Erin Gannon ’19
Casablanca, often considered one of the greatest romance films of all time, if not one of the greatest films of all time, returns to Cinestudio this week as part of an annual Valentine’s Day tradition. The ill-fated love story between Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) has stood the test of time, having just celebrated its 75th anniversary with re-releases and screenings around the country in 2017. But what about this film, which was never expected to amount to anything more than just another assembly line product of the Hollywood studio era, has allowed it to keep its hold on American audiences over the last three quarters of a century?
For some, it’s the plot – Ilsa and Rick, long-lost lovers from the pre-war days, reunite by chance as Ilsa walks into Rick’s night club while fleeing Europe with her now-husband, a leader of the Czech Resistance. Rick is forced to decide between his love and his country. He can choose Ilsa, and they can resume their romance in peace in French Morocco, or he can help Ilsa and her husband escape to the United States, which would serve to aid the allied war effort. This choice – between heart and country – is a moral dilemma that has captivated audiences time and again.
For others, it’s the film’s screenplay. Casablanca is one of the most quoted movies of all time, and many who recite its most-famed dialogue are often unaware of its origin. Casablanca appears six times on the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes – more than any other film – with “Here’s looking at you, kid,” “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” “Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By’,” “Round up the usual suspects,” and “We’ll always have Paris” all securing spots in the top 50.
In addition to having some of the most memorable lines of all time, one of the more underappreciated elements of Casablanca is the dry humor hidden in the dialogue. One of my favorite examples of this occurs early in the film when Rick is asked what his nationality is, to which he replies “a drunkard,” and to which someone else chimes in, “And that makes Rick a citizen of the world.” Casablanca is full of witty exchanges like this one, but they come and go so quickly and casually that even after seeing the film multiple times, hidden gems still jump out and make you laugh.
But above all, what keeps audiences coming back time and again is Rick and Ilsa’s love story, largely made possible by the on-screen chemistry between Bogart and Bergman. The couple’s star-crossed path ranks second in terms of tragedy only to Romeo and Juliet themselves, and audiences can’t seem to shake their addiction to not only the heartbreak, but also the hope. So, as long as that hope exists, as they say, “We’ll always have Paris.”
Casablanca will be shown at Cinestudio the evening of Feb. 14-16. The showings are at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.