While most people view films as nothing but forms of entertainment, others see them as tools that tell a story and act as a catalyst to share a message that reflects social issues. In today’s digital era, movies and series can come and go, making brief waves of impact that eventually subside. However, the legacy that older films have left behind can still be felt through pop culture references and the inspiration behind new films today. Perhaps no movie comes close to the magnitude of 1942’s Casablanca.
Casablanca is a timeless classic that remains immortal despite appearing in cinemas nearly eighty years ago. It is a romantic war drama that not only takes place during the Second World War but was actually filmed during the war. The film is led by legendary Hollywood names like Humphrey Bogart, who plays the cynical Rick Blaine, Ingrid Bergman, who dazzled the audience with her luminous charm as Ilsa Lund, and Paul Henreid, who played the charismatic resistance leader Victor Laszlo.
The movie revolves around Rick Blaine, who runs a nightclub that doubles as a gambling den in the titular Casablanca. With a lucrative business, Rick attracts clients like refugees, German officials, and Vichy French, among many others. The audience is shown the reason behind his cynicism through flashbacks that reveal he was left by his former lover when she enters through his doors with her husband. Throughout the movie, Ilsa and Victor try to convince Rick to sell them the letters to grant them passage to America. Although he is initially bitter given their past, Rick eventually relents and helps the couple make their escape.
Since its premiere, Casablanca has won awards and earned nominations with audiences and critics alike praising the direction, music, cinematography, and acting. The movie is known for portraying historical events that occurred during filming, recording political and military situations. One of the key scenes in Casablanca is when the French patriotically sing “La Marseillaise,” drowning out the Germans, painting a symbolic picture of the resistance.
The scene’s significance comes from Lebeau’s performance as Yvonne, the French singer, whose rendition of the song turned her into an icon. The actress fled from Nazi-engulfed Europe with her husband. And although she only had over three lines, the world will forever remember her inspiring rendition of “La Marseillaise.”
Casablanca is iconic for its many quotes and scenes, like when Rick is sitting alone in the bar and gruffly says, “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine,” which has become the painting of the dejected lover. There is also “Play it, Sam,” which has been listed as the most misquoted line of all time.
Additionally, its narrative goes beyond the traditional formula that had become the standard for Hollywood when it comes to its characters and conclusion. Rick Blaine is initially portrayed as something of an anti-hero who prefers to play it safe, acting neutral amidst the conflict. Throughout the movie, his character provides audiences with a glimpse of his true nature. This is emphasized in the end when he chooses to let his greatest love go, telling her, “We’ll always have Paris.”
Since its release, Casablanca has been absorbed into the American culture. A timeless classic in American film history, no other film will have made a more significant cultural impact than Casablanca.