According to the AFI (ie, American Film Institute), “Casablanca” is the 2nd best film ever made. (See its list of The 100 Best Films of All-Time.) Roger Ebert was quoted as saying he thought it never got a bad review. The film’s 75th Anniversary recently occurred and it’s popularity remains. Why?
The film was completed in 1942. After an opening in NYC, it was put into wide release in January 1943. It was eligible for Academy Awards in 1944. It was nominated for 8 and won 3 (Best Film, Best Director, best screenplay). It was a combination of suspense and romance, with a bit of comedy.
Its 4 stars were in top form. Humphrey Bogart was in 1941’s The Maltese Falcon. Ingrid Bergman had 4 Oscars to come and in 1941 starred with Spencer Tracy in “Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde.” Paul Henreid, also in 1942, appeared in “Now Voyager”, lighting a cigarette for Bette Davis –and many movie goers imitated him. Claude Rains was nominated for an Oscar for his 1940 appearance in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” (He was the bad guy to Jimmy Stewart’s good guy.)
You had the script and actors. Plus the United States had entered the North African campaign and many immigrants in the film (eg, the singers in the France v. Germany National Anthems scene) had real tears in their eyes. For them, it was not acting. And you had Dooley Wilson playing “As Time Goes By” for Bergman (“Play it once, Sam. For old times’ sake.”) and, later, for Bogart (“You played it for her, you can play it for me! Sam: “I don’t think I can remember.” Bogart: “If she can stand it, I can! Play it!”) What else do you need?
How about a conversation between the 2 men competing for Bergman’s heart? “Henreid: You ran guns to Ethiopia. You fought against the fascists in Spain.” “Bogart: What of it?” “H: Isn’t it strange you always happen to be fighting on the side of the underdog?” “B: Yes. I found that a very expensive hobby, too. But then I never was much of a businessman.” “H: Are you enough of a businessman to appreciate an offer (ie, bribe) of 100,000 francs?” “B: I appreciate it, but I don’t accept it.”
How about when Bergman asks Bogart if he remembered the last day they were together, when the Germans entered Paris? Bogart: “I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.”
How about Rains’ officer trying to figure out how Bogart’s bar owner got to Casablanca? “Rains: What in heaven’s name brought you to Casablanca?” “Bogart: My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.” “Rains: The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert.” “Bogart: I was misinformed.”
Here are 3 stills and the dialog that goes with each. Remember them?
Still wonder why the film is so popular?