Welcome to ESTA’S ECLECTIC CLASSIC CORNER. These movies have stood the test of time throughout past decades and made a difference in my life. Films that I could watch over and over and still love as much as the first viewing. They are like “comfort food” for me. Each week I will review a classic that I have loved and can’t wait to share my thoughts with you. Please note there will be some spoilers in these reviews. I will have to share some of my favorite scenes and dialogue to support my reflections. I am who l am because of theatre and movies.
I have watched CASABLANCA dozens of times throughout my lifetime. My mother was an avid classic movie buff. She would sit next to me and share “Hollywood” gossip stories. She was a voracious reader and loved to embellish. I have many fond memories of staying up until the wee hours. My dad worked nights, so my mom wanted me to sleep late in the mornings. As a result, I became a “night owl.” This film was one of her faves; hence it became one of mine as well. She wanted to impress upon me that “I was the master of my own fate” throughout my journey. I never forgot the power of that line or how important it is to hold onto my moral compass no matter what…
CASABLANCA premiered in 1942. It is a story about the Nazi occupation in an area that was not bound by the rules of war…yet. CASABLANCA was a section of a country that was still free. It allowed the people a path to Lisbon and from there to America. Exit visas and letters of transit were worth their weight in gold. Many died while trying to barter and finagle a pass to freedom.
All roads lead to Rick’s Cafe’ Americain. Rick (Humphrey Bogart) considers his place of business neutral. He never drinks with customers, and he stays “knowingly oblivious” to deals being made in his cafe’. It was a time when everyone dressed to impress. White dinner jackets, full-length white gowns, furs, and jewels were the norm. By coincidence, Rick has two letters of transit that could save two lives. The Nazis, the local Police Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) and Victor Laszio (Paul Henreid), are on opposite, manipulating sides.
Cue Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman). “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, of all the world, she walks into mine.” Oh, there is a love history between Rick and Ilsa. CASABLANCA is not only an intense, war-time adventure film but a truly romantic tale between a man and a woman. Theirs is a love story “without an ending.” Do they choose to follow their passions, uncontrollable lust, respect, and deep feelings, or place their love on a higher plane? “If we stop fighting our enemies, the world will die. Each of us has a destiny for good and evil. No one can escape from your destiny.” This is the crux, the dilemma of CASABLANCA, all while we hear the haunting music of AS TIME GOES BY. The shadows, black and white against the ever-present fog, up the ante. “Three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this world.”
CASABLANCA is filled with magical moments. Ingrid Bergman is stunning on screen. She could take down an entire army with her smokey eyes and looks that see right through a person. Humphrey Bogart is a quintessential actor in this film. He portrays his character with ease, intention, and oomph. He is a rebel without a country but now has a moral conscience. In his mind and heart, “We will always have Paris.” So when Rick lifts his glass, the toast is timeless…” here’s looking at you, kid.”
The sets, costumes, cinematography, and constant chain-smoking are sheer perfection. When the audience hears the propeller spin, you know what is coming. Love has been torn apart once more due to the ravages of war. Unrequited love, yet in the pit of your stomach, you know “it is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
CASABLANCA is available to stream on TCM.