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Headscratchers: Casablanca

  • So Ilsa couldn't reveal in a letter that her husband was Victor. But why couldn't she just say "it seems that reports of my husband's death were greatly exaggerated, I'm so sorry?" She'd already told Rick that she was (or so she thought) a widow; did she think he wouldn't believe that there'd been a failure of communication? Or that it'd be better if he spent years with NO IDEA why she'd ditched him?
    • Because she's worried about hypothetical letter-readers figuring out or already knowing who her husband is?
    • Wartime letters were subject to censoring and inspection, especially in occupied areas with active resistance movements. The wife of a Resistance leader would be kept under extremely close scrutiny, her letters would probably be read as a matter of course, and anyone she wrote to would also be kept track of. Additionally, is there any reason to believe that she knew where Rick was to write to him later?
      • Yes, there is. She left him a letter at the hotel (that would thus not be read by Nazis and before anyone knew she was Lazlo's wife) that explained that she was leaving and never coming back. She could have said "I found out my husband is still alive" without revealing anything else.
      • The hotel in the city that was going to be occupied by Nazis that same day. How's she supposed to be 100% secure that Rick will get the letter before the Nazis seize the hotel and, thus, the letter? Or where he'll be following his escape from the city, assuming he manages to get out okay? She's playing it safe.
    • Also, of course, Love Makes You Dumb. How clearly are you likely to be thinking when hastily writing a Dear John letter to your one true love?
  • Wasn't Renault's defection at the end a little too... complete? I mean, he goes from being a Vichy collaborator who only looks after number one, to leaving his cushy job as police chief so he can join Rick with the Allies at Brazzaville. I mean, I could quite easily buy Renault deliberately looking the other way as Rick leaves Casablanca for Brazzaville by himself - maybe with an admission that he too can after all be something of a sentimentalist - but throwing everything away and becoming a fully-fledged Resistance member himself? It just seems out of character, judging by the Louis Renault we see over the rest of the film.
    • Maybe he thought there'd be less danger in going than just waiting to be arrested. Or, more likely in the spirit the film is intended, he realised he was too much of a patriot to keep on working for the Nazis, and left to fight from the outside.
      • My take is that he went over because he believed that he would no longer be safe. Strasser's death would eventually come to the notice of a higher-ranking Nazi, and even if Louis could build a case that he wasn't to blame, he couldn't be sure that it would be sufficiently convincing. (The Nazi procedure often ran along the lines of You were here; you were nominally in charge; it's your fault.) He's still looking out for Number One: it's much safer to run before he's being chased, and by going with Rick, he can be more sure that Rick makes it away safely. If Rick doesn't make it safely to Brazzaville he's got knowledge that makes him a danger to Louis.
      • Or maybe it's just the beginning of a beautiful friendship...
      • Add to all of this, Louis isn't quite the dedicated collaborator he seems to be - he has a habit throughout the film of undermining or snarking Strausser in such a way as to make sure that Strausser won't get sick of him and have him shot or something. Plus, Victor is an All-Loving Hero.
    • This troper always assumed he'd been deep undercover for the Resistance from the start; he plays Xellos to everyone's Lina throughout the story because cynicism is the easiest disguise for idealism (see also: Rick). And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the Wild Mass Guessing page.
    • According to The Other Wiki, nobody knew how the film would end till a few days before shooting — the original play ends with Rick ushering Laszlo and Ilsa out of the cafe on their way to the airport, and then waiting for the Nazis who are about to come in to arrest everybody. Not even Bogie, Bergman, Heinreid, Raines and Veidt knew the ending till they got the script pages on the day of shooting. Add in to the fact that Operation Torch had occurred during filming (the producers had planned a scene after the ending we know showing Rick and Louis in a invasion boat about to fight the Nazis, but Claude Raines wasn't available and they decided the scene would be pointless anyway), and you see why they had to go ahead and give Renault his great Heel-Face Turn.
    • One should also note that SEVERAL times throughout the film, Renault made it clear his allegiances lay to those he figured would win. It was not just that Renault was an undercover good guy, he just wanted to make sure he ended up on the side of the winning team.
    • And, most obviously, he's just seen his best friend throw aside his cynical facade to do the right thing at great personal cost, and this inspires Louis to finally give in to his better instincts and do the right thing himself. Through the movie, Louis has never made any great secret what he thinks of the Nazis, but he's lacked the moral courage to act on his feelings; Rick's example finally pushes him into action. It's easier to do the right thing if you don't have to do it alone, and it's the sort of moral decision that's perhaps best made in the heat of the moment; because if you take the time to count the cost of an act of self-sacrifice, you may be less likely to do it.
    • Note that few of the above explanations are mutually exclusive. Cumulatively, it seems Louis had a lot of reasons to do what he did.

  • And now, it's time for the ever-popular, plot-ruining question...

Why didn't they all get on the plane together?

Who, exactly, was checking the visas? Strasser was dead, Louis seemed pretty chill about the whole thing and wasn't going to try anything stupid with that gun trained on him, the engineers working on the plane probably aren't going to be asking questions for a buck-fifty an hour, and considering our heroes' collective cleverness plus Capt. Renault's connections, it seems pretty likely that during a four-hour flight to Lisbon they might conceivably come up with something the people at the other end would find believable, if only for the ten minutes it would take for them to scarper. It doesn't really bug ME, since I like the film for other reasons, but I remember that, on the DVD documentary, someone mentioned a friend who saw it on opening night having a problem with this apparent plot-hole.
  • Well, Rick can't return to America. We're never told exactly why, though Louis has some theories. There's really no point in him leaving. Although he could have gone to Lisbon and then departed for elsewhere, but seeing as his implied plan is to join the resistance movement, Morocco is as good a place for him to stay as any.
    • Strasser arrives before the plane takes off and isn't shot until just as it's going, and Rick's no idiot - he's probably aware that Louis managed to alert Strasser in some way and was staying back to make sure that he or anyone else on the ground couldn't interfere with the plane's take-off (or even order the Luftwaffe to 'accidentally' shoot the plane down - I wouldn't put that past the Nazis either).
    • Yeah... it's not like they never did anything of the sort in real life...
  • Do we know who was crewing the plane? A crew member just inside the door checking papers is not unrealistic. And for that matter what exactly would be the legalities when they got to Lisbon having just stowed away without the proper documents.
  • Its not a plot hole because the primary motivation is Rick getting away from Ilsa for personal reasons.
  • Getting to Portugal is only the first step. Sure, they all could have gotten on the plane, but that would leave two of the three men without appropriate papers for where they were when they got off. And it would be much more difficult to get forged papers in Portugal than it would be in Casablanca, which was under a comparatively loose rein by the Nazis.
  • A number of reasons. Firstly, the simple matter is that it is worth remembering that in Portugal you were dealing with Salazar and his regime, who looked for absolutely any excuse imaginable to waylay and generally damage the Allies, and while the visa and the fact that they wouldn't be hanging around Lisbon long would have helped, it probably wouldn't have prevented them from getting snapped up by Portuguese intelligence (and possibly even giving justification for the detaining of those WITH the visas). Secondly, Rick can't really go back to the US, and as previously mentioned, Lisbon is VERY unhealthy for him to be in for any prolonged period of time. Thirdly, there is the simple fact that Rick was acting as a decoy to draw the not-dead-yet Strasser and te others from stopping the plane and generally ruining everything. And finally, there is the fact that Rick is not one to run from a fight and the fight is currently where he is, in Africa. It isn't like him to avoidd a confrontation he believes is justified, and it is quite clear by this point that he is ready and willing to fight. The neutral US and ESPECIALLY Salazar's Portugal aren't good places to do that: far better to march down to Brazzaville and join the FF units that will actually be actively confronting the Nazis and their various pawns soon.
    • Salazar's Portugal was nominally neutral and really didn't stick its neck out for nobody. It traded with the Allies and the Axis and mistrusted both. In 1943, Salazar (like pretty much everybody else outside of territories controlled by the Axis) thought that the Allies were probably going to win and actually allowed the Allies to install a military base in the Azores. According to some historians, up to 100 000 Jews took refuge in Portugal during the war.
    • Although in late 1941, when the movie is set, the Allies victory was looking a lot less certain — the United States hadn't entered the war, the Nazis were occupying Europe and a good chuck of North Africa, and were only just beginning to get bogged down in Russia. At that stage, anyone who was playing on the side of the winners would be more inclined to side with Nazi Germany than the Allies, hence why they'd want to get in and out of Portugal as quickly and with as little hassle as possible.

  • Posted this in the main page as well, but when Rick forces Louis at gun point to call the airport and have a plane prepped, Louis deceives Rick by calling Major Strasser instead. However, when the party arrives at the airport, a plane is prepped and ready for take-off, which is either a hole in the script, as the message should have never reached the airport, or an incredible stroke of luck for Victor and Ilsa...
    • The plane was set to leave anyway, the point of the call was to make sure nobody tried to stop Laszlo (which is conceivable given he's a well-known figure).

  • Ugarte could've sold Rick out in an attempt to save himself, couldn't he? If he was as much of a slimeball as Rick and the others took him to be, he could've told the Nazis after his arrest, "Hey, if you let me live I can tell you where those letters of transit I stole are..." Not that it probably would have helped, but it would've been worth a shot, if he was willing to sell Rick out to save himself. But apperantly he wasn't. After he's dead, the Nazis still don't know that Rick has those letters. So there are two complaints here. One: after Ugarte was arrested, why wasn't Rick worried about the Nazis finding out he had those letters of transit? In his place, most people would probably try to get rid of those letters as fast as possible. And two: Ugarte took Rick's secret to the grave with him, and Rick never seems to aknowledge it. Ugarte deserves some credit for covering for him, at least.
    • The Nazis did suspect that Rick had the papers. That's why they closed down the bar and ransacked the place.
      • But it took them a while to do that, didn't it? If Ugarte had given them any substantial clues, surely they'd have been onto Rick sooner.
    • The interrogator could have been a bit too enthusiastic in his treatment of Ugarte, killing him before they got a concrete lead on things. Not unheard of in Nazi treatment of prisoners. Also, this is when Rick is still in his ultra-cynical and bitter "I stick my neck out for nobody" phase, and had last seen Ugarte as he was callously shrugging off the man's pleas for help. He probably doesn't believe Ugarte died protecting his secret (and let's face it, Ugarte's the kind of shifty little bastard you wouldn't easily believe would have a core of decency and loyalty within him) and by the time his idealism has thawed enough to allow him to consider the possibility he has other fish to fry. As for why he wasn't worried, again, this is in his 'not-really-giving-a-shit-about-anything' phase.
  • Why on Earth are the Nazis honouring the letters of transit? We're told they were signed by De Gaulle - who was, at that time, head of the Free French Army and living in England. He had no official post in the government until after the war. Given that the Nazis' major opponent throughout the film is the Free French, why would they honour the papers? Hell, even if they'd been signed by Petain, I doubt that the SS would have recognized his jurisdiction.
    • It was signed by General Weygand. Peter Lorre just has a thick accent.
    • Further muddying things up: the English and Spanish subtitles on the DVD say De Gaulle, but the French ones say Weygand—even the transcribers were divided on what Lorre actually said. However, most fans accept Weygand as the correct signatory, because he's the only one that makes any logical sense.note 
    • The bigger question is why the letters of transit were still valid when it was more-or-less common knowledge that they had been stolen. Even if the general public didn't know it, the government certainly did. Why hadn't they sent word to all the airports and transit authorities to ignore the letters and arrest whoever showed up trying to use them?
      • Chances are the Portuguese authorities would not be familiar with French letters of transit and simply accept them at face value (which were exit visas to permit them to travel abroad).
  • Louis tells Rick that Victor won't desert Ilsa in Casablanca, saying "I've seen the woman" and she's too beautiful to leave. When he meets her later that same evening, he mentioned that he had been told she was beautiful, strongly implying he had never seen her before (which would be much more plausible — how would they ever have met?)
    • He could have seen a photo, have been impressed by what he saw, and even more impressed by meeting the beauty in the flesh. The "I was told you were beautiful" was just a way of flattering her without sullying the moment or tipping his hand by revealing he'd had her under surveillance.
  • How did Rick know that the Bulgarian girl was underage?
    • He probably deduced from her looks and manners; underage girls tend to look and act slightly less mature than even slightly older women.
  • Why was Ugarte waiting to leave Casablanca if he had exit visas he could have used for himself any time? He clearly states that he wants to leave Casablanca. "I will be finished with the whole business...I'll sell these visas for more than I ever have, and then, Adieu Casablanca!" Why not just use one of those visas himself? If he just needed money for a plane ticket, surely he'd have been able to raise it earlier.
    • It would probably have been too suspicious for a seedy lowlife bottom-feeder like Ugarte to suddenly be brandishing apparently legit transit papers signed by General Weygande of all people.
    • Nobody said he couldn't get a "normal" visa fixed for himself; after all, he was in the business. The special visas were his way to cash out; even legitimate business men said that these documents worth a lot in Casablanca.
  • What did the French soldier say to Yvonne when he saw her with that German soldier?
    • "What are you doing with that German?"


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