The Hollywood film Casablanca-1942 is a part of my journey to watching 100 best films of 100 years: from 1920 to 2020. The film is starred by Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart, Paul Henreid and others.
The romantic drama Casablanca, the film was set during WWII that focuses on the romantic affair between Rick Blaine and Ilsa Lund, the wife of Victor Lazlo, the leader of the Czech Resistance movement. Because of his love for Ilsa, Rick sacrificed his opportunity to escape from Nazi oppression to the couple so they can avoid German captivity.
Casablanca is the largest city of Morocco which was controlled as a French State by France. The film shows that Captivated by Germany, many in Europe were eyeing for freedom in America. For many who wanted to leave France before its occupation by Germany, Casablanca became an important city to fly to the embarkation point, Lisbon, the largest city of Portugal.
People, by train or auto or foot, across the rim of Africa reach Casablanca in French Morocco. Here, the fortunate ones, through money or influence or luck might obtain exit visas and scurry to Lisbon. And from Lisbon to the New World. But those who could not afford a visa, had to wait in Casablanca for eternity or death.
Story of Casablanca-1942
Two German secret policemen who were carrying two letters of transit were killed on the train to Oran by a man named Ugarte who makes living by selling exit visas to that wanted to get out of Casablanca to Lisbon. The killing created quite an uproar among the Third
Reich of Nazi Germany. The killer headed to Casablanca.
Major Strasser of the Third Reich (Third Empire) came to arrest the suspect who killed who Gestapo ( German secret police) on a train and stole the letters of transit, signed by General de Gaulle, a French army officer and statesman who led Free France against Nazi Germany during World War II.
But before that let us delve into the romantic affairs that the film is centred around. Ilsa and Rick fell in love with each other in Paris. As the tension between France and Germany intensified Ilsa started worrying about Rick’s safety. Rick fought against fascism in Spain and Ethiopia. He was black-listed by German authority.
Days before the Germans entered Paris Rick and Ilsa decided to leave Paris to America. In order to do so, they must first go to Casablanca. In a pub in Paris, Sam the singer of the pub who was very closed to Ilsa and Rick told him that there is a price for his head. But, Rick did not want to leave Paris alone, even though Ilsa tried to convince him to. As planned, the three decided to leave Paris for Casablanca. Rick told Ilsa that he would pick her at her hotel at 4:30. She objected and told that she would meet them at the station.
She did not show up. In the downpour, Rick was waiting for Ilsa while Sam went to her hotel to check on her. However, Sam came back but alone and said that he did not find her there but found a note written to Rick. “Richard, I cannot go with you or ever see you again. You must not ask why. Just believe that I love you. Go, my darling and God bless you. Ilsa”, the note reads. Rick and Sam left for Casablanca.
Rick opened up the saloon Rick’s Cafe American with a 25 per cent share for Sam where he would sing for customers. After many days, when Ilsa entered Rick’s Cafe American with her husband, she was surprised to see Sam there. She, therefore, presumed to get information about Rick from him. She called Sam closer and asked him Rick’s whereabout and requested to sing their favourite song ‘As time goes by’, the song Rick decided not to listen again and forbade Sam never to play again. At first, Sam refused to but sang anyway to see Ilsa’s earnestness, while her husband was away.
Filled with past and memories Ilsa let her eyes to be moistened. Rick rushed to Sam and reprimanded for why he was singing ‘As time goes by’, but immediately cooled himself down to see Ilsa next to him. She stared at Rick and exchanged a passionate glance of love and desperation and relief. The excitement and elation of union and restitution of brokenness of the two hearts were apparent in their glances when Rick stumbled and Ilsa had the teary eyes.
Melancholy and the agony of losing Ilsa surrounded Rick once again. He tried to drink away the pain and hopelessness at night inside the saloon and requested Sam to play “As time goes by” again. There Ilsa reappeared like a dream in front of him, once again. She came to explain the reason why she did not show up the day they left Paris. Rick refused to accept any possible reason behind it. Drunk, Rick did not want to hear more that night, while Ilsa could not tell him that she did not come because she was already married and her husband turned out to be alive.
Major Strasser came with a dual purpose: arresting the killer and Victor Lazlo, the leader of the underground movement who fled from a German concentration camp. As Casablanca is not under German occupation the Reich wanted Lazlo to remain in Casablanca and advised Captain Renault, prefect of police of Casablanca, not to sign any exit visa for Lazlo.
The evening before Victor Lazlo and Ilsa arrived in Casablanca Ugarte who had the letters of transit for them had been arrested by the German police from Rick’s Cafe American. But before he was arrested Ugarte secretively passed the letters of transit to Rick which he hid from the sight of the German police during the raid.
The next morning when the couple was summoned to the prefect’s office, Major Strasser offered to give Lazlo and wife exit visas to Lisbon next morning and the honour of having served the Third Reich on the condition that he gives him the names and whereabouts of the leaders of the underground movement of Paris, Prague, Brussels, Amsterdam, Oslo, Belgrade, Athens and Even Berlin. But Lazlo refused on the fear that he would track down and kill them.
Before their arrival, Lazlo and Ilsa spoke to Ugarte regarding the letters of transit. Ugarte was supposed to hand over them with a hefty price. But now that Ugarte is dead they had to turn to the black market for their exit visas. Having said that, the Black market for a visa had been controlled by a powerful Moroccan, Ferrari, and while a corrupt official Captain Renault, the police prefect of Casablanca, controlled it with official power.
However, Ferrari agreed to be able to manage only one exit visa, for Ilsa alone. Consequently, Lazlo tried to convince Ilsa that she must go first while he can try for his luck later on. As she refused to be convinced, they both decided to try for two visas, for both of them. In fact, Ferrari, before they departed, revealed to them that, as the letters of transit were not found with Ugarte they must have been with Rick, the former lover of Ilsa, which they can try.
The next day Lazlo and Ilsa went to Rick’s Cafe America and asked for the transit letters for 300,000 francs. Rick refused to sell them even if he offered a million francs. The reason he wanted him to know from his wife. Came out from Rick’s office Lazlo observed the German Gestapo are, led by Major Strasser, singing the German national anthem. Climbed down, he too requested the musician of the saloon to play La Marseillaise, the national anthem of France. Divided into two sides hundreds of people inside the pub sang two national anthems at the same time in a heightened chorus.
Once it was over, infuriated, the Strasser ordered Captain Renault to close down the Cafe and to find a reason for that, if there is none. Renault executed the order at once and declared the saloon to be closed until further notice under the pretext of gambling. The Strasser once again implored Ilsa to return to occupied France, so they can elicit information from her about her husband’s movement.
Once Ilsa heard that Rick has the letters she was amazed and at night when Lazlo left for the underground meeting, in the middle of the night Ilsa headed for Rick. She managed to sneak into Rick’s room. She asked for the letters of transit and told him he can ask for any price for them.
Broken, emotionally she tried to persuade him “We loved each other once. If those days meant anything at all to you. If you knew what really happened if you only knew the truth. With so much at stake, all you can think of is your feelings. One woman has hurt you, and you take your revenge on the rest of the world. You’re a coward and a weakling. No. Oh, Richard. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, but you are our last hope. If you don’t help us, Victor Laszlo will die in Casablanca”. Instead of being convinced to sell or give the letter to her he rather said, “it’s just the salesmanship”.
Desperate, Ilsa all of a sudden pointed a gun toward Rick and demanded the letters. He reasoned that “If Laszlo and the cause that he is involved with mean so much to you, you won’t stop at anything. All right, I’ll make it easier for you. Go ahead and shoot. You’ll be doing me a favour.” Teary eyes Ilsa professes “Richard, I tried to stay away. I thought I would never see you again. That you were out of my life”.
Broken she rested her face on Rick’s shoulder and said: “The day you left Paris if you knew what I went through. If you knew how much I loved you. How much I still love you”. And they both indulged in a passionate kiss.
She confesses to him that when she heard Lazlo was dead by trying to escape from the concentration camp, she felt lonely, had nothing and was hopeless. Then she met him. She kept the secret the fact of marriage with Lazlo from Rick because Lazlo wanted it that way. Not even their closest friends were aware of it. She found out he is alive just before they decided to leave Paris.
Ilsa said she never had the courage to leave him again, and wanted to stay with him, in Casablanca. However, she suggested Rick to help Lazlo to leave Casablanca so that he can continue with his cause. She tried to make Rick understand that she ran from him once, and was unable to do that again.
That night, when German police dispersed the underground meeting, Lazlo took refuge in Rick’s saloon while Ilsa was with Rick in his living room. Rick called up Carl, the waiter and send Ilsa away with him secretly. Rick then went down to meet Lazlo. At a point of conversation, Lazlo revealed to him that he knows that he is in love with his wife. However, he expected that Rick helps her to escape from Casablanca because he loves her very much. Unfortunately, police broke-in the Cafe and arrested Lazlo.
The same night, Rick admitted to Captain Renault, at his office, that he has the letters of transit and wanted to use them for himself to escape to America but wants to take someone along, presumably Ilsa. And implored Captain Luis Renault to release Lazlo as of now from the petty crime of participating the underground meeting while he can re-arrest him on a bigger ground, of killing and stealing the letters of transit. The arrest may help him add weight on his rank as well which will land Lazlo in a concentration camp for years.
In order to do so, Rick revealed a plan to him which requires Captain Renault to hide and wait during the transition of the letters at his office, so he can arrest him in the act. Renault fell for it and agreed to release Lazlo only to re-arrest afterwards. Rick convinced Renault that he and Ilsa will be leaving that night while he can take Lazlo captive. For that to make happen, Rick conditioned Renault to call off his watchdogs during the operation.
Hour before the last flight to Lisbon, Victor Lazlo and Ilsa came to Rick’s office to collect the letters of transit. Ilsa thought, as neither of them knew Rick’s plan, Lazlo is going to leave alone while Lazlo thought Ilsa is going to fly alone ahead of him. But just at the moment when Rick handed over the letters, Renault appeared and declared that he is under arrest for murdering the two German police and stealing the letters.
No sooner than Renault came out and declared Lazlo’s arrest, Rick pointed a gun at Renault and forced him to telephone to the airport to inform Major Strasser that, there will be no questions about the two letters of transit to the plane to Lisbon.
At the airport, just about 10 minutes before the flight took-off, Rick forced Renault to fill in the letters under Mr and Mrs Victor’s names, surprising him. Astonished, Ilsa wanted to know why her name should be there. Rick revealed to her that he is going to send both of them away, and he cannot let her stay with him in Casablanca. On the other hand, if he sends her alone and Lazlo stays in Casablanca, they both might end up in a German concentration camp.
Rick reasoned with Ilsa that he has a job to do as well which she can’t be part of. He also added, he got back his love and Paris the last night when she showed up in Casablanca, and that was possible because of Casablanca. Rick explained to Lazlo, on the other hand, that just because she said her love for him was still not over and implored him to send him away instead, he agrees to give the transit away to him as well.
As the plane about took off, Captain Renault was waiting to arrest Rick. But Major Strasser hurriedly arrived at the scene and got to know that Victor Lazlo, the leader of the underground movement, has just taken off. Asked by Major Strasser why he did not stop the plane, Captain Renault pointed the finger at Rick. Indignant, Strasser reached the telephone and asked for radio tower of the control room but Rick threatened to shoot him if does not put the phone down. Presumably, Rick shot him as he was still trying to reach the radio tower.
When the police force had reached the scene, Captain Renault instructed them to arrest the usual suspects, maybe fighter of the underground movement, not Rick. Captain Renault complimented Rick for not only being a sentimentalist but also for a patriot and advised him to disappear for a little while from Casablanca. The film ends with a line from Rick, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
There are some conversation-based quotations that I have found fascinating and noteworthy.
“In Casablanca, I am master of my fate”—Captain Renault to Rick.
“What is your nationality? I’m a drunkard. And that makes Rick a citizen of the world”—Ricks’ answer to Major Strasser.
“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine”— drunk Rick lamented on Ilsa.
“With the whole world crumbling, we pick this time to fall in love. I love you so much. And I hate this war so much” —Ilsa to Rick the day before their departure.
“It’s a crazy world. Anything can happen. If you shouldn’t get away. I mean if…If something should keep us apart…wherever they put you, and wherever I’ll be, I want you to know that I..Kiss me”—Ilsa to Rick.
“When will you realize that in this world today, isolationism is no longer a practical policy?” –Captain Renault to Rick.
“We try to cooperate with your government. But we cannot regulate the feelings of our people”—Captain Renault to Major Strasser of Nazi Germany.
“Monsieur Rick, you are getting to be your best Customer”—Carl, the waiter to drunk Rick.
“What of it? I’m going to die in Casablanca. It’s a good spot for it”—Rick to Annina.
“If someone loved you very much…so that your happiness was the only thing that she wanted in the world, and she did a bad thing to make certain of it, could you forgive her?” —Annina Brandel, the wife of the young Bulgarian.
“We might as well question why we breathe. If we stop breathing, we’ll die. If we stop fighting our enemies, the world will die”—Lazlo to Rick, when questioned his reason to fight for the cause.
“Each of us has a destiny. For good, or for evil”—Lazlo to Rick.
“Love, it seems, has triumphed over virtue”—Captain Renault to Rick.
If I have to conclude with a positive remark about how Casablanca, the film moved me, I would certainly say that any film enthusiast may find it a film to return to as many times as possible. Alongside the history regarding human tragedy during WWII, it is capable of entertaining viewers with love and romance between Rick and Ilsa.
No matter how sentimentalist can Rick be defined by captain Renault, he is still a hardcore humanist who was moved by human tragedies in the city of Casablanca. It was indeed a moving moment to see how he came forward to help a bankrupt couple by winning roulette.
Because of Casablanca, the lost love was reunited even in the midst of the turbulent time of war. Because of his love for Ilsa, he decided to sacrifice his opportunity to be able to be America, to where he had been waiting for an opportunity to travel. Casablanca-1942, film may worth your time.