“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.”
This is another personal favorite of mine and perhaps one of the most quotable classic films of all time. Directed by Michael Curtiz, Casablanca takes place during the early days of World War II in French Morocco where many European refugees were searching for a way to escape to the Americas and evade Nazi control. In Casablanca we are quickly introduced to the owner of a nightclub, an American expatriate named Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart). Rick is a bitter and cynical man who has decided to look out for himself and offer his clients a good time at his club. But when a man shows up and gives Rick a couple of transit letters that will allow the holder of these papers to travel freely through Europe in order to escape to the United States from Lisbon, they know they can make a lot of money by finding the right buyer. A married couple show up at Rick’s bar to buy the letters and this is where we discover why Rick is so bitter. Victor’s (Paul Henreid) wife Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), had met Rick in Paris a while back when she thought her husband, a resistance leader, had been killed during the War. The two had an affair, but when Ilsa discovered that Victor was alive and that he had escaped the Nazi concentration camp where he was held she leaves Rick without giving him any explanation. Rick has never been able to get over the betrayal and seeing her at his joint with her husband makes him even more bitter. And so the adventure begins as Rick must decide if he wants to help Victor and Ilsa escape from the Nazis or if he should simply look the other way. Claude Rains has a supporting role as a corrupt French official while Conrad Veldt plays a Nazi Major.
Today we all praise the screenwriters for this film, but there was much skepticism during filming. Neither Bergman nor Bogart thought it was any good and some claim that they didn’t want to work together. I don’t think Michael Curtiz ever imagined this film would become such a beloved classic either, but somehow the film clicked in all cylinders and the story has stuck with audiences ever since. The on screen chemistry between Bogart and Bergman is the main reason why the romance works so well and the scenes they ask Sam to play their song on his piano is memorable. It’s the best romantic film of all time in my opinion because it has it all: romance, betrayal, and sacrificial love. There are so many beloved quotes in this film and it only gets better over time. The ending is also one of the best in any movie and one of the reasons why so many consider this such a revered classic, but I can point out several other emotional moments such as the scene where Sam is ordered to play a German patriotic song for the Nazi soldiers in the bar, only to have Victor respond by asking the band leader to play La Marseillaise and drown out the song from the Germans. Even the revelation scene where we get flashbacks of Rick and Ilsa’s affair and discover how she never meets up with him at the train station and instead he’s handed a farewell note from her, is quite emotionally engaging. The film offers plenty of thrilling scenes as well for those that aren’t interested in the romance so there is no excuse for anyone not to see this classic. In case you forget how brilliant the screenplay is let me just remind you of some of the best quotes in this movie.
“Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
“If that plane leaves the ground and you're not with him, you'll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.”
“We'll always have Paris.”
“Here's looking at you kid.”
“Play it, Sam. Play "As Time Goes By."”
“I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.”
“Alright, I'll make it easier for you- Go ahead and shoot. You'll be doing me a favor.”
“Round up the usual suspects.”
“Mostly I remember the last one. The wow finish. A guy standing on a station platform in the rain with a comical look in his face because his insides have been kicked out.”
“It doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world”