#34. Casablanca (1942)
Directed by: Michael Curtiz
Written by: Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch (based on Everybody Comes to Rick’s by Murray Burnett, Joan Alison)
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Peter Lorre, Dooley Wilson
Casablanca is another film on my list that has been talked about by fans, critics, and historians for decades, and one which few revelations can still be made about. In my opinion, it’s one of the most perfectly constructed films ever made, featuring a tremendous romantic plot, humor, action, style, and suspense – what else could you ever need? Casablanca takes place in the titular city of Casablanca, Morocco during World War II, where people of many political and social allegiances come to enjoy the sights and nightlife. Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) is a proprietor Casablanca, running “Rick’s Café Américain” where he has made a name for himself, and formed relationships with people of all cultures and beliefs. Rick soon meets a former lover named Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) and her husband Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), who bring with them a number of complications that Rick thought he had finally escaped. Casablanca is a film that is better viewed with little knowledge of the major plot points, as it has been parodied and paid homage to on dozens of occasions over the years. It’s screenplay is one of the greatest in the history of film, using quick, snappy dialogue to push forward the already fast-paced plot. The chemistry between all of the main characters is incredible, especially between those who are more permanent residents of Casablanca – Bogart’s Rick is familiar with every face that walks into his cafe, and has a different rapport with each of them. When Bergman’s Ilsa finally comes into play, it’s immediately apparent that Rick holds some resentment towards her, taking it out on his piano-playing friend Sam (Dooley Wilson) – who manages to always take it in stride. Bogart and Bergman are electric together on screen, making their scripted romance feel genuine and lifelike. Both legendary actors put in some of the best works of their impressive careers, thanks in part to the Academy Award winning screenplay by Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein, and Howard Koch. The way the screenplay uses humor and suspense concurrently feels incredibly modern and refreshing, making Casablanca feel like it hasn’t aged a single day. Director Michael Curtiz’s vision of the city of Casablanca is dreamy and idyllic, especially for what was such a complicated and turbulent time for most of the world – it’s a place anybody would want to travel to for a few days, if only to get away from the complications of everyday life. The characters are all fully realized and endearing for their unique character traits, with Rick, Ilsa, Sam, Victor, and Captain Renault (Claude Rains) being some of the all-time most memorable in classic films. Casablanca is a masterpiece from start to finish, and a perfect example of how a screenplay can almost single-handedly carry a film. Luckily, great performances and inspired direction push Casablanca over the edge, creating one of the all-time greats.