So who knew that Casablanca was still so watchable all these years later? (Answer: Probably a lot of people - that’s why it shows up on so many “Best Of” lists.) Granted, Humphrey Bogart isn’t nearly as sexy as other leading men from days of yore, but he had a certain wise-ass charm that could still be appreciated even today.
Casablanca tends to be one of the greatest ranked love stories in all of Hollywood cinema, yet the main problem with that is that if you weren’t around to see it when it came out, and you’ve seen lots of movies that have copied its elements since, then the initial magic may be lost on you, as it was for me. We’ve all seen that twist romantic ending thousands of times wherein the man sends the woman off to be happier without him and he’s left to his own devices. It’s old hat now, but it wasn’t when Casablanca came around, which is why it probably why it is so beloved.
Like The Godfather, Casablanca is surprisingly quotable. And I’m not talking about the same quotes we’ve heard time and time again, like the incorrect “Play it again, Sam” (I spent the whole film waiting for them to say this, and it was never uttered once), or “We’ll always have Paris.” Or, of course, the “gin joints” quote, which would probably be tattooed on the shoulders of emo kids if such a classification were around back then.
I’m talking about moments like when Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) claims how he’s “shocked...shocked!” that gambling takes place at Rick’s (Bogart) nightclub - shortly before collecting his own winnings. Or when Renault asks Rick why he came to Casablanca, a desert, for “the waters” and Rick replies that he was “misinformed.” Or when Rick tells Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt) that there are “certain sections of New York” that the Germans should probably avoid invading. Comedy gold, my friends, comedy gold.
Without a doubt, I would have to say that my favorite characters were Rick and Renault. I found them to have even better chemistry that Bogie and Ingrid Bergman (as Ilsa). Rick is that never-gets-old kind of smart aleck who always has something sharp to say and who has enough clout to simply nod his head to convey his intentions.
And, hands down, one of the most memorable scenes in the film is when Strasser, along with a collection of officers, begins singing “Die Wacht am Rhein,” a patriotic German anthem, and Laszlo counters by instructing Rick’s house band (with Rick’s permission) to play “La Marseillaise” (France’s national anthem), ultimately drowning out the Germans. It makes you feel downright patriotic for your own country, even if neither of these are native to you.
If you’re a black-and-white picture, I’m already judging you harshly. I challenge you the moment I begin watching to hold my interest throughout, and Casablanca certainly did just that. As opposed to other films that have received similar recognition, Casablanca is one film that I feel deserves long-term preservation.