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Casablanca Movie Review

rick renault love michael

1942 – Michael Curtiz –

The sense of place that most epics seek to achieve is accomplished in this studio-bound film less through creating a realistic sense of Casablanca than by exploring the international states of mind that characterize Rick's place. The opening narration tells us that the refugee trail of monied and desperate exiles leads to Casablanca, where they wait and wait for exit visas to Lisbon, but the development of the movie points out how Rick's Cafe Americain seems to be the emotional gathering place for the many heroes, villains, and hopefuls who populate the city. When Ugarte (Peter Lorre) arrives early in the film with the two letters of transit that Rick reluctantly hides in Sam's (Dooley Wilson) piano, and when Rick's former love Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) appears with her resistance-leader husband (Paul Henreid), events fall into place that will sharpen the conflict and eventually transform Rick from an uninvolved cynic to a man heeding once more the call of ideals.

It is a surprise to learn that some of the screenplay was written hurriedly during shooting including the ending. The script uses Rick's cafe to connect the concerns of the many characters with Rick so that as we learn more about their outward struggles, we find out more about Rick's inner struggle. He exudes cool disdain, especially when tearing up the credentials of angry Germans. (He restricts the German banker from his gambling room and later tears a marker another German leaves at the bar.) The mosaic plotting scatters these seemingly unimportant details so carefully that we are continually pleased to see as things develop how it all fits so seamlessly.

One of the great feats of the writing is its finesse in showing Rick's cynical shell and allowing at the same time the audience to surmise that on the inside he is, as Renault (Claude Rains) says, a “rank sentimentalist.” When the womanizing Renault says of him, “He is the kind of man that if I were a woman … I should be in love with Rick,” it somehow sounds perfectly natural. The vignettes between Rick and Yvonne (he sends her home because she is tipsy and because she has fallen in love with him) and Rick and Annina, the young Bulgarian bride (he crooks the roulette wheel in her husband's favor to keep her out of Renault's clutches), foreshadow the final great scene at the foggy airport when he nobly sends away another woman. Rick is so compelling that the film may ultimately be less about love and recovering wartime ideals than about holding on to integrity. Everybody respects Rick because they know that nothing will make him sell out.

Casablanca is based on a play by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison that was never produced. Before Bogart and Bergman signed on, George Raft had declined the role of Rick, and Ronald Reagan and Ann Sheridan were considered for the starring roles. Michael Curtiz was the fourth director to be offered the helm, proving once again that the Hollywood merry-go-round was not an absolute block to inspired moviemaking.

Cast: Humphrey Bogart (Richard Blaine), Ingrid Bergman (Ilsa Lund), Paul Henreid (Victor Laszlo), Claude Rains (Captain Louis Renault), Sydney Greenstreet (Ferrari), Peter Lorre (Ugarte), S.Z. Sakall (Carl the waiter), Conrad Veidt (Major Strasser), Dooley Wilson (Sam), Marcel Dalio (croupier), Madeleine Le Beau (Yvonne), Annina (Joy Page), John Qualen (Berger), Leonid Kinskey (Sascha), Dan Seymour (Abdul) Screenwriter: Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch Cinematographer: Arthur Edeson Composer: Max Steiner Producer: Hal B. Wallis for Warner Bros. Running Time: 102 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards, 1943: Director (Michael Curtiz), Picture, Screenplay; Nominations: Actor (Humphrey Bogart), Black and White Cinematography, Editing, Supporting Actor (Claude Rains), Original Dramatic/Comedy Score; National Board of Review Awards, 1945: 10 Best Films of the Year Budget: $950,000 Box Office: $3.7M.

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