The Casablanca Thread.

Yeah, I don’t care if there are other Casblanca threads.

This is my Casablanca thread.:slight_smile:

I just bought the two-disc special edition. Yeah it was $20, but it was worth it.


What would Casablanca have been like with another director?
Orson Welles? Billy Wilder? John Huston?

How does it stack against other cinema classics, i.e. Criterion Collection stuff? Did the Curtiz’ lack of experience harm the film?

To clarify my second point; I didn’t mean to make that sound as pedestrian as it did. What I meant was: Is the film an enduring cinematic masterpiece a la Metropolis or The Godfather, or is it a masterful character study/drama in a more Capra-ish vein? That is of course of you care to draw a distinction.

I think Casablanca is a much better film than Metropolis which is let down by its silly, sentimental ending. Sure it’s a masterpiece; it’s as good a film as Hollywood has ever made. I am not sure I understand the distinction you are trying to make anyway.

BTW how was Ebert's commentary on the DVD?  I really liked his Citizen Kane commentary but I have heard mixed opinions about this one.

If I hadn’t already known it was a classic, I’d never have guessed it. It’s good, but it doesn’t really stand out for me. Gilda is better, but the femme is fatale in that one, so it probably lacks the broad appeal (snicker) that Casablanca has. It’s certainly neither Bogart’s nor Bergman’s best film. Treasure of the Sierra Madres and African Queen had better performances by Bogart, and there are few performances on film to equal the work Bergman did with Rossellini (referring strictly to their onscreen work, snicker snicker): Europa '51 would accompany me to a desert island long before Casablanca would.

Even the espionagey stuff was better in The Maltese Falcon.

But no film that I can think of averages so high on all those aspects, I guess; it’s kind of a combination chick flick and guy movie, with a certain lowest common denominator appeal in its various subplots.

I haven’t been able to finish Ebert’s commentary because he falls into the habit of describing the action we’re watching and he even manages to get his facts wrong (as is his habit in his column). Every once in a while he’ll engage in a technical aspect, but nothing like the excellent work he did on Kane (probably because Casablance isn’t that kind of movie). I was particularly shocked that he didn’t mention Don Siegel’s work on the opening montages–this didn’t come up in the other commentary either.

The other extras are fine, but there’s way too much self-congratulation. I love the film and all, but it’s still a bit off-putting to have other people constantly remind me how it remains the Greatest blah-de-blah and the most Timeless some-de-dum.

Um, Michael Curtiz had over 100 films credited as director, dating back to 1912, before Casablanca started filming. He was an essential part of the Warner Bros. mode of production and had been since sound was introduced.

The distinction I was trying to make would have been bettere served by mentioning Kane, but for some reason I blanked out on that film. :o

Curtiz had experience, but as a studio-schlock assembly line director. He wasn’t a master, like Huston or Ford or Vidor or Cukor. Would the film have been better with a more cultured director?

I just can’t imagine Casablanca done by anyone else. One of the great things about the movie, IMHO, is that it basically was an assembly line product. A good script just happened to come down the pike and get dumped in the lap of a group of artists and craftspeople at the top of their game. I always bring up Casablanca as an argument against the auteur theory.

What is the auteur theory?

So basically, Casablanca is much like Touch of Evil, a B movie that happened to be inimitable and awesome. Kind of like Indiana Jones?

Hmm. I see what you’re saying, but I wouldn’t compare it to either of those movies. It has no singular personality behind it, like Touch of Evil, and is hardly as polished and cynically market savvy as Raiders. It’s just like a lot of other studio pics, when screenplays were written by staff screenwriters, and then cast with contract players and directed by staff directors. It was product, like a B movie, but it was definitely an A movie in a time when B movies were very explicitly being produced to pad a double bill with such A movies as Casablanca. It may have spawned enough copycats that it appears as cliche as more recent B movies, but that was not so at the time.

I think it’s mediocre-to-good material done carefully and well, but I don’t think it approaches being one of the great films of all time.

The auteur theory refers to later filmmakers, usually French New Wave and later, who created a film the way an author creates a novel: as a personal artistic expression of that filmmaker’s individual artistic concerns. Orson Welles was a proto-auteur, as was Preston Sturges. But the filmmaker as “auteur” was not really thought of as such till much later, in my understanding.

I am by no means a formal film student, but IMHO Casablanca ranks as one of the top five best movies ever made.

But the idea still is that it was never anything more than an A-side of a run of the mill studio double billing, albeit a top shelf one?

I’d say that auteur filmmaking has always existed. It just kinda fell by the wayside during the “golden years” of hollywood. I’d say Elia Kazan really fits that bill.

Oh, and you are the coolest.

Whatever you mean by “cultured”, Michael Curtiz was much more than an “assembly line” director. He had already received four previous Academy Award nominations for “Best Director” from his fellow directors: Captain Blood, Four Daughters, Angels With Dirty Faces, and Yankee Doodle Dandy. Hacks may fool the general public, but not their fellow directors.

Not suggest that there’s any empirical ranking possible, but realistically, Rik, your statement can only ever be accurately phrased thus: *IMHO Casablanca ranks as one of the top five best movies *I’ve ever seen.

I’m not suggesting that that people who’ve seen more movies than other peoples should dictate such things, I’m only saying that there are probably a whole lotta movies out there that you haven’t seen to compare to Casablanca.

Perhaps you might compare it to American History X. A Slick hollywood product with a weak story with engaging and manipulative filmmaking. Above average performances carry the film and cover up the fact that it is really mediocre material.

GWTW was a lot more honest, IMHO.

Shakespeare in Love?:smiley:

Those films you mention aren’t generally considered enduring classics, other than Yankke Doodle Dandy. Slow years at the academy can produce strange results. I’m not suggesting that he was a hack, merely an inhouse standby, and not an artistic powerhouse with lots of creative control like the others I mentioned (save for Huston.)

Well, very few people saw Cukor or Vidor as “artistic powerhouses” back then, and while both may have more distinctive personalities, they didn’t have that much more creative control under the studio system either. In addition to the films Walloon mentioned, Curtiz saved The Adventures of Robin Hood, helmed the seminal Mildred Pierce and was so respected in the Hollywood community, he came in second in vote totals for the Best Director Oscar as a write-in candidate (back when that thing was allowed). He was a top-tier studio talent, not a mere “stand by”.

And sorry, but Angels With Dirty Faces is an “enduring classic” (as are the other Flynn-Curtiz collaborations).

Yes, on second thought, I agree with that. But Robin Hood and Captain Blood are of similar extraction as Casblanca. I guess Cukor and Vidor were Selznick’s puppets, but I think a similar situation existd with Curtiz and Wallis. Let me finish “History of the American Cinema.” :smiley:

Not really; he didn’t write his movies. Though he certainly had a point of view. Von Stroheim, Von Sternberg, Griffith–a case could be made to call them auteurs–but the term wasn’t invented, IIRC, until the French New Wave.


What? You’re my hero! :slight_smile:

Who wrote the screenplay for On the Waterfront? A quick look at the IMDB only provides writing credits for a series of articles about waterfront corruption. The film was uniquely Kazan’s. If writing is a prerequisite, then he is certainly not, but his films have a much more unique and personal vision than most of the period, witness Casablanca.