Why is Casablanca considered a great film?

I’ve seen Casablanca once on the big screen and a few times on tv. It strikes me as a mlldly interesting period piece, nothing more. Claude Rains is wonderful but, apart from him, I’m not impressed by the acting. The script is merely okay; the love story doesn’t grab me. Educate me. Why is Casablanca a great flick? What do you see in it that I don’t?

Rains is great, Bergman is beautiful, Bogart is convincing as a bitter guy with a heart of gold, As Time Goes By is a good song that fits well.

What’s not to like?

And Paul Henreid getting everyone to sing the Marseillese is still an inspiring moment.

The writing. The writing. The writing. Okay - the script.

The acting - because, to deliver those lines, you have to have the right acting.

We’ll always have Paris.

Of all the gin joints, why’d she have to walk into mine?

I stick my neck out for nobody.

Here’s looking at you, kid.

And that doesn’t even remotely scratch the surface. Hell, I didn’t even cite lines from Rains or the whole “Play it, Sam” or “round up the usual suspects” type of lines…

I found that after the third time watching it, I was completely enraptured. Watch it a bunch.

Hey, any movie wuth a french whore crying while singing their national anthem does it for me!

I’ve only seen it once, a year or two ago, and I loved it. I can’t really give any reasons why that no one else did. I just thought it was a really good movie.

That was my favorite scene in the movie. One of my favorite scenes out of every movie I’ve seen even.

And Wordman, you missed the best line in the movie: “Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”

The best lines are when Rick is being questioned by Col. Strasser.
“Can you see us in your beloved Paris?”
“It isn’t particularly my beloved Paris.”
“Ask me when you get there.”
“What about New York?”
“There are certains areas of New Yourk I wouldn’t advise anyone to invade.”


Everything about this movie is perfect. #1 on my list of all-time greats.

Oh, and “Round up the usual suspects.”

It’s impossible to list all the good lines in Casablanca anyway. That list is identical to the script without stage directions.

All the actors in this movie are excellent. Every single one. Rains gets the best lines, and you can tell he loved playing the part from a mile away, but everyone else does their bit with equal skill.

It’s a film that is superficially about one thing but is really obviously about something as simple as emotions. Rick was hurt and turned away from the world, and pretends to be an emotionless tough guy while he’s really a sentimental softie underneath. Ilsa loves two men, and doesn’t really know which one she loves the most or why - at least not until a good while into the movie. Renault is the ultimate egotist. He’ll do absolutely anything as long as it benefits number one. He is the mirror for Rick’s change from selfish toughie to noble sacrificer, symbolized by his dropping the bottle of Vichy into the trash. Laszlo is the flawless legendary hero who cares for everybody else more than he does for himself, and that is precisely why he is so important that Rick and Ilsa must sacrifice their dreams for his sake.

Stock characters? Clichés? Sure. Now, they are. I’m not saying Casablanca was the first work of art to do these themes, but it was one of the first movies to do so, and I’d argue it’s still the best movie to do so.

Actually more a French slut, but still…

(as an aside, I always thought that Madeleine LeBeau (Yvonne) is the hottest woman in the movie)

The lines: many of which were apparently written pretty much on the fly.

The music: As Time Goes By, and the Marseilleise.

The look: it wouldn’t have been nearly as good a movie in colour. The light and shadow add a lot.

The message: that there are things in this world worth sacrificing oneself. It also in the end has a message about the triumph of heroism over cynicism.

On the one hand, I am of the mind that if Casablanca were made today by one of the big studios, there is no way that the ending would have been anything other than Rick and Ilsa together. Gotta have the happy “feed good” ending you know.

On the other hand, I am of the mind that if Casablanca were made today as an indie movie, well probably Renault would have gone on his merry way, Victor would have been killed by Rick in a gun fight, and Rick would then have decided he didn’t really want to be bothered with Ilsa after all.

Conrad Veidt also plays a Nazi against Bogie in All Through the Night

Have to disagree there. Joy Page as Annina Brandel (the refugee whose sob story gets Rick to rig the Roulette wheel in her husband’s favor) may have been a fine actress, but her middle american accent is just jarring to me. To me she sounds like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.

I saw the colorized version several years ago. The opening market scene with the parrot in particular looked sharp.
The Maltese Falcon I’d agree should be in black and white.

“Are my eyes really brown?”

“Yvonne, I love you, but he pays me.”

Wonderful movie. Humphrey Bogart, Claude Rains, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Ingrid Bergman - excellent actors, all. It had a sharp and witty script, a tight plot, good music, heros, lost causes, and beautiful sets. What’s not to love? It’s one of my favorite curl-up-on-the-couch-with-a-blanky movies.

Well, there’s not a bad line, a wasted scene, or a false moment (save one: I don’t believe Rick would have given the Major a chance to get off a shot). There’s no point in quoting lines because practically the whole movie is quotable, with note-perfect performances. Yes, it’s a great movie.

One thing I like about Casablanca is that, although it is full of cliches, you are never quite sure where it’s going to jump to next. Even seeing it for the dozenth time, you can still see all the paths that it could have gone down, but didn’t.

The obvious example of this is that right until the end you don’t know who Ilsa will finish with. (And it’s well-known that Ingrid Bergman didn’t know either while the movie was being shot, so you see her playing a woman equally in love with two different men.)

But other examples are Rick – will he go with his cynical or idealistic side on his next move? – and Louis Renault – who is always looking after number one, but who hates the Germans, and wants to help both Rick and Victor Laszlo.

I also like the shades of gray in the characters. Of course, the Germans are bad in almost every way, while Victor is good in almost every way – though he does neglect his wife in fighting his noble causes – but everyone else is a very human mixture of god and bad, and torn between these two sides in very difficult circumstances. This tension helps make it such a great movie.

On the DVD commentary, someone (possibly Roger Ebert) pointed out that all but two actors in that scene were refugees from Europe, so the emotion was very real.

I’ve seen Casablanca at least a dozen times, and I still get goosebumps every time that scene comes on. “Viva la France!”

Leaving behind the wonderful lines, remember the Zeitgeist. ‘It’s December, 1941 in Casablanca. What time is it in New York?’ ‘My watch stopped.’ (Wonderful lines that I couldn’t leave behind for this post.) As stated in the film, Casablanca was a place full of desperate people. The Nazis were running roughshod (or hobnailed) over Europe. Casablanca was the last hope for people who were trying to reach Lisbon so that they could escape the chaos to the U.S. These hapless souls had left everything behind, but what they could carry with them. But while the Germans could get their way in Casablanca, it was still under Vichy control. It was a slim hope, but hope none the less.

There were no passenger jets flying over 500 miles per hour over the oceans. Travel was slower then. If you wanted to go overseas, you went by ship. Shorter trips could be taken on aircraft that flew maybe 200 mph. Often less. Or you took a train. Or walked. It was a time of Great Monsters, and the way out was slow and treacherous.

In this momentarily safe haven, there is the Mobster who is making a buck off of people’s misery. There’s the Embittered One, who is running away from his emotions. There’s the Hero, who must survive. And his wife wo loves two men. There’s the Charming Gangster and the Evil Overlord. There’s the Loyal Friend, who could make a name and riches for himself, but he’d rather play piano and keep an eye on his friend. And a host of people who would Rather Be Somewhere Else.

Casablanca is chock ull of interesting characters. The writing is tight. The situation is dire. And audiences in the U.S. were living in a time when they had been attacked and were being beaten by their enemies. ‘We’ were at war. (I put that in quotes because I wasn’t actually alive then.)

So along comes this movie. Just another cheapo flick slapped together by a studio that churned out a movie a week. The timing was perfect. It’s a war film. It’s a mystery. It’s a love story. And at the end of the day it shows a gallant man throwing away the comfort of his self-exile to work toward the greater good. Admiral Yamamoto (allegedly) said that he feared Japan had awakened a sleeping giant, and filled him with a terrible resolve. Casablanca shows this in microcosm. Rick’s loss of Elsa left him comfortably numb in his establishment. He had money and power. He had nice clothes. He had respect. He had booze. He had everything except the one thing he really wanted: Elsa.

War was far enough away from Rick’s café that Rick didn’t worry about it. He’d roll with the punches. When the Germans came he didn’t care about the larger picture. But he still cared about Elsa. He confronts his emotions and resolves his issues with Elsa. In the process he rises from his self-inflicted slumber and sees the importance of Victor’s cause. He only wants Elsa to be happy (at the end – he was a bit of a prick to her earlier), but in helping her to do that he helps Victor. And by helping Victor he deals a blow against the Nazis. Once started is half done, and he walks off to join the Partisans. So Rick, a small symbol of America, rouses himself just as America roused itself to face the challenges that came to it and the challenges to come.

Casablanca was released in 1942. The outcome of the war was not known, and only a few suspected who the winners would be. So I think that audiences responded to the underdog who fought back. Throw in an exotic locale and a good love triangle and a healthy dash of intrigue, and you have a hit.

And then there are all of the wonderful lines…