Film review: Casablanca (1942)

Spoilers may occur. One of the most beloved films ever made, from the "Golden age of cinema", and often voted the most romantic movie of-all-time, containing some of the most memorable and witty movie quotes from cinema history.

Among my favourite black-and-whites, it has been called a perfect film, capturing the spirit of romance, patriotism, intrigue and idealism. Through the years Casablanca is a film that has been woven into the fabric of our culture.

Takes place in Northern Africa in the 1940s, and especially Rick’s café is a character in its own right in the film, I really felt like I was sitting there among those guys in that smoke-filled room having a drink.

Set during World War Two, the main theme is probably lost love. Humphrey Bogart plays the romantic hero Rick, a cynical, tough, hard-nosed, yet sensitive character, who is reunited in Morocco with an old flame named Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman). She is now married to Victor Laszlo fleeing from the Nazis.

Humphrey Bogart became a star with Casablanca. Film critic Roger Ebert says on the audio commentary that he thinks the reason Rick has become so beloved is due to him being a mysterious, sarcastic, and detached kind of guy, who is all the more interesting because we sense he has a soft heart inside.

Rick’s motivations for being in Casablanca are unclear, and add to the mystery. A bit of trivia, Bogart never took any acting lessons or went to acting school, he was self-taught. While I personally believe Ingrid Bergman’s performance is stronger, Bogart was nominated for an Oscar for his lead performance in Casablanca.

Castor at anomalousmaterial made a good point in his review, Bogart is playing two different characters in a way, Rick of the past, and Rick of the present. And Bogart pulls it off.

I always found Bogart's acting style slightly wooden and his delivery of lines monotonous, he has his moments in Casablanca, notably the "of all the gin joints" scene above. Still, for me he has a stone face most of the time in comparison to Ingrid Bergman, she can really express a lot by not even speaking. Why did Humphrey Bogart become such a big star I wonder? Luck? Good career choices? His looks? Who knows. However, you could argue there are no main characters in Casablanca, as the story has an ensemble feel to it.

Ingrid Bergman brought warmth and tenderness to the role. Her character Ilsa was torn between two men, in love with Rick, and devoted to the cause of resistance leader Victor Laszlo portrayed by Paul Henreid. Gives the film an edginess that Ingrid Bergman didn’t know who to love due to scripts changing daily. She was asked to play it “in the middle”. Nobody knew what the ending would be.

As Ebert states, it’s probably on more lists of the greatest films of-all-time than any other film in cinema history, and he has never read a negative Casablanca review (Hmm, well I could probably find one or two on rottentomatoes)
He thinks this is partly due to the main characters being likeable, and therefore reaching a wide audience, it also has elements to please both men and women. There are many ways of defining what makes a classic, one definition Ebert likes and feels he cannot improve on is by London critic Derek Malcolm: “A great movie is a movie I cannot bear the thought of never seeing again”

The quote “play it again Sam” is never spoken, it was actually “play it”. It’s amazing how quotes from Casablanca have become part of mainstream culture: “Round up the usual suspects”, “We'll always have Paris”, "I stick my neck out for nobody", etc.

My favourite quotes have to be: “Here’s looking at you kid”, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”, and not forgetting “My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters. Waters? What waters? We're in the desert. I was misinformed.”
Here’s a list of memorable quotes

As explained in the dvd documentary, the audience gains insight into people stranded in Europe trying to escape to the USA. People at the time knew about the real Casablanca from the news, and this gave the film more tension. Casablanca was invaded the year the picture came out.

In a way, America and the world needed the film, the story said there were values worth making sacrifices for, and it told this in a very entertaining way. The idea was, that there are greater causes at hand during the war, and you sometimes had to stand above your own feelings, in this case the feelings of three people.
The ending is very memorable and has left audiences wondering what would happen to the main characters after the credits have rolled, the war was still going on, so there was a lot of uncertainty about the future, not just in the movie, but all around the world.

That song As Time Goes By, so haunting! And Rick's Café MUST have helped the tourism in the local area!
The song is number 2 on the American Film Institute's (AFI) 100 Years... 100 Songs list.

Won Oscars for Best picture, best screenplay and best director. Listed as #19 on IMDB’s top 250.

For me, some of the special effects are dated, but still holds up very well, is a timeless classic for each new generation to discover. A number of the screenshots I've shared here have become iconic movie moments.

Have you seen Casablanca? What did you make of it? Do you have a favourite quote? What do you think of Humphrey Bogart's acting? Feel free to share your opinions in the comments




  1. Casablanca ranks as one of my favourite movies too. It sure has become part of cinematic folklore with, as you wrote about in detail, a number of its quotes having become nearly as famous as the movie itself.

    I'm not an American, so its cultural influences are known to me only through secondary sources. But one needn't be an American to appreciate the marvel that this movie was and still is.

    I loved Ingrid Bergman's performance as you did. But, unlike you, I really liked Bogart's too.

    Great review of a truly great movie!

  2. Great flick indeed. The first time I watched it, I was a bit underwhelmed but the movie has grown tremendously for me ever since. Certainly one of the great cinematic classic for a reason.

  3. I saw the film for the first time this year, and absolutely loved it. Funnily, I'd thought that I'd love Gone With the Wind, and just kinda... "like" this, but it turned out I hated the first one and was amazed by this one. It's also very "easy" to watch, even though there is a big variety of subjects in it.
    About Humphrey Bogart... well, he is attractive, for an old guy to be, and I'm sure that was one of the reasons he became so famous. I like him much more than that guy from Gone With the Wind, concerning his acting skills.

  4. This film is one of a handful that for me define a person. If you don't at least like Casablanca, I figure there's something wrong with you.

    An achingly beautiful film.

  5. @Shubhajit: Thanks, yeah, the quotes are the best part of it for me. We appear to agree on loving Casablanca, its ok you think Bogart's performance was good, so did the academy! I'm probably in the minority. I just find his acting not very versatile.

    @Castor: I know what you mean, some films grow on you the 2nd time around. I had that with "I'm Not There"

    @Mette: Films are odd that way, sometimes we think because of all the praise and awards that we ought to love it, but it's just not for us. I could make a long list of classic or foreign films that left me cold.
    Glad you enjoyed Casablanca. Yeah, maybe Bogart's looks helped increase his popularity. For me he speaks like a robot, but when I think about it, maybe that was the norm in those days, I believe Cary Grant also spoke in a similar way.

    @Movie Guy Steve: It's easy to fall in love with Casablanca, there seems to be something for everyone to relate to in the story!
    I think a person on a desert island would like this 1942 film regardless if he/she knew it was famous or not.

  6. I agree with the critic about Bogart. I saw him in 'Sabrina' too, and the cynical side of him is quite similar like in 'Casablanca'. But seeing him in Paris, his face glows a little and he speaks tad different to Ingrid. It's not too clear, but it shows. I do sense something sensitive despite of how cynical he looks.

    I too like the quotes, 'Here's looking at you, Kid.' I guess if Bogart ends with Ingrid in the end, it's not really fair for Ingrid's husband (in the movie). And Bogart ends completely like a gentleman, mature and all. Nice review, Chris!

  7. @Andina: Bogart is not a bad actor, I just prefer actors that show more emotion. Maybe Bogart was right for the part, because his face is more mysterious and tough to read.
    Yes, when they are 3, there wil be a loser. Who knows what will happen in future, maybe after the war, they will get back together. The romantic in me hopes so ( :


What do you think about the post? I look forward to hearing from you. Rest assured I will reply soon.


Related Posts with Thumbnails