ming movie reviews

in about 100 words or less

Casablanca (1942)

USA 102m, B&W
Director: Michael Curtiz; Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Dooley Wilson, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt

CasablancaAs one of the most memorable films of all time, Casablanca continues to be highly entertaining and influential, not so much for its relatively simple plot, but for its nostalgic feel, the beauty and likability of its main characters, and for its signature music. Despite its  portrayal of the impending hardships and suffering at the outset of World War II, Casablanca provides an optimistic, albeit unrealistic, view of the world that suggests that the good guys will prevail. As one of the most often quoted and misquoted Hollywood films, Casablanca continues to be a cultural phenomenon  and an inspiration to film makers (Klaus Ming September 2009).

7 comments on “Casablanca (1942)

  1. Derrick

    I have always liked Casablanca for one major factor. It beat the odds. In a period where studios cranked out movies one a week and there was so much red tape in the industry adding to make the creative process stagnate. It must have been complete hell for creators to keep creative vision fluid and alive, bending the many rules and censor ships in place within the industry. I’m sure many never even tried. Casablanca did however.

    Studios at the time commonly held actor/actress within a long contract. This could be a large barrier and limiting factor if a certain studio wanted such and such a star for the perfect role. It would be pretty easy for a studio or film head/s to compromise away their vision. However the film team on Casablanca used the practice of actor swap to their advantage. The actress that gives the movie its power, Ingrid Bergman, was hired by the swap process.

    Also the team used the Breen censorship acts as a strength when so many other studios and pictures used it to excuse away the crap they were releasing. Censorship forced extremely witty and clever writing. Casablanca’s sexual innuendo is some of the best in Hollywood to date.

    Screenwriter Howard Koch said in his interview in the documentary “You must remember this” in 1998 that “It was a picture the American, well world audiences needed. What it said was that there were values worth making sacrifices for, and it said it in a very entertaining way”.

    I find that once you mix that quote into a backdrop of how the movie was made in its time period, the overall messages within the movie become stronger.

    Do what’s right, listen to your gut, never compromise, route for the underdog etc etc.

    Even the fact of scripts not being finished and the ending going into rewrites while it was being filmed could have easily made the creative staff of Casablanca give up and turn out something par, but they never, they created a movie, instead of dryly making one and blaming its quality level on creative constraints and the industry times.

    So many studios made/make movies that compromise away the art. I’m glad Casablanca beat the odds. Well so far, i fear in the sea of remakes its only a matter of time before Hollywood remakes this into something that is compromised dribble.

  2. klausming

    I’ve become increasingly interested in the historical context of film-making and see it as a huge void in my present knowledge which i’m earnestly attempting to fill. While i’ve not seen the documentary with Koch which you’ve mentioned, it does seem that the underlying message of Casablanca is one of the main reason’s for its success as a film.

    I’ve long enjoyed film-maker’s creative efforts to skirt censorship, and regularly laugh at the stuff that censors overlooked, which I can only assume is due to their own ignorance regarding popular culture.

    As for a re-make of Casablanca, i’m not sure if it could be successfully done, especially considering the extent to which it relies on historical context and on a particular audience mindset. I’d argue that Casablanca largely works today because of it’s nostalgic value, and not so much because of the film’s story and acting, but rather on its artistic and aesthetic values.

    • Anthony Lee Collins

      “I’ve long enjoyed film-maker’s creative efforts to skirt censorship, and regularly laugh at the stuff that censors overlooked, which I can only assume is due to their own ignorance regarding popular culture.” Absolutely. There’s a lot of this in Howard Hawks, of course, and in another thread I mentioned 1950s Hitchcock (I’ve always maintained that To Catch a Thief is the sexiest movie ever made). There’s a lot of great stuff on this in The Celluloid Closet, by the way. A really good movie.

      • Klaus

        I’m not familiar with “To Catch a Thief” – i’ll keep my eye open for it!

  3. Anthony Lee Collins

    I remember when The English Patient came out it was compared to Casablanca. Which is okay, as long as you’re willing to ignore the fact that the movies have diametrically opposite points of view. The English Patient was, “hey, it’s okay to collaborate with the Nazis if it allows you to make a futile attempt to save your lover’s life.” Which is the opposite of thinking that the problems of two little people not amounting to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Casablanca was a very romantic movie that was all about the fact that there are more important questions in life than whether True Love will triumph or not. You don’t see that so much in movies these days.

  4. Klaus

    The English Patient passed me by when it came out – and i’m not sure if i’ve even seen it since. I’ll definitely look to make the comparison.

    As for Casablanca, it’s such an iconic picture. It’s interesting to see what films actually stand the test of time. I wonder if any of the 2010 Oscar nominees will be considered classics in 60 years?

  5. Anthony Lee Collins

    The English Patient is notable for two things, as far as I remember. 1) It’s really beautiful. Wonderful looking movie. 2) Ralph Fiennes is a great actor. There are scenes in that movie where almost any other actor would have looked ridiculous.

    Oh, and I always remember Libby Gelman-Waxner’s review,where she pointed out that it followed standard movie morality, where it’s okay for a married woman to cheat on her husband, as long as her husband is pudgy and her prospective lover is not. That makes it okay.

    And, related toI was talking about in the Oscar thread, Kristin Scott Thomas was (IIRC) nominated in the Best Actress category, and Juliette Binoche in the Supporting Actress category, despite the fact that Binoche was on screen for more minutes (and gave a much better performance, but that’s a different question).

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This entry was posted on 09/25/2009 by in 1001 List, 1940s, All, Top 100 and tagged .
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