by Allan Fish
(USA 1942 102m) DVD1/2
We’ll always have Paris
p Hal B.Wallis d Michael Curtiz w Julius J.Epstein, Philip G.Epstein, Howard Koch play “Everybody Comes to Rick’s” by Murray Burnett, Joan Alison ph Arthur Edeson ed Owen Marks montage Don Siegel m Max Steiner song “As Time Goes By” by Herman Hupfeld art Carl Jules Weyl cos Orry Kelly
Humphrey Bogart (Rick Blaine), Ingrid Bergman (Ilse Lund-Laszlo), Paul Henreid (Victor Laszlo), Claude Rains (Capt.Louis Renault), Sydney Greenstreet (Signor Ferrari), Peter Lorre (Ugarte), Conrad Veidt (Maj.Heinrich Strasser), S.Z.Sakall (Carl), Dooley Wilson (Sam), Marcel Dalio (Emile, the Croupier), Leonid Kinskey (Sascha), Madeleine le Beau (Yvonne), John Qualen (Berger), Joy Page (Annina Brandel), Helmut Dantine (Jan Brandel), Dan Seymour (Abdul), Curt Bois (Pickpocket), Lou Marcelle (Narrator),
Casablanca is probably the cinema’s greatest movie legend, greater even than Gone With the Wind; idolised, revered, copied, cherished and, above all, reviewed with constant enthusiasm by millions of idolaters. Films such as these fill you with trepidation, fear of perhaps not seeing what all the fuss was about. In my case, I had no need to worry. I love Casablanca as much as I did when I first saw it. Indeed, like so many, I probably love it even more now, even though I can nearly recite each line before it’s spoken. I mean, it’s even Hugh Hefner’s favourite movie. “Here’s looking at you…” indeed.
It’s amazing to think it was so nearly so very different, planned to originally star – wait for it – Ronald Reagan, Ann Sheridan and Dennis Morgan (cue repulsed gasps). It was enough to make you wonder what would have happened if another studio had made it; say RKO. They’d probably have seen Casablanca as too sophisticated and rechristened it, and transferred the action to, Marrakech. It would probably have starred Robert Young and Susan Hayward, which is enough to make even me nauseous. Let’s move on.
Many point at the fact that the story itself is nonsense, the whole central plot premise about the visas to Lisbon being a pure fabrication. In the words of Alicia Silverstone’s Cher Horowitz, “hellooooooo!” It’s a movie, guys. Get over it! But to merely call Casablanca a movie seems to reek of disrespect. It’s a romantic thriller with comedy asides to make you drool, performed by a cast who go so far beyond iconic as to be in the next galaxy. Ingrid Bergman is so beautiful in this you feel like your insides are about to melt and her Ilse is probably the supreme Hollywood image of the woman that got away. If Henreid, Lorre and Greenstreet are basically on autopilot (with the latter so out of place in fez as to be beyond description), who cares? Then there’s poor old Dooley Wilson, doomed to forever sing ‘As Time Goes By’ in everybody’s mind and Marcel Dalio, still better known in the US for a virtual cameo as the croupier, in spite of his great work for Renoir (his de la Chesnaye in La Règle du Jeu would have recognised the irony). German Conrad Veidt is the personification of the Nazi evil that, as part of the Hollywood fraternity, he escaped from in his homeland (and he sadly died less than a year after making the film) and Claude Rains gives what is one of the greatest supporting performances as “poor corrupt official” Louis Renault, who has more great lines than even Woody Allen could dream of. But Bogart is the man here, a performance so immortal as to be worthy of Hollywood canonisation and totally beyond my meagre keyboard.
Casablanca is a movie made up of many diverse elements, but this time Curtiz’s not so crackpot inventor mixed his alchemic ingredients together and came up with pure gold. To put it another way, it’s a cinematic equivalent of painting by numbers where the result turns out to be as rich as a Raphael or a Poussin. A fluke maybe, but for me that’s underestimating the talents who worked so seamlessly on it. This is the movie that is the perfect antidote to the auteur theory. In no way can one person be creatively at the helm of this movie. It’s like a mystery cocktail whose ingredients have, to our eternal regret, been lost to posterity. But one which continual acquaintance with is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.