Casablanca—— review by Roger Ebert

The opening scenes dance with comedy; the dialogue combines the cynical with the weary; wisecracks with epigrams. We see that Rick moves easily in a corrupt world. ``What is your nationality?'' the German Strasser asks him, and he replies, ``I'm a drunkard.'' His personal code: ``I stick my neck out for nobody.''

Another curious thing about Casablanca is that hardly anyone ever talks about the director. It isn't as if Michael Curtiz is a journeyman hack who got lucky here. From the '20s to the '50s, Curtiz was one of the hardest working directors in Hollywood, helming over 100 films including White Christmas, Mildred Pierce, and Yankee Doodle Dandy. (Before that, he made nearly 50 movies in Europe, where he began his career in 1912.) Curtiz was a well-respected film maker and his work on Casablanca was first rate, but, for some reason, few non-cineastes associate his name with this picture.

  • What’s the name of the movie/ film?
  • What’s the theme of the movie/ film?
  • Why do you like it?

Then ``of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.'' It is Ilsa Lund (Bergman), the woman Rick loved years earlier in Paris. Under the shadow of the German occupation, he arranged their escape, and believes she abandoned him--left him waiting in the rain at a train station with their tickets to freedom. Now she is with Victor Laszlo (Henreid), a legendary hero of the French Resistance.

The first time I saw Casablanca, I remember remarking how "modern" it seemed. While many movies from the '30s and '40s appear horribly dated when viewed today, Casablanca stands up markedly well. The themes of valor, sacrifice, and heroism still ring true. The dialogue has lost none of its wit or cleverness. The atmosphere (enhanced by the sterling black-and-white cinematography), that of encroaching gloom, is as palpable as ever. And the characters are still as perfectly-acted and three-dimensional as they were more than fifty years ago.

and describe the story of the movie in brief
Follow-up Questions:
• Describe a war movie you like.
• What’s the difference between the movies or your country and Hollywood movies?
• What do you think of the violent films?
• Why movies need computer techniques? Any example of movie using computer techniques?
• Which parts of movie are the most important and how to improve it?

Seeing the film over and over again, year after year, I find it never grows over-familiar. It plays like a favorite musical album; the more I know it, the more I like it. The black-and-white cinematography has not aged as color would. The dialogue is so spare and cynical it has not grown old-fashioned. Much of the emotional effect of ``Casablanca'' is achieved by indirection; as we leave the theater, we are absolutely convinced that the only thing keeping the world from going crazy is that the problems of three little people do after all amount to more than a hill of beans.

From time-to-time, someone tries to remake the film, but even the best re-tread has been less than a pale shadow of the original. The most recent serious attempt was Havana, Sydney Pollack's ill-advised misfire (incidentally, the word "serious" rules out Barb Wire). Despite a good cast (Robert Redford, Lena Olin, Raul Julia) and a change in venue, this is clearly an updated Casablanca, and Casablanca isn't Casablanca without Bogart and Bergman. So, although just about everyone involved with this legendary motion picture has departed this life, the film itself has withstood the test of more than a half-century to rise, like cream, to the top. One can only imagine that, in another fifty years, its position in the hierarchy of all-time greats will be even higher.

Tips for answering this Cue card topic:
  1. Talk about a movie that you have watched as this would help you describing the story of the movie.
  2. You should know the names of the main actor, actress, genre, producer and director of the movie.
  3. Describe the story in brief. Do not start describing the details of the story from the beginning as you will run out of time before finishing the whole story.
  4. Mention some of the following reasons for the question 'Why you liked it"
  • This is a critically acclaimed movie.
  • The story line is touchy and has good morality.
  • The movie was based on a real story.
  • The story depicts a historic events/ national events/ real life issue.
  • I enjoyed the acting and story of the movie.
  • The outstanding performance by an actor/ actress.
  • The movie has lots of special effect/ actions that you enjoyed.
  • It is one of the best movies based on some reliable ratings.
  • It was recommended by a friend/ family member/ teacher
  • The story reveals a fact that touched you.

Note that Movie and Film indicates the same thing. 'Film' is used in British English where as both words are used in American English. So do not get confused if the cue card asks you to talk about a film while you consider it as 'Movie'.

What is intriguing is that none of the major characters is bad. Some are cynical, some lie, some kill, but all are redeemed. If you think it was easy for Rick to renounce his love for Ilsa--to place a higher value on Laszlo's fight against Nazism--remember Forster's famous comment, ``If I were forced to choose between my country and my friend, I hope I would be brave enough to choose my friend.''

Just about everyone knows the story, which takes place about a year after the Germans invaded France. Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) and her husband, Czech freedom fighter Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), wander into Rick's Cafe in Casablanca. The two are on the run from the Nazis, and have come to the American-owned nightspot to lie low. But the German-controlled local government, headed by Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains), is on the move, and Laszlo has to act quickly to get the letters of transit he came for, then escape. Little does Ilsa know that the cafe is run by Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), the one true love of her life. When the two see each other, sparks fly, and memories of an enchanted time in Paris come flooding back.

Preparation Tips for this cue card topic:

As part of your preparation for this cue card, chose a movie that was based on real war and has historic value and was adopted from a book. Doing so you would be able to answer the following cue cards as well:

  1. Describe a movie that was made based on a real event.
  2. Describe a movie that created based on a historic event.
  3. Describe a war movie you have watched.
  4. Talk about a film which was adopted from a book.
  5. Talk about a critically acclaimed film you that you watched.
  6. Describe the best film you saw this year.

Following are some of such Hollywood movies/ films that you can describe. To pick such movie names and their details those were made in your own country, Google it.

Movies based on real events:
Empire State
Act of Valor
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Devil's Double
The Social Network
Fair Game
Public Enemies
The Killing of John Lennon
A Beautiful Mind

Movies based on real event and War
Everyman's War
Hurt Locker
The Pianist
Behind Enemy Lines

Movies based on Books
The Motorcycle Diaries
Pride and prejudice
The Godfather
Schindler's List
The bridge on the river Kwai

No one making ``Casablanca'' thought they were making a great movie. It was simply another Warner Bros. release. It was an ``A list'' picture, to be sure (Bogart, Bergman and Paul Henreid were stars, and no better cast of supporting actors could have been assembled on the Warners lot than Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet, Claude Rains and Dooley Wilson). But it was made on a tight budget and released with small expectations. Everyone involved in the film had been, and would be, in dozens of other films made under similar circumstances, and the greatness of ``Casablanca'' was largely the result of happy chance.


You should say:

In her closeups during this scene, Bergman's face reflects confusing emotions. And well she might have been confused, since neither she nor anyone else on the film knew for sure until the final day who would get on the plane. Bergman played the whole movie without knowing how it would end, and this had the subtle effect of making all of her scenes more emotionally convincing; she could not tilt in the direction she knew the wind was blowing.

It's probably no stretch to say that Casablanca, arguably America's best-loved movie, has had more words written about it than any other motion picture. Over the years since its 1943 release, the legends and rumors surrounding the making of the film have generated almost as much attention as the finished product. Some of the best-known and most often repeated anecdotes include producer Hal B. Wallis' near-casting of Ronald Reagan and Ann Sheridan as Rick and Ilsa, the existence of two scripts for the last day of shooting (one version had the ending as filmed; the other, unproduced version kept Rick and Ilsa together), and the reported backstage tension between several of the principal actors.

Possible Answer:

The name of my faourite movie is 'Casablanca' which was directed by Michael Curtiz. It was released in 1943 and the story was adopted from a stage-play named 'Everybody comes to Ricks'. The movie starred Humphery Bogart & Ingrid Bergman and was made in USA. It was a romantic drama film and the story-line was set during the World War II.

It focuses on a man torn between love & virtue. In 1941 American expatriot Rick who professed to be neutral by all means met his former lover Ilsa in his nightclub & gambling den. She was accompanied by her husband, Laszlo, a renowned fugitive Czech Resistance Leader. They needed a letter to escape to America, where he can continue his work against Nazis.

German Major came to Casablanca to see that Laszlo does not succeed. One night Ilsa confronted Rich in the deserted cafe and asked for the letter. She threatened him with a gun for the letter and later on confessed that she still loves him. Rick's bitterness dissolved learning that IIsa was married to Laszlo before even their relationship began.

When Rick and IIsa planned to flew together, she could not do so because all of a sudden she found that her husband was still alive and needed her badly to recover. Hearing the story Rick calmed down and agreed to give the letter to Laszlo so that he can fly to America safely. They would take a different path to fly away together. But finally Rick let IIsa and Laszlo fly to America which surprised IIsa very much.

In 1989, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry a being deemed 'Culturally', 'Historically' and 'Aesthetically' significant. It is the 2nd best movie of all time based on AFI's 100 best movies of all time.

I've seen the movie more than 2-3 times. The story is excellent, the casting, plot, acting, dialogues and all other aspects of the movie is superb. The movie deeply touched me and became the most favourite movie I have ever seen.

The plot, a trifle to hang the emotions on, involves letters of passage that will allow two people to leave Casablanca for Portugal and freedom. Rick obtained the letters from the wheedling little black-marketeer Ugarte (Peter Lorre). The sudden reappearance of Ilsa reopens all of his old wounds, and breaks his carefully cultivated veneer of neutrality and indifference. When he hears her story, he realizes she has always loved him. But now she is with Laszlo. Rick wants to use the letters to escape with Ilsa, but then, in a sustained sequence that combines suspense, romance and comedy as they have rarely been brought together on the screen, he contrives a situation in which Ilsa and Laszlo escape together, while he and his friend the police chief (Claude Rains) get away with murder. (``Round up the usual suspects.'')

Unlike many films that later became classics, Casablanca was popular in its day, although a cadre of officials at Warner Brothers were convinced that it would be a box-office failure. The movie earned 8 Academy Award nominations, leading to three Oscars (Best Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture). The picture went on to have a long, healthy life in re-releases, television, and (eventually) video. It contains a slew of recognizable lines ("Here's looking at you, kid", "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine", "Round up the usual suspects", "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship", "We'll always have Paris", "The problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world"). Ironically, however, the best-known bit of dialogue from Casablanca, "Play it again, Sam," isn't even in the movie. Like Captain Kirk's "Beam me up, Scotty," it's an apocryphal line. The closest the movie gets is either "Play it" or "Play 'As Time Goes By.'"

Similar Cue Card Topics

Your ability to talk about this Cue Card would enable you to talk about the following Cue Cards as well:

  1. Describe a movie you have recently watched.
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  3. Describe a movie you would recomment others to watch.
  4. Talk about a movie that you enjoyed watching.
  5. Describe a film you have recently watched.

All this is handled with great economy in a handful of shots that still, after many viewings, have the power to move me emotionally as few scenes ever have. The bar's piano player, Sam (Wilson), a friend of theirs in Paris, is startled to see her. She asks him to play the song that she and Rick made their own, ``As Time Goes By.'' He is reluctant, but he does, and Rick comes striding angrily out of the back room (``I thought I told you never to play that song!''). Then he sees Ilsa, a dramatic musical chord marks their closeups, and the scene plays out in resentment, regret and the memory of a love that was real. (This scene is not as strong on a first viewing as on subsequent viewings, because the first time you see the movie you don't yet know the story of Rick and Ilsa in Paris; indeed, the more you see it the more the whole film gains resonance.)

It's not much of a stretch to say that Hollywood doesn't make movies like this any more, because the bittersweet ending has gone the way of black-and-white cinematography. If Casablanca was made in today's climate, Rick and Ilsa would escape on the plane after avoiding a hail of gunfire (Rick would probably be doing the two-fisted gun thing that John Woo loves). There would be no beautiful friendship between Louis and Rick. Who knows what would have happened to Victor Laszlo, but he wouldn't have gotten the girl. One of the things that makes Casablanca unique is that it stays true to itself without giving in to commonly held perceptions of crowd-pleasing tactics. And because of this, not despite it, Casablanca has become known as one of the greatest movies ever made. Maybe the modern generation of screenwriters should consider this before they tack on the obligatory "happily ever after" ending.

The screenplay was adapted from a play of no great consequence; memoirs tell of scraps of dialogue jotted down and rushed over to the set. What must have helped is that the characters were firmly established in the minds of the writers, and they were characters so close to the screen personas of the actors that it was hard to write dialogue in the wrong tone.

Less known is Paul Henreid, a romantic lead who was on loan to Warner Brothers for this project. Most viewers know Henreid as "the other guy" in the romantic triangle, and, while his performance isn't on the same level as that of his better-known co-stars, Henreid nevertheless does a respectable job. Casablanca features some other well-known faces. Conrad Veidt plays the Nazi commander on Laszlo's trail, Peter Lorre is the man who steals the letters of transit, and Sydney Greenstreet is the city's black market overlord. But the best performance in the film belongs to Claude Rains, who is magnificent. Bogart and Bergman are great, but Rains is better. This is the top role in an impressive career, and it's a shame that the actor didn't win the Best Supporting Oscar for which he was deservedly nominated. Rains is a standout in nearly his every scene, but, like the consummate professional, he constantly cedes the spotlight to the higher-profile star.


Bogart and Bergman. When anyone mentions Casablanca, these are the two names that come to mind. The actors are both so perfectly cast, and create such a palpable level of romantic tension, that it's impossible to envision anyone else in their parts (and inconceivable to consider that they possibly weren't the producer's first choices). Bogart is at his best here as the tough cynic who hides a broken heart beneath a fractured layer of sarcasm. Ilsa's arrival in Casablanca rips open the fissures in Rick's shield, revealing a complex personality that demands Bogart's full range of acting. As Ilsa, Bergman lights up the screen. What man in the audience wouldn't give up everything to run away with her?

Humphrey Bogart played strong heroic leads in his career, but he was usually better as the disappointed, wounded, resentful hero. Remember him in ``The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,'' convinced the others were plotting to steal his gold. In ``Casablanca,'' he plays Rick Blaine, the hard-drinking American running a nightclub in Casablanca when Morocco was a crossroads for spies, traitors, Nazis and the French Resistance.

Ultimately, however, while it's fascinating to examine and dissect all that went into the making of Casablanca, the greatest pleasure anyone can derive from this movie comes through simply watching it. Aside from some basic knowledge of recent world history, little background is needed to appreciate the strength and power of the film. Casablanca accomplishes that which only a truly great film can: enveloping the viewer in the story, forging an unbreakable link with the characters, and only letting go with the end credits.

From a modern perspective, the film reveals interesting assumptions. Ilsa Lund's role is basically that of a lover and helpmate to a great man; the movie's real question is, which great man should she be sleeping with? There is actually no reason why Laszlo cannot get on the plane alone, leaving Ilsa in Casablanca with Rick, and indeed that is one of the endings that was briefly considered. But that would be all wrong; the ``happy'' ending would be tarnished by self-interest, while the ending we have allows Rick to be larger, to approach nobility (``it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world''). And it allows us, vicariously experiencing all of these things in the theater, to warm in the glow of his heroism.

If we identify strongly with the characters in some movies, then it is no mystery that ``Casablanca'' is one of the most popular films ever made. It is about a man and a woman who are in love, and who sacrifice love for a higher purpose. This is immensely appealing; the viewer is not only able to imagine winning the love of Humphrey Bogart or Ingrid Bergman, but unselfishly renouncing it, as a contribution to the great cause of defeating the Nazis.

Stylistically, the film is not so much brilliant as absolutely sound, rock-solid in its use of Hollywood studio craftsmanship. The director, Michael Curtiz, and the writers (Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch) all won Oscars. One of their key contributions was to show us that Rick, Ilsa and the others lived in a complex time and place. The richness of the supporting characters (Greenstreet as the corrupt club owner, Lorre as the sniveling cheat, Rains as the subtly homosexual police chief and minor characters like the young girl who will do anything to help her husband) set the moral stage for the decisions of the major characters. When this plot was remade in 1990 as ``Havana,'' Hollywood practices required all the big scenes to feature the big stars (Robert Redford and Lena Olin) and the film suffered as a result; out of context, they were more lovers than heroes.

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