The main characters, from left to right: Rick Blaine, Captain Renault, Victor Laszlo and Ilsa LundThe Cross of Lorraine, emblem of the Free French

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Casablanca is a 1942 movie set during World War II in the Vichy-controlled Moroccan city of Casablanca. The film was directed by Michael Curtiz, and stars Humphrey Bogart as Rick and Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa. more...

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It focuses on Rick's conflict between, in the words of one character, love and virtue: he must choose between his love for Ilsa and his need to do the right thing by helping her husband, Resistance hero Victor Laszlo, escape from Casablanca and continue his fight against the Nazis.

The film was an immediate hit, and it has remained consistently popular ever since. Critics have praised the charismatic performances of Bogart and Bergman, the chemistry between the two leads, the depth of characterisation, the taut direction, the witty screenplay and the emotional impact of the work as a whole.


Humphrey Bogart plays Rick Blaine, the owner of an upscale cafe/bar/gambling den in the Moroccan city of Casablanca which attracts a mixed clientele of Vichy French and Nazi officials, refugees and thieves. Rick is a bitter and cynical man, but still displays a clear dislike for the fascist part of his clientele.

The plot begins when a petty crook, Guillermo Ugarte (Peter Lorre), arrives in Rick's club with "letters of transit". The papers are signed by a French General (the pronunciation is muffled, it maybe General Charles de Gaulle or General Maxime Weygand), and allow the bearer to travel at will around Nazi-controlled Europe, including to neutral Lisbon, Portugal, whereupon one may catch a clipper to the United States. These papers are almost priceless to any of the continual stream of refugees attempting to escape the unoccupied French possession, and Ugarte plans on making his fortune by selling them to the highest bidder, who was due to arrive at the club that night, then buying his way out of Casablanca. However, he murdered their German couriers to get them, and is captured and killed by the local police, under the order of the Chief of Police, Captain Renault (Claude Rains), who is corrupt yet ambivalent about the Nazi presence in Casablanca. Unbeknownst to Renault or the Nazi command, Ugarte had secretly left the letters with Rick for safe-keeping.

In walks the reason for Rick's bitterness, his ex-lover Ilsa Lund (Bergman), who arrives in the club after being told the papers are available for sale. Her husband, Victor Laszlo (Henreid), is an important Resistance leader from Czechoslovakia with a massive price on his head, and he needs the letters to escape. Rick believes that Ilsa deceived him earlier, when she appeared to be in love with him, yet left him for Laszlo. In fact she was already married to Laszlo when she first knew Rick, but believed that he was dead. When she discovered that her husband was alive, she returned to him, despite her love for Rick.

A group of German officers, led by the icy Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt), seize Sam's piano and sing the Wacht am Rhein, a German patriotic song from the nineteenth century (the producers wanted to use the Nazi Horst Wessel Lied, but it was copyrighted by a German publisher). Laszlo, incensed, tells the house band to play La Marseillaise. The customers join in and drown out the Germans, who then order the club to be closed.

Despite initially refusing to give the documents to Ilsa, even at gunpoint, Rick eventually chooses to help the couple leave Casablanca. His own moral code is shown as being strong enough to allow him to do the right thing, regardless of his own feelings for Ilsa, with whom he earlier reconciles. Captain Renault is complicit in their escape, and after the couple fly out of Casablanca and Rick has shot Major Strasser, he suggests they both also leave and join the Free French. Just before making this suggestion, Renault throws a bottle of Vichy water in the bin.


The film was based on Murray Burnett and Joan Alison's unproduced play Everybody Comes to Rick's. The story analyst at Warner Brothers who read the play called it (approvingly) "sophisticated hokum", and it was agreed to buy the rights for $20,000. The project was renamed Casablanca, apparently in imitation of the 1938 hit Algiers. Shooting began on May 25, 1942 and was completed on August 3, 1942. The entire film was shot in the studio, except for the sequence showing the arrival of Major Strasser (filmed at Van Nuys Airport). The street used for the exterior shots had recently been built for another film, The Desert Song, and was redecorated and used again in Casablanca for the Paris flashbacks. It remained on the Warners backlot until the 1960s. The set for Rick's cafe was built in three unconnected parts, so the internal geography of the building is indeterminate, and in a number of scenes the camera looks through a wall from the cafe area into Rick's office. The final scene includes midget extras as aircraft personnel walking around a model cardboard plane, because of budgetary and wartime rationing constraints. The fog in the scene was there to mask the unconvincing appearance of the plane. Bergman's height caused some problems: she was somewhat taller than Bogart, so in their scenes together he sometimes had to be put on boxes or cushions.


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