Blog 11/19/2020 - MHT Movie Review: Casablanca

Many of us have on our "Bucket List" to visit "Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world" and walk into Rick's to sip a Champagne Cocktail or shop at the Souk for jewelrey or linen like Ilsa in the classic WWII film “Casablanca.”

Well you can join MHT as we walk the ground of George Patton as he leads "Operation Torch" and follow in the footsteps of the French Foreign Legion to the kasbahs in our Moroccan Tour. To get you in the mood here is MHT's Movie Review of “Casablanca,” the 1942 Academy Award Winning American wartime romantic drama. The film was directed by Michael Curtiz who also took home an Oscar.

Filmed and set during World War II, it opens in December 1941, as American expatriate Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart who also certainly deserved an Oscar over Paul Lukas who won in his only nomination) owns an upscale nightclub and gambling den in Casablanca, Morocco. "Rick's Café Américain" attracts a varied clientele, including Vichy French and Nazi German officials, bon vivants, French Resistance, gamblers and refugees desperate to reach the neutral United States, and those who prey upon them for profit. Although Rick professes to be neutral in all matters, he has twice opposed the fascists by running guns to the Ethiopians 1935 during the Second Italo-Ethiopian War and fought on the Republican (loyalist) side in 1936 in the Spanish Civil War besides leaving Paris on the last train before the Germans marched down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

The supporting cast that swirl around the café is magnificent none more so than Claude Rains as Captain Louis Renault, the corrupt Vichy French Police Captain who thinks nothing of taking monetary or sexual bribes. You want to hate him for praying on the refugees but he is too good an actor to allow it. The threesome that vie for the most eye-catching screen time are first Peter Lorre as the criminal Ugarte who steals the priceless two “letters of transit” to fly to Lisbon and on to the USA that he trusts to Rick before dying under interrogation in police hands. Second, the hulking menace of Sydney Greenstreet as Ferrari, owner of the rival Blue Parrott Bar and the Godfather of Casablanca crime is palatable despite his elegant manners.

Finally, Conrad Veidt plays the Nazi Luftwaffe Major Heinrich Strasser (surprisingly the highest paid member of the cast despite his second billing) who is sent to Casablanca to ensure Czech resistance leader Victor Lazlo (Paul Henreid) doesn’t escape from Vichy control. I’ll leave the love story alone other than to say that Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa Lund’s luminous desire also deserved a statuette but the Academy as more often than not failed here also.

Ilsa: I wasn't sure you were the same. Let's see, the last time we met...                  

Rick: Was La Belle Aurore.           

Ilsa: How nice, you remembered. But of course, that was the day the Germans marched into Paris.    

Rick: Not an easy day to forget.                                

Ilsa: No.                                                               

Rick: I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.

So many important movie moments but MHT’s favorite highpoint is Major Strasser leading a group of German Officers in singing “The Watch on the Rhine", Laszlo orders the house band to strike up La Marseillaise. When the band looks to Rick, he nods his head as Laszlo starts singing, alone at first, then patriotic fervor grips the crowd and everyone joins in, drowning out the Germans. Strasser demands Renault close the club, which he does on the pretext of suddenly discovering there is gambling on the premises as he quickly pockets his nights winnings.

If you want a 5-Star Movie you can "Play it!" MHT like Captain Louie says, will “round up the usual suspects” for a tour of Morocco and you can also do the follow on tour to the French Riviera for Operation Dragoon and sip more Champagne in the south of France.