Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman
Some movies just happen and then remain in memory for posterity. Casablanca was one such movie. How else could you explain that a none-too- hyped, an all-shot-indoors black-and-white film made in 1942- right in the middle of the Second World War ; a film shot with day-to-day script changes and featuring a second choice lead pair could go on to be voted by American Film Institute as the second-ever greatest Hollywood film? Add to that the mystique of the most misquoted Hollywood one-liner ‘Play it again, Sam’- a dialogue commonly attributed to Casablanca but never really happening in film and the build-up to watch this classic is just perfect.
During the 2nd World War, Casablanca- a French- governed Moroccan town had become an important hub for Europeans under the Nazi threat. From Casablanca they could escape to America through the Portuguese port of Lisbon. But the problem lay in getting the exit visa permit to Lisbon. Enter Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) - an influential, ‘I stick my neck out for nobody’ kind of a tight-lipped, cynical nightclub owner, who comes into possession of two stolen exit permits. As if drawn by fate, in walks Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) into the same night-club. Ilsa is Rick’s former lover who had suddenly disappeared from his life a few years ago, having gone back on her word to leave Paris with him. Now she is there with her husband Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) – a famous French resistance leader and they are in search for the elusive exit permits to escape to America to continue the resistance movement. The corrupt French police captain Renault (Claude Rains) and an arrogant German officer Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt) are already on the look-out for the suspected fleeing attempt by Laszlo.
Under the murky cloud of war and political uncertainty, this unexpected meeting of former lovers rekindles old flames and clears mists of doubts. The wall of silence and cynicism built by Rick around himself starts to crumble. Now it’s a question of choices- who will use those permits to leave Casablanca? Whether it will be Ilsa and Rick or Ilsa and her husband?
Playing on the values of love, sacrifice and nationalism the story draws you inside with its sheer emotional force. Multitude of multi-layered characters, witty dialogues, flawless direction (Michael Curtiz), excellent performances, a searing chemistry between Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman and a crackerjack lump-in-the-throat, bitter-sweet ending all make Casablanca an all time classic.
Based on a play ‘Everybody comes to Rick’s’ (which was its original title), the film won three Oscars- for best film, best direction and best script-writing. As luck would have it, both Bogart and Begman never even got Oscar nominations for their timeless portrayals!