Casa-Blanca (1942)

 

 

 

Director:  Michael Curtiz.

Starring:  Humphrey Bogart (Richard "Rick" Blaine), Ingrid Bergman (Ilsa Lund Laszlo), Paul Henreid (Victor Laszlo), Claude Rains (Capt. Louis Renault), Conrad Veidt (Maj. Heinrich Strasser), Sydney Greenstreet (Senor Ferrari), Peter Lorre (Ugarte), S.Z. Sakall (Carl, Headwaiter), Madeleine LeBeau (Yvonne),  Dooley Wilson (Sam),  Joy Page (Annina Brandel), John Qualen (Berger), Leonid Kinskey (Sascha).

love in 1940 French Morocco under French Vichy government

 

Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film. 

Germany overruns France. Lisbon, Portugal was the great embarkation point for escape to the Americas, but not everybody could get to Lisbon directly. So a tortuous, round-about refugee trail sprang up from Paris to Marseille, across the Mediterranean Sea to Oran, Algeria, then by train or automobile across French Morocco just south of Spanish Morocco to Casablanca on the coast. In Casablanca those who have enough money can get an exit visa to Lisbon and from Lisbon to the New World. Those who do not have enough money have to wait and wait and wait.

Two German couriers on their way to Casablanca from Oran have been murdered. The order is given to round up all suspicious characters and search them for a stolen document. The police in Casablanca stop people on the streets to check their papers. Monsieur Louis Renault, the prefect of Police, runs the operation. One fellowís papers expired three weeks ago. He makes a run for it and is shot in the back by a poster of Philippe Petain, Marechal de France. On the man the police find pamphlets dealing with Free France.

A man says some of the refugees have been waiting for years to get a visa. A local hustler warns a man to be careful while stealing his wallet.

A plane makes its descent into the airport flying over Rickís Cafť Americain. The plane turns out to be a Nazi plane. Major Strasser gets out and is introduced to Captain Renault and his aide Lt. Casselle. Captain Tonelli of the Italian service introduces himself. The Major wants to know about progress in catching the murderers of the two German couriers. Renault says that his men have rounded up twice the number of usual suspects. In fact, they already know who the murderer is. Tonight heíll be at Rickís. Everybody goes to Rickís.

Ugarte for money helps refugees out of French Morocco to Lisbon. He talks with Rick. He says heís finished with the whole business and will be leaving Casablanca tonight. Ugarte has letters of transit signed by General DeGaulle. He will sell them for a lot of money. Ugarte gives them to Rick for safekeeping. Rick says itís funny, those two German couriers were carrying letters of transit.

A huge fellow named Ferrari, the owner of the nightclub the Blue Parrott, comes in and speaks to Rick. A young woman named Yvonne drinks at the bar. She really likes Rick, but resents him for not returning her affection. She gets drunk and Rick sends her home in a taxi.

Rick speaks with Captain Renault. A plane to Lisbon takes off and Renault says Rick would like to be on it. Changing the subject, he tells Rick they are going to make a big arrest in his cafť tonight.

Major Strasser will be at Rickís place tonight. Victor Laszlo, who works for the Resistance, needs a visa, but the plan is to keep him in Casablanca so he canít help the Resistance. He will be traveling with a lady.

Major Strasser arrives. Renault puts two guards at every door. Then Renault eats with the Major. Ugarte is being arrested. He makes a run for the door and bursts through it. He fires his pistol at his pursuers. Running around trying to escape he asks Rick to hide him, but he is quickly grabbed by his pursuers.

Renault introduces Rick to Major Heinrich and Herr Heinz both of the Third Reich. Renault tells the Germans that Rick came here from Paris at the time of the occupation. He assures the Major that Rick is completely neutral about everything.  The Germans have a complete dozier on Rick. Richard Blain, American, age 37. Cannot return to his country. But tonight the focus will be on Victor Laszlo who ran a printing press publishing "lies" about Germany.  In 1935 Rick ran guns to Ethiopia to help fight the Italian invaders. Then in 1936 he fought in Spain on the side of the Republic and against the coming Spanish military dictatorship led by Franco.

Victor Laszlo and Ilsa Lund come into the place. Sam the black piano player sees Ilsa. He knows her. Victor is looking for Ugarte. Ilsa says she thinks they shouldnít stay at the club. A man named Berger, a Norwegian, comes over to see Laszlo. But when Renault comes over to Victor, Berger quickly moves to another location in the cafť.

Renault introduces Victor and Ilsa to Major Strasser. Victor is from Czechoslovakia. He tells Ilsa later: "This time they really mean to stop me." Ilsa says she is afraid for Victor. Victor gets up to go speak with Berger to find out what he knows. He tells Berger that he is looking for Ugarte. Berger tells Victor that Ugarte is under arrest for the murder of the two German couriers.

Ilsa asks her waiter to send the piano player over to her. Sam comes over with his rolling piano and Ilsa tells him to play some of the old songs. She also asks: "Whereís Rick?" Sam tells her: "Leave him alone, Miss Ilsa. Youíre bad luck to him." Ilsa only says play "As Time Goes By."

Rick comes into the room and hears Sam playing that tune from his past. He marches over to Sam and tells him: "Sam, I thought I told you never to play . . ."  He stops because Sam uses his eyes to direct Rickís attention to Ilsa. Rick is surprised. The two talk awhile. They met in France on the day the Germans marched into Paris.

Victor and Ilsa leave. After closing time Rick drinks while waiting for Ilsa to come back to the bar. He tells Sam: "She will come." Sam wants him to go, but since Rick wonít, he decides to stay with Rick. Rick comments: "Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine."

Flashback. Rick and Ilsa in Paris take an automobile ride together. They celebrate with champagne. Rick asks her a question and she tells him that they said no questions. So Rick offers a toast: "Hereís looking at you, kid.." They go dancing. Ilsa tells him that she had another man but heís dead.

The next day Rick and Ilsa look out the window. Itís the Gestapo. The couple agree that they picked a bad time to fall in love.

Sam the piano player tells Rick the Germans will come looking for him. Thereís a price on Rickís head. Ilsa tells Rick that he must leave Paris. Rick says: "No, we must leave Paris." Ilsa gets a strange look on her face. The train for Marseilles leaves at 5, so Rick says he will pick her up at her hotel at 4:30. But Ilsa tels him that she will meet him at the station. Then she starts talking about if ever they are parted, she wants him to know she loves him.

Rick waits at the railroad station with Sam. Ilsa does not show up. Instead Rick gets a note that says: "I cannot go with you or ever see you again. You must not ask why. . . ." Rick and Sam get on the train.

Back to the present. At the nightclub Rick knocks over a glass. Ilsa returns to the cafť. She tells Rick that she has to talk to him. She is going to tell him a story. Rick is very cynical and says good, maybe while sheís telling it, she can think of a good ending. Ilsa ignores that and says she came from Oslo. Rick is impatient and just asks who was it that Isla left him for? "Was it Victor Laszlo or arenít you the kind that tells?" Upset, Ilsa leaves.

Major Strasser speaks with Captain Renault. He thinks that Ugarte left the letters of transit with Rick. Strasser wants Renault to search the cafť.

Victor and Ilsa show up at the police station as requested. Strasser says that Victor is an escaped prisoner from the Reich. (He actually escaped from a concentration camp.) Victor may leave for Lisbon tomorrow on the condition that Victor gives him the names of the leaders of the underground movements in the major cities of Europe. Victor has no intention of telling him. Strasser says that Ugarte is dead and Renault says that they havenít made up their mind whether he died by committing suicide or was killed while trying to escape.

Rick is at the Blue Parrot. Ferrari tells him that Ugarte is dead and no one knows where the letters of transit are. Ferrari wants those letters. Rick says he canít help him and leaves. On his way out he runs into Victor Laszlo.

Rick speaks with Ilsa and asks her why she ran out on him last night? She says because he looked at her with such hatred. Rick tells her" "Someday youíll lie to Laszlo." Ilsa tells him that Victor Laszlo is her husband and was her husband even when she and Rick were together in Paris.

Ferrari tells Victor and Ilsa that he can only get one visa and that one is only for Ilsa. But Ilsa says she is not going to take the visa. Ferrari tells Victor that maybe he could get Rickís letters of transit.

Yvonne comes into Rickís place with a German officer. Rick says: "So Yvonne has gone over to the enemy." Yvonne with the German soldier is the cause of a fight that breaks out between the German officer and a French officer Ė a fight that Rick has to break up.

A woman and her husband Jan from Bulgaria are desperately trying to get to Lisbon. And Renault, as always, wants to take advantage of her. Victor and Ilsa come into Rickís place and Ilsa has Sam play "As Time Goes By."

Rick goes over to Jan who is playing roulette. He tells him to put his chips on number 22. Jan wins. Rick says to do it again. Jan wins again. Rick then tell Jan to cash it in and get out of his place. Janís wife gives Rick a big kiss.

Victor comes over to Rick and tells him that he has noticed that Rick always fights on the side of the underdog. But what Victor has come for is the letters of transit. He offers 100,000 francs. Rick says no. 200,00 francs. Rick says no. Victor asks why? Rick tells him to ask his wife.

The German soldiers start singing which angers Victor. So he goes to the band and asks them to play the "Marsellaise". Victor sings along and soon all the French people are singing the French song, drowning out the Germans who are none too happy. Strasser gets up and tells Renault to shut this place down immediately. Renault shuts it down. Strasser threatens Victor. He had better go to occupied France (where likely he would be placed in a concentration camp) or stay here and be killed.

Ilsa asks her husband what happened with Rick and the letters of transit? Victor just tells her they will discuss that matter later. Later Victor tells her that Rick has the letters, but wonít give them to him. Rick told him to ask his wife why. Victors asks if Ilsa was lonely when he was in the concentration camp? She says she was very lonely. Victor asks if there is anything she wishes to tell him? He tells her that he loves her very much. He leaves for a meeting with the Resistance.

Ilsa puts on a coat and goes to speak with Rick to try and get the letters of transit. She tells him that he must give her those letters. She says donít think of her or Victor, but think of the cause for which Victor fights. They may not be important, but the cause is important. The cynical Rick tells her: "Iím not fighting for anything anymore except myself. Iím the only cause Iím interested in." He adds: "You would say anything to get what you want."

Ilsa calls Rick a coward and a weakling, but quickly says thatís not true. She says Rick is their last hope. Victor is going to die in Casablanca if Rick doesnít help them. She says she tried to stay away from him. "The day you left Paris, if you only knew what I went through." She tells Rick that she knew he would have stayed with her if she hadnít written that goodbye letter in Paris. Without that she knew Rick wouldnít have left Paris and the Gestapo would have caught him. Ilsa also tells Rick that she thought her husband was dead and only learned thast he was alive on the day they were supposed to leave for Marseille.

Rick asks her what about now? I canít fight it anymore, she says. She canít run away from him again. She also says she is all confused and canít think anymore. She tells Rick: "Youíll have to think whatís right for the both of us."

Victor and one of Rickís waiters, Carl, barely escape from the police who crash in on the Resistance meeting. Carl goes to see Rick and Rick asks him to take Miss Lund home. A little later Victor tells Rick to take Ilsa out of here with him and go to Lisbon.

Rick tells Ferrari that he is leaving Casablanca tonight with Ilsa. He is selling his place to his one-time rival. The only thing he asks is that Carl and the bartender be kept on in their present positions.

At the airport Victor and Ilsa arrive. Renault tells Victor that he is under arrest, but Rick pulls out his pistol and puts a stop to that. He tells Renault to call the tower and give them permission to leave. The Frenchman calls, but not the tower. He calls Major Strasser and gives him the message meant for the tower. Strasser jumps up and heads for the airport.

The plane to Lisbon will be taking off in ten minutes. In private Rick tells Ilsa, who thinks sheís not going with Victor, that she is getting on that plane. She is bewildered by this change in plans.

Ilsa asks: "But what about us?" He says: "Weíll always have Paris." Rick says she ruined Paris for him with her little stunt, but now her profession of love for him has changed all that and he can now cherish the memories of her and him in Paris.

Rick has to talk in the noble language Ilsa used on him and thatís not easy for Rick. He says: "Inside of us we both know you belong to Victor. . . . Ilsa, Iím no good at being noble, but it doesnít take much to see that the problems of three little people donít amount to a hill of bean in this crazy world!" He tells her goodbye by saying: "Hereís looking at you, kid."

Victor tells Rick: "Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win." With a tear rolling down her cheek, Ilsa goes with Victor to get on the plane. Renault tells Rick that he had told him already that he (Rick) is a sentimentalist. He adds: "Iíll have to arrest you, of course."

Major Strasser arrives. He gets on the phone to stop the flight. Rick tells Strasser to get away from that phone or heíll shoot him. Strasser ignores him and Rick shoots him dead.

Renault gets on the telephone to tell the police: "Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects." Off goes the plane to Lisbon.

Renault tells Rick that they have to get him out of Casablanca. There is a Free French garrison over at Brazzaville, Belgian Congo. And Renault is going to go with Rick. As the two men walk away from the airport, Rick says: "Louie . . . I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

 

Very good movie.  I always avoided the movie and now I don't really remember why.  I just finished watching it for the first time at the age of 62.  What I really liked was the screenplay.  I thought it was very clever and snappy.  And cynical, to go along with Rick's cynicism over Ilsa.  Cynicism gives the dialogue that extra edge.  And, of course, there are all those now very famous screen lines in the film, many of which I quoted above.   I,  like Rick, am very cynical about Ilsa.  She skipped out on him with only a tiny note that really didn't explain anything about how and why.  She should have told enough truth to let him know why.  Of course, Ilsa later had the answers for Rick's questions.  But she had too many ready-made answers for every question asked. Her cruelty and thoughtlessness were inexcusable. 

When Ilsa came back into Rick's life, I was more like Sam who wasn't thrilled at all with her presence.  And when she does speak with Rick about what happened she again takes off without saying anything.  She justifies that by saying he looked at her with such hatred.  What else could she have expected?  She left him without a real word.  When you have done something bad to someone and want to explain something to the recipient of your abuse, you have to listen to their complaints and recriminations against you.  You have to stand there and take it and then acknowledge your blame and take the responsibility for your actions.  It is not justified just to leave saying the person hurt your feelings.  They have to get their disappointment and anger out of their system first and then you can talks to them.  But Ilsa was too immature for that.  And it compounds the grievances the person fells toward you. 

And in their first real talk, I think Rick was right that now she would say anything.  Notice that she tells him she's so confused that she can't even think and asks Rick to think for the two of them.  That means to me that Ilsa is not ready to commit to Rick.  And she probably would have run back to Victor again after awhile.  Or perhaps she really wants both men, but that rarely ever works out well.  So Rick makes the right decision to let her go with Victor.  Well, he did tell her that he had done some thinking after she told him to think for the both of them. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

P.S.  Perhaps I didn't want to see the film because the main character doesn't get the girl. 

 

 

 


Historical Background:

The film opened Thanksgiving Day, 1942, just three weeks after the Allies had landed at Casablanca.     

 

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