The Eternal Classic

Text by: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

This is undoubtedly one of the most charismatic films in history and perhaps the one that has left a more indelible impression on all its spectators.

Rick Blaine(Humphrey Bogart), an American exile and old fighter for freedom, runs the most popular night place in the town: the ´Rick´s Café Américain´ . He is a cynical character, incorruptible and haunted because of his past, that sometimes he tries to forget drinking.

His world is smashed to pieces when Ilsa Lund(Ingrid Bergman), the woman who abandoned him, breaks into scene. They last saw each other the day the German tanks entered

Paris. And besides, she has got married to Víktor Laszlo, a heroe of the Resistence. Both of them try to escape from the Third Reich and have arrived in Casablanca in pursuit of the safe-conducts taking them to Lisbon and from there to America. But nobody wants to sell them and Rick´s help will be decisive in this respect. Unfortunately, Ugarte(Peter Lorre), the crook that had to deliver them the documents, has been murdered.

Therefore, we are submersed into a context in which more often than not law was an opinion issue and could be infringed for a price, it all among traitors, spies, nazis, Resistance members, refugees, swindlers traying to take gain from the situation, corrupt policemen, tourists, premises owners, etc. Its mythic and unrepeatable casting, both main and supporting actors and actresses, has undoubtedly reached the immortality in the history of cinema.

Humphrey Bogart(Rick Blaine) is splendid in his role of embittered ex idealist, with a past that has mede him hard and a lost love. He´s a tortured soul seaching for a living reason and a cause worthy to fight for.

Ingrid Bergman(Ilsa Lund), makes also a high quality performance, in spite of the fact during the shooting she didn´t know what was going to be the end of the film. She is a radiant beauty woman, modern, strong, individual and feminine at a time, struggling between the passion she feels for Rick and the moral obligation inciting her to stay by his husband Víktor Laszlo and contributing to the common cause to win the war.

It´s specially taut the scene in which Rick and Ilsa meet after a long time: Sam, the café pianist(Dooley Wilson), a friend of both of them in Paris, gets amazed on seeing her. Ilsa asks him to play ´As time goes by´, the favorite song of her and Rick. Initially, Sam refuses to it, but he finally agrees. Suddenly, Rick appears flying into a rage and tells Sam: ´I thought I told you never to play that song´. Suddenly, he sees Ilsa and a dramatic musical chord marks the first close-up of both, in a scene full of resentment, grief and the memory of a love that was real.

Nevertheless, when Ricks listens to her explanation, he realizes Ilsa has always loved him.

        Paul henreid is Víktor Laszlo, the Resistance leader, a man of lofty moral integrity, escaped from several concentration camps and acting because of deep social and political convictions.
Claude Rains plays the role of Louis Reanault, the corrupt French police officer, an deep-rooted flattering man, always acting depending on the wind direction.
        He is the only character whose exacerbated cynism momentarily exceeds Rick´s one and only at the end we find out that he can become into a full-fledged character when he´s needed.
        Peter Lorre, in a brief but extraordinary and paramount importance role for the plot, is Ugarte, the frightened, amusing and at the same time pathetic tricker and swindler.
        Conradt Veidt performs Commander Strasser, the quintessence of a fanatical nazi, arrived in Casablanca to catch Víktor Laszlo.
        Sydney Greenstreet is Mr. Ferrari, the owner of the bar ´The Blue Parrot´, an unscrupulous businessman boasting of being a very respected man in the town.
        Dooley Wilson is Sam, the piano man( a great drums player in his actual life) singing ´As time goes by´ and the only Rick´s close friend.
        The film offers a very deserving balance between splendid and fine humour, political intrigue, war deeds, corrupt officers, grey market, heroism, violence, moral courage, patriotism, romance, mystery and an endless amount of nuances.
        The script is magnificent and each scene has the suitable duration, in a perfect timing, without lingering in too much, and achieving that the audience never get tired of watching it.
        It won the oscars to the Best Director(Michael Curtiz), Best Script and Staging(Julius J. Epstein, Philip K. Epstein and Howard Koch) and Best Film(Hal B. Wallis).

        There are wondrous dialogues and unforgettable scenes like the famous ´Battle of Anthems´ within Rick´s Café, between German soldiers and French patriots singing the Marseillaise; the middle film scene in which Ilsa and Rick are in a Parisian café and on hearing the distant shells noise, Ilsa says: ´Is that cannon fire or my heart pounding? and ´Kiss me! Kiss me as if for the last time!´ and the scene in which Ilsa has just gone out and Rick is in his dining-room and asks Sam to play ´As time goes by´.
        On the other hand, Casablanca is the film with more interesting and ingenious quotes ever shot, being remarkable:

Rick Blane: ´ I stick my neck out for nobody.´

Louis: ´ What in heaven´s name brought you to Casablanca?. ´

Rick: ´ My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters. ´

Louis: ´ The waters? What waters? We´re in the desert. ´

Rick: ´ I was misinformed. ´

Louis: ´ Rick, there are many extra visas sold in this café, but we know that you´ve never sold one.
That is the reason we permit you to stay open. ´

Rick: ´ Oh? I thought it was because I let you win at roulette. ´

Louis: ´ That is another reason. ´

Strasser: ´ Do you mind if I ask you some questions? Unofficially, of course. What is your nationality?. ´

Rick: ´ I´m a drunkard. ´

Strasser: ´ What about New York? ´

Rick: ´ Well, there are certain sectors of New York, Major, that I wouldn´t advise you to try to invade.´

Ilsa: ´ The whole world crumbling and we pick this time to fall in love.´

Rick: ´ Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.´

Louis: ´ We haven´t quite decided if he commited suicide or died trying to escape.´

Mr Ferrari: ´As the leader of all illegal activities in Casablanca, I´m an influential and respected man.´

Rick: ´ I´m not fighting for anything more except myself. I´m the only cause I´m interested in.´

Louis: ´ This place will never be the same without you, Ricky.

Rick: ´ I know what you mean. But I´ve already spoken with Ferrari. You´ll still win at roulette.´

Rick: ´ Remember this gun is pointed right at your heart.´

Louis: ´ That is my least vulnerable spot.´


        And of course, the mythic sentences in the final scene on the airport, when Rick sacrificies his love for a noble cause.


Ilsa: ´ What about us?.´

Rick: ´ We´ll always have Paris. We didn´t have. We lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it last night.´

Ilsa: ´ When I said that I would never leave you...´

Rick: ´ And you never will. But I´ve got a job to do, too. And where I´m going you can´t follow. What I´ve got to do, you can´t be a part of. Ilsa, I´m not 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. Some day you´ll understand that. Here´s looking at you, kid.´

Laszlo: ´ Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win.´

Louis: ´ I´ll have to arrest you, of course.´

Rick: ´ As soon as the plane goes, Louis.´

Louis: ´ Round up the usual suspects.´

        And the legendary theme ´As time goes by´, after the premiere of Casablanca, occupied during 21 consecutive weeks the first positions in the United Satates radiophonic hit parades.

© Copyright Text: José Manuel Serrano Esparza