca".Not to be confused with the poem Casabianca.
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.
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 caused by either him 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, but there is an opened letter next to the board, indicating he's playing some unknown foe by correspondance.note In reality, Bogie really was playing chess by mail with an American soldier, as was his hobby at the time. When finally called into action, Rick is seen manipulating other characters—even Ilsa—into setting up the final move.
Les Collaborateurs: The police, particularly Louis — unusually, he redeems himself. 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.
Renaud: I go with the wind, and right now, the prevailing wind blows from Vichy.
Deadpan Snarker: Several, most notably Capt. Renault and Rick, who engage in glorious Snark-to-Snark Combat, resulting in a movie with some of the snappiest dialogue in film history.
Captain Renault: I've often speculated why you can't go back to America. Did you abscond with the church funds? Did you run off with a senator's wife? I like to think that you killed a man. It's the romantic in me.
Rick: It was a combination of all three.
Captain Renault: And 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.
Digital Destruction: The 2008 Blu-Ray had contrast boosting and digital noise reduction, which were fortunately corrected in 2012 for the movie's 70th anniversary.
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.
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.
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.
"Captain Renault must be getting broad-minded." 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.
A more serious one, with the revelation that Rick was having an affair with a married woman. The Hayes office would have had a conniption, but the Back Story helped excuse it by making it believable Ilsa would think Lazlo was dead at the time.
"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.
And, once again, the "vulture everywhere" guy, who is, himself, one of the vultures he is warning you about.
Early in the movie, Renault tells Rick, "In Casablanca, I am the master of my fate." He is immediately summoned to kowtow to Majer Strausser. This realization that he is not truly the master of his fate, at least as long as the Nazis have anything to say about it, may be part of what motivates his Heel-Face Turn at the end of the movie.
Rick: Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine."
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. Both men care more about her safety and happiness than which of them "wins".
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...?"
Music for Courage: The French national anthem scene La Marseillaise is played as a beautiful answer to Die Wacht am Rhein. A Nazi at the back in the shot where Maj. Strasser is conducting accidentally sings a bar of the Marseillaise, then looks embarrassed.
Part of the reason that scene is so powerful is that many of the extras were actually European refugees. That woman you see crying during the song? She was French, hearing her country's anthem for the first time in years - not the character, the actress.
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 Neutrality Acts of the 1930s were in play and the writers apparently attempted to come up with the exact 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.
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.
Veidt in particular hated the Nazis, and spent much of his career playing Nazi officers who were evil, incompetent or both as a way of striking back at them.
Reliable Traitor: Capt. Renault. He openly admits that he "blow[s] with the wind", collaborating with the Germans because they (along with Vichy) are in charge. He clearly loathes Strasser, setting up his Heel-Face Turn.
Romantic False Lead: An unusual twist: Either Victor or Rick could be considered a False Lead once you know the Back Story. 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. In addition, the outcome wasn't written in the script while they were filming it and The Hays Code wouldn't have allowed the showing of a movie in which she left her husband for another man in that fashion.
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. In contrast to most examples of this trope, 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.
If you presume that Rick is the Anthropomorphic Personification of the United States, it applies to him too. He tries to stay out of the conflict of the plot, despite his personal history with Ilsa, and run his business. Now consider that the film takes place in the first week of December, 1941.
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. Except Strasser, of course.
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. Given that the movie was fifty years old by this point, this could be also considered a Late Arrival Spoiler.
Very Loosely Based on a True Story : The band contest. There was an actual Bar Brawl in a neutral Balkan establishment between a visiting American adventurer and some German visitors over whether German or Allied themed music would be played. It caused a political incident, but was well known enough for President Roosevelt(who thought the whole thing rather funny) to hear of it.