Lines to Love: The Casablanca Edition
If you’ve been a reader of Whiskers for a while, then you’ve probably come across the occasional mention of my having married a sailor- a maritime engineer, to be specific. Right now my sailor is across the Atlantic in port with his ship in the Canary Islands. If you’re not a student of geography, the location of these Spanish islands is closer to Africa than to the peninsula of Spain. In fact, they’re a hop, skip, and jump from Morocco, only 62 miles from shore to shore.
Knowing this close proximity, I was inspired to watch a film from that region of the world. (I do this on those occasions when I find myself missing my husband.)
Can you guess what film I’m referring to? Here’s a hint: Turner Classic Movies (one of my favorite channels on television) dubs this one of the top Essentials. Have you guessed it?
It’s none other than Casablanca, the 1942 timeless romantic drama starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, and Claude Rains. While re-watching it, I realized that the movie is chock full of fantastic lines.
The film opens with the buzz: two German couriers have been murdered on the train to Vichy-ruled French Moroccan Casablanca. They had carried letters of transit signed by General DeGeulle which cannot be questioned or rescinded, and now they are missing. This causes quite an uproar as Casablanca is the waiting point for thousands of refugees fleeing Europe in hopes of reaching freedom.
In such a desperate atmosphere, anyone could have committed these murders, although the police already know who the murderer is. When newly arrived Nazi Major Strasser questions Captain Louis Renault, the préfect of police (played with the perfect balance of humor and ennui by Claude Rains), as to why the murderer is not in custody yet, Louis nonchalantly replies,
American expatriate Rick Blaine (portrayed in cynical splendor by Humphrey Bogart) runs Rick’s Café Américain, a hopping saloon with a posh gambling den behind closed doors. Catering to all from the lowest scum to the highest ranked allows Rick one advantage; he’s in the know regarding nearly everything that happens on the refugee trail from Paris to Marseilles, from Oran to Casablanca. He knows who has those letters of transit, the rather dubious Ugarte (played by Peter Lorre).
Ugarte gives Rick the letters to hide for him and then gets taken into custody and later killed. Rick is entirely apathetic to the plight of his fellow man, including Ugarte, or, at least, that’s what he’d like to think.
Rick has hardened his heart and he's comfortable with that atrophied organ being just that. However, as is always the way, the woman who touched his once beating heart before breaking it completely walks into his cafe.
Ilsa, Rick’s former flame, is married to Victor Laszlo, renowned leader of the resistance to the Third Reich in Czechoslovakia. Victor has quite the platform, one that even impresses cynical Rick.
Laszlo’s reputation precedes him. And, of course, that’s when the history of Rick and Ilsa’s ill-fated romance is disclosed. Years prior, Laszlo was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. Shortly after his imprisonment, Ilsa had received word that he had died. In the months that followed, Ilsa met Rick in Paris, where he was working against the Nazis. As fate would have it, they fell in love.
But, fate can be cruel, and when the Nazis march into Paris, Rick must leave. He proposes to Ilsa and they make plans to leave the next day. However, Ilsa never shows up, only sending a note, saying she cannot go with him and can never see him again.
Rick has reconciled himself into bitter apathy. He doesn’t want to hear Ilsa’s excuses. It doesn’t matter to him that the day before they were to leave Paris, she received word that her husband was not dead at all, but had just escaped from his prison camp. Rick doesn’t care. He’s done with it all. There’s just existence in a seemingly unending, morally ambiguous game called life. Until Ilsa shows up again.
Now Rick is caught up in the tug of war between the political power plays vying for the region and the world as well as the war between his heart and his mind. What’s a man to do in such circumstances? Well, I won’t tell you how it ends. If you don’t know, dear reader, then I urge you to watch the movie to find out. It’s one that every educated cinema viewer should be familiar with.
However, I will give you a couple more lines that I love. I know I’ve peppered the storyline with some, but here are a few more I think worth mentioning as they are representative of keen, urbane humor written into the screenplay by the Epstein Brothers.
I could go on and on. I have too many favorite parts. I can only encourage you, quite strongly, to watch this film. Since it’s release, it’s consistently been at the top of every list of the greatest movies of all time. Suffice it to say, this iconic film has woven itself into the fabric of cinema history, and even American culture. There are countless lines from it that have made their way into popular jargon. In fact, I made it a point not to quote the more famous lines from this film. I only did one: Of all the gin joints…
Instead, I thought it would be fun to have a quiz of sorts. What are some of those lines from Casablanca that are so famous, they’re actually quoted in vast and varying films, books, music, etc? Leave your answers in the comments. Good luck.