The Victor Laszlo/Rick Blaine dilemma

casablanca.jpg

Open thread:

Talk about the ending of Casablanca. Talk about Ilsa’s choice. Or actually – Rick made the choice for her: You will go with Laszlo. Ilsa loves both men. Not in the same way, but she does love both men, and she walks away from the “grand passion”.

In my opinion, it is this very self-sacrificial feeling to the end of that movie that makes it a classic. If everyone had gotten what they wanted, (or – to put it another way: if Rick and Ilsa had gotten what they wanted) it just wouldn’t have been as effective. The movie works because of that bittersweet wistful “what if” streak running through it.

Anyway: anyone who has anything to add to all of this: interpretations, additional thoughts, an analysis on HOW these two could POSSIBLY walk away from one another … bring it on.

Rick:

rick.jpg

vs.

Laszlo – in his finest moment:

victor.gif

Here’s Ebert’s review of the film.

Excerpts:

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.

Yes. It is that unselfishness, the renouncing of the great love, that makes this film so effective. But still: so painful. Everyone pays a price in this scenario – everyone.

Here’s another excerpt from Ebert to discuss:

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.”

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.

Anyone have anything to add?

Welcome, people coming here from Ann Althouse! Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment thread about this film. It’s a great discussion going on.

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95 Responses to The Victor Laszlo/Rick Blaine dilemma

  1. Mr. Lion says:

    One of the things I find so interesting about the film, is that there’s really no bad way for it to end once Rick pops off Strasser. About the worst that could happen would be Rick having to also pop Renault and head for the hills, but given the history and interplay the characters have at that point, you know it’s not going to happen.

    It’s hard not to conclude that it’s going to end the way it did, though. You’ve got Rick’s character being built up as a man of honor (“the winning side would have paid much better”), who really doesn’t like Nazis (tearing up the check), and who tends to put the “greater good” ahead of his own interests (keeping the transit letters instead of selling them). Then you’ve got Renault covering for him out of a sense of comradery and not a small amount of admiration. Finally, you’ve got Strasser pushing Rick’s buttons (albeit in a very slick, almost likable way). The ending wrote itself halfway through the film.

    And that’s one of the many reasons I love it so much. The writing simply rocks.

  2. red says:

    Gorgeous, Lion. Thank you.

  3. Thorley Winston says:

    Jerry Pournelle and S.M. Stirling did a sci-fi remake of “Casablanca” in the “Children’s Hour” (part of the Man-Kzin War series). Basically it takes place in Wunderland (the Alpha Centauri colony) and instead of Nazis the occupiers are Kzinit (a felinoid alien race). The rest of the plot pretty much paralleled the movie aside from the end.

    While many found the story to be awful the “twist” that the authors used was that the Rick analogue held the Ilsa analogue to her end of the bargain and she stayed with him while her husband escaped to safety with the plans to stop the Kzin invasion of the solar system.

  4. Dave says:

    What year did the film come out? I don’t know for sure, but it seems to be a product of a time when people of greater numbers than know, or least with less debate, understand the notion of sacrifice. We hear about the rations during WW2, and of course the incredible sacrifice of human life — something that, and I may be assuming here, is debated with much more vigor in our time. I think that notion of sacrifice to a greater good, is something that is often alien to “our’ generation. We tend to be terribly inward – and if “we” were Rick, we’d still get the girl. I think that is what continues to draw younger people to this story.

    Just listening to Springsteen’s Youngstown:
    “These mills they built the tanks and bombs
    That won this country’s wars
    We sent our sons to Korea and Vietnam
    Now we’re wondering what they were dyin’ for”

    Getting way off topic here — (reign me in or give me the hook) — but I think a lot of fail to see that there is a good greater than our own self interest.

  5. red says:

    It came out in 1942. It was your classic anti-Nazi “let’s buckle down and get those bastards” film. It just works better than a lot of the rest of those anti-Nazi films which, to me, come off as simplistic and jingoistic. Yawn. What hooks me in here are the characters, and also – the story they find themselves caught up in.

    Also – the script has wit. It’s not a progaganda pamphlet from the Department of War. Boring. That ain’t art. But Casablanca is art.

    Funny thing: as they were making the film, nobody had any idea that it would end up being a classic. Bergman tried to get herself taken off the picture. Etc. Bogart was insecure as a romantic lead. Paul Henreid was incensed that he was the third lead, as opposed to the lead. He wouldn’t do the picture unless he got above-the-title billing with Bergman and Bogart. They all hated it. They hated the chaos, the lack of a finished script …

    And yet – the film has lasted. I love it when that happens. An accidental classic.

  6. Mr. Lion says:

    I think a lot of fail to see that there is a good greater than our own self interest.

    … and the only thing worse than failing to see a greater good is trying to impress your idea of it on someone else. The concept of the “greater good” works best at a personal level.

  7. red says:

    Mr. Lion – that’s an interesting point.

    In terms of the movie: Ilsa’s “greater good” is connected personally to Lazslo and his work. She doesn’t leave Rick for some abstract theory – after all, what does “greater good” mean? Those are just easy words unless attached to something specific.

    Being anti-Nazi is encapsulated completely in the character of Lazslo and “his work” – Ilsa is passionate about his “work”, and how it is essential that he survives. As the leader of the resistance and all that.

  8. Dave says:

    Yeah, that is kind of a throw back to the thought that behind every good man there needs to be a better woman.

    Personally, I would state unequivocally that halting the spread of Nazis, would qualify as a greater good on any level. But perhaps that’s a discussion for another blog.

  9. red says:

    One other thing to note:

    Although Lazslo may be a “hero”, he is kind of a drip. Henreid was bummed about that, too – bummed that he was made to wear sparkling white suits – to make him seem immaculate (even though he had been on the run across Europe).

    To me, Lazslo had BETTER have some great cause to work for – because he’s got zero sex appeal, and he’s kind of a goody-goody, which I personally find boring. Dude has escaped from concentration camps and he orders CHAMPAGNE COCKTAIL at the bar? Ew.

    Rick has the smouldering passion, the sex appeal, the manly complexity.

  10. red says:

    Dave – right, but “halting the spread of the Nazis” is not cinematic. You need a focus for that – You can’t film an idea. Or you CAN, but that would just be a newsreel propaganda.

    It’s a movie. Different rules for that form.

    You need a STORY, you need CHARACTERS.

    You want to learn about the Nazis? Read a book. Or watch a documentary. With a movie, you need a way in – and that’s through realistic characters.

  11. Dave says:

    I’d like to see a remake with Tim Robbins as the Lazlo character playing a Greenpeace activist and Susan Sarandon as Ilsa… no, maybe not.

  12. red says:

    My favorite comment about a possible remake was made by Tina Fey on the Weekend Update on SNL:

    “We have just heart that Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck are thinking about doing a remake of Casablanca. This would be for those people who loved the original movie but wished it was terrible.”

  13. Dave says:

    Agreed Red, it is better as a romantic film with a war subplot, than the other way around.

  14. red says:

    Nothing worse than a preachy propaganda film trying to educate and enlighten. You ever see any of the other war films released in the 1940s? Blech.

    Casablanca is definitely propaganda – but it keeps the preaching to a minimum, and has that tone of snarkiness and saracasm and wit and sudden romance that elevates it from being too in-your-face.

    The biggest patriotic scene is probably Lazslo’s Marseilleise scene … but that (in my mind anyway) is done with such heart and spontanaeity that you don’t feel banged over the head.

  15. Dave says:

    No, I really haven’t those old ones.

    There is something to be said for being understated.

    I wonder how 30-40 years out we will look at films like Black Hawk Down?

  16. red says:

    Poor Paul Henreid always felt like he got the short end of the stick in that film – and that for the rest of his life he would be known as the stick-up-the-ass boring unsexy resistance fighter who Ingrid Bergman chose over Bogart.

  17. Dave says:

    Do you remember the final scene of The Deer Hunter — try and explain to someone how a group of friends breaking into America the Beautiful after a funeral wouldn’t be horribly cheesey — but somehow that worked there too, I think.

  18. red says:

    I liked the book of Black Hawk Down much better. I thought the movie did a good job – I own it, I like it – but my one problem with it was that all the actors looked too much alike. I had a hard time telling them apart and identifying them. Which took away some of why that story was so wrrenching – you got to KNOW those men. In the book – each one of them came vibrantly alive. I still remember their names, all of them. I think the casting of that film worked against it.

  19. Dave says:

    You could write Henreid’s family and let him know verile you think he is.

  20. red says:

    Deer Hunter is a great feckin’ movie. In every way.

  21. red says:

    Dave – Sadly, I think if I was on that tarmac, I’d go with Rick Blaine. If his WORK is so important to Lazslo, then let Lazslo marry his work!! Let me have my grand passion and leave me alone!! Greater good, my ass. We only live once, and I want to gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

    I realize this makes me a craven and selfish individual.

    Actually, I’m speaking from the perspective of having loved someone and lost them. Not because of Nazis – obviously – but because walking away from him and letting him go was the right thing to do. The right thing is not always the easy thing. I’ve never gone through such a wrenching “break up” in my entire life. It took me years to recover.

    So – I guess if I was in that same position again – I’d let the greater good go by the wayside, and grab up the love that I want. I gave it up once, I won’t give it up again.

  22. Dave says:

    Well, my Bastille Day Resolution was to not comment on personal matters — however, I just can’t resist the urge to jump in:
    I can’t say I’m surprised that you would stay with Rick, somehow I pegged you for a romantic. I think that just also make you more modern than Isla. When was the last time there was a Isla character on film? Bridgesof Madison County?

    Having been the romantic myself, and been dumped for a Lazlo – I was actually told, and I quote “Genetically, it’s impossible for you to make as much money as J.” I think I’m better off.

  23. red says:

    Yeah – Bridges is a good analogy, I think – even though there were no Nazis. She gives up this great love because she must do the right thing, and stay married. She made a commitment, she sticks to it. Of course she keeps a shoebox of mementoes in her dresser … but hey. I ain’t throwing away my shoebox of mementoes just because I’m getting involved with someone else. You can’t erase the past. Somehow there’s got to be a way to incorporate the past – and the old love – into the new life.

    And about that “genetic” comment: OUCH. I want to pop that woman in the nose. Definitely sounds like you’re better off.

  24. red says:

    Oh, and before you think you have me pegged – please read this.

    Would a true romantic behave in such a fashion?

    I’m not big on the trappings of romance, actually. I’m way too matter of fact.

  25. timmac says:

    For me, the loyalty of Sam to Rick is an interesting sub-highlight. Offered a much more lucrative position, he turns it down to stay at the Cafe Americain. People who inspire that sort of loyalty in their workers are rare, and it’s obvious that Rick and Sam are more friends than employer and employee…I’ve often wondered what happened to Sam when Rick went off to join the Resistance.

  26. red says:

    timmac – Excellent point. I love Sam. Waiting for him on the last train out of Paris in the rain … damn. Killer scene.

  27. Noggie says:

    Our English literature professor played this movie for us – without sound. It was a brillant exercise – and the love story was told, even without dialogue.

  28. red says:

    Noggie – WOW. I have to try that! What a great exercise indeed!!

  29. Dave says:

    red,red,red…

    That’s hilharious! Way too funny — beautifully written too! And in a Kevin Smith-sort-of-way: very romantic. However, I will remove the peg.

    I had a date one time and at the end of the evening the lady was making herself a grilled cheese in my kitchen. I offered to do it – but she insisted. She didn’t finish eating it however – and being a bit of clean freak – I couldn’t get over that she was just letting it sit there and we were teasing each other about it. I did send her flowers the next day — but i had to have it all scheduled that before the flowers arrived I had a courier drop off the unfinished sandwhich.

    Lived in Chicago? Now I am extremely jealous. My Dad always took me there – (he was a Cardinal fan, but enjoyed Chicago more so when the schedule was right we would go for a couple of days in the summer). One of the biggest thrills of my life was when I was about 28 and being able to pay for the trip. He and I went into a week of mourning when Harry died.

  30. red says:

    You had a courier drop off the unfinished sandwich? bwahahahahahahaha

    It’s not an eyeball in an envelope, granted, but that’s pretty damn funny!

  31. Dave says:

    yeah, she took it as a serious sign of commitment — looking back, big mistake.

  32. mitch says:

    “Although Lazslo may be a “hero”, he is kind of a drip…To me, Lazslo had BETTER have some great cause to work for – because he’s got zero sex appeal, and he’s kind of a goody-goody, which I personally find boring…Rick has the smouldering passion, the sex appeal, the manly complexity. ”

    That’s why I loved Lazslo; for once, the good guy (who crawled under barbed wire to carry on his mission, and is looking at a lifetime of doing the same) who everyone thinks is a drip *still gets Ingrid Bergman*, as the heart-throb bad-boy walks into the dark with a Frenchman.

    Vive la France!

  33. red says:

    mitch – One of the funniest parts of the Casablanca story (to me, anyway) is the stories of the battles poor Henrreid had with the costume department. He literally pleaded with them. “If I have escaped from a concentration camp – why is my suit so clean? Can’t we make me a little more realistic?”

    But Curtiz (director) really wanted Lazslo to be a shining example of integrity – perhaps not a realistic figure – but the “ideal” of a man living for his work.

    Henreid lost that battle, of course, and YEARS after the film was released was still bitching about it. “Look at my wardrobe – why is my suit so clean? Aren’t I on the run??”

    I very much sympathize with his frustration there.

    One of my favorite moments in the movie is Bogie giving the subtle head-nod across the bar to the orchestra – for them to pick up Marseillese … member that? Apparently, they did that shot before they knew how the scene would go – so in real life, Bogie had no idea what he was nodding to. Feckin’ amazing – it is such a moving moment. Bogart, the “I stick my neck out for nobody” cynic – giving Lazslo and the orchestra permission to drown out the Nazis. But Bogart was just told “Okay, we need a shot of you nodding – So nod.” Bogie, man. He blows me away.

  34. red says:

    Dave -

    Well, if a young lady sees an UNFINISHED SANDWICH as a sign of commitment, perhaps some alarm bells should go off. Word to the wise. :)

    Thankfully, my nice date did not take the eyeball-photo as evidence of my commitment to him. He got the joke. Very important.

  35. red says:

    Oh, and Mitch: despite my own selfish desires for Rick – I completely agree with your assessment. Ilsa HAS to go with Lazslo – there really is no other way for that film to end in a satisfying way.

    Rick will be okay. He will carry his torch for Ilsa but he’ll be okay. Ilsa will have the memory of being loved in that way, and it will keep her afloat. Lazslo will continue with his blasted work (no, just kidding) and he will have the comfort of a good solid loyal woman beside him. Everyone wins. Except the Nazis. They lose.

  36. mitch says:

    “I liked the book of Black Hawk Down much better…all the actors looked too much alike. I had a hard time telling them apart and identifying them…In the book – each one of them came vibrantly alive. I still remember their names, all of them. I think the casting of that film worked against it.”

    Well, I’m not the only one, then.

    I had the same problem; once they got their BDUs and helmets on, I couldn’t tell Orlano Bloom from Ewan MacGregor. Which was a double-edge thing for me; I read the book long before the movie (a co-worker of mine was a former Ranger, and his old Platoon leader was, in real life, the Delta captain in the book), and I had the same reaction you did about not being able to tell them apart as easily, Red. On the other hand, I thought it was cool that a bunch of A and B+-list stars could check their egoes at the door enough to BE that relatively anonymous.

  37. mitch says:

    “One of my favorite moments in the movie is Bogie giving the subtle head-nod across the bar to the orchestra – for them to pick up Marseillese … member that?”

    That whole scene – Henreid upping the ante on Strasser, paying the band, the bandleader looking at Rick, the nod, the whole crowd scene – is the most gloriously manipulative scene ever! I laugh and cry and sing along and wriggle with schmaltzfreude and watch it over and over…

  38. red says:

    mitch – in re: Black Hawk Down. I read the book when it first came out. I saw Mark Bowden interviewed on Book Notes, and went out and bought the book an hour earlier. All of those guys are just REAL to me.

    And yes – there is something “anonymous” about everyone wearing the same uniform, etc … but think about Saving private Ryan – and other war movies where everyone dresses the same: You still can tell the difference between Tom Sizemore and Barry Pepper.

    All the Black Hawk Down actors were the same type of guy – physically. It made it problematic and hard for me to follow. I mean, it was a chaotic day – but I had no problem following the events in the book. It was one of the most gripping upsetting books I’ve ever read.

    I love, though, how Ewan McGregor basically called up the director and said, “Give me a part in your movie. I don’t care if it’s one or 2 lines – I’ll do anything.”

    He was a huge star by this point – Moulin Rouge, Obi-Wan … he didn’t care. It was a project he believed in, and yeah – there was no ego.

  39. red says:

    Mitch – totally – that scene of the orchestra rising to the occasion – and the crying French woman (the one who was wasted in the first scene and had to be escorted out of the bar) – she KILLS ME!! Crying and singing along to that song with all her might.

  40. RTG says:

    I’ve said before that Z reminds me of Bogart. He kind of looks like him, and he certainly acts like him – masculine, understated, mysterious. When I see Bogart act, I feel like he’s a representative of a specific ideal – while at the same time being uniquely himself. Maybe what I mean is I love his interpretation of “the ideal man.”

    I Amazon’d Casablanca last night. I’ve never watched it, so this should be a treat.

    Oh, a question. Which movie is “here’s looking at you kid” from?

  41. mitch says:

    “All the Black Hawk Down actors were the same type of guy – physically. ”

    In a way, Bowden had an advantage, not having to distinguish them visually.

    Which is actually realistic; Rangers tend to BE the same kind of guy; early twenties, athletic, driven, very “hoo-ah” kinds of guys. My old boss, the former Ranger, said that part of the movie worked for him; they captured the Ranger culture well (even at the cost of some definition of individual characters).

    Says my old boss, they also got the Delta guys right; older, less “group”-y than the Rangers, easier to tell apart because they WERE more different..

    I could go on…

  42. mitch says:

    “the crying French woman…”

    Yes!

  43. red says:

    RTG -

    That’s from Casablanca. Bogart improvised the line. :)

    Can’t wait to hear your thoughts about it.

  44. red says:

    Mitch – that was one of the most interesting parts of the book to me. The whole Delta force thing. Just cinematically – it made it hard for me to distinguish them.

    I loved Eric Bana though. Being picked up with his bicycle by the helicopter. Cool scene. I knew who HE was … somehow he stood out for me. Maybe cause he seemed a little bit older than all the boys.

  45. red says:

    Sorry, Mitch – now I’m going back to Casablanca: the other reason why that scene just GETS ME in the THROAT each time = is because most of those extras in the scene were actual refugees from Europe. Jews who had fled, French people who had fled … actors, actresses, people who had good careers in Europe, but who saw their chance and left. There they were – filming THAT scene. Apparently, it was a really intense day of filming. Which totally comes off the screen, don’t you think? It’s so manipulative, right – but it’s heartfelt and REAL too.

  46. Mr. Bingley says:

    “schmaltzfreude”

    hahahahahahaha

  47. Mr. Bingley says:

    “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”

    imagine anyone in hollywood or the msm making such a statement today. now we are all about the individual. 50+ people are slaughtered by terrorists but WHY HAVEN’T THEY FOUND NATALEEE??

  48. red says:

    Bingley – I don’t really want to argue this point because it’s not my bag to argue it: but the whole monolithic view of “hollywood” and “msm” stuff drives me nuts. I know to some degree it’s true, but I don’t believe it’s AS true as many people think, and I dislike the shorthand broad-brush, in general. Too many exceptions.

    let’s remember the whole “earn this” theme from Private Ryan (which I actually found a bit didactic – definitely not as subtle as Casablanca)

    There are plenty of self-sacrificial moments like that I can think of in the movies. Where someone chooses to do the right thing, as opposed to the self-gratification thing. Where someone puts the group above their own needs. Maybe it’s in a sports movie, maybe it’s not in a war movie – but they’re all over the place. It’s dramatic. Moments of sacrifice will always be in the movies because it’s inherently dramatic.

  49. red says:

    And I’m actually interested in the Natalee Holloway story. Not more so than the bombings in London, and I don’t think it warrants 24/7 coverage, but I do find it very interesting.

  50. Lisa says:

    See, as the ULTIMATE Sappy-Romantic-Movie-Lovin’ Girl, I just tell myself that after the war was over, Ilsa and Rick got back together.

    So then EVERYBODY wins. Rick and Ilsa are running the cafe’ and Lazlo is left sipping champagne cocktails on the beach somewhere. Monte Carlo maybe.

  51. red says:

    Lisa – hahahahahaha!!! I can so see that!

  52. Mr. Bingley says:

    oh, i dunno. i think one can lump them together; in this case the broad brush does paint a fairly accurate picture (lack of subtlety and sophistication in the analysis notwithstanding).

    you’re right on the self-sacrificial bit, of course. they don’t pull it off with any of the grace or skill that bogey did, ‘private ryan’ being a good example. i guess what i was driving at was the spirit and greater depth of that statement. it seems to me that the ‘sacrifice’ we see most of is people dying to save the ‘one they love’ as opposed to making a choice that denies them the one they love; in a sense it’s easier to die for someone than for both of you to go on with out eachother, isn’t it?

  53. red says:

    Bingley – like I said: feel free to lump them together if that’s how you see it. I don’t see it that way. I just don’t, and no amount of arguing about it will change my mind. And I’m not the type to leave comments on other people’s blogs arguing why they SHOULDN’T lump them together – I just choose not to.

    And totally agreed about Bogey’s grace. Absolutely. People pretty much sainted Tom Hanks after Private Ryan, but I’m sorry. He can’t hold a candle to Bogart. Not that Hanks thinks he’s Bogart – he seems pretty humble – but honestly. Is that man God’s gift to acting? I think not. He’s good, he’s fine … but for a couple years there it was ALL TOM HANKS ALL THE TIME … and I just didn’t get it.

    As is probably obvious – I prefer old movies to new movies for all KINDS of reasons. I like the romances better, I like the stuff NOT being shown, I think they are sexier movies … etc. etc. I just prefer the older movies.

    Also, I’m probably way more liberal than not only you but mostly everyone who reads this blog. I don’t blog about it, cause why bother? I don’t want to deal with the fighting, and having to defend myself constantly.

    I want blogging to be FUN.

  54. Dave says:

    Hey Mr.Bing – well put.
    I think you and I might share the same Prussian heritage.

  55. red says:

    My comment about “leaving comments on other people’s blogs” was not directed at you, Bingley. I don’t mind having this discussion at all – although I will cut it short if it becomes a “YOU MUST FEEL THE WAY I FEEL” thing.

    My point with the “leaving comments on other people’s blogs” remark is that: I don’t race around to sites that I disagree with, trying to convince those people that they should feel the way I feel.

    I’ve had people come here and treat my blog that way – they always have to pick a fight with what I say, whatever. I visit blogs daily where the comments section are one long argument. I actually really enjoy a lot of those blogs – it’s just not my thing to add my voice to the mix (unless I feel really compelled) and it’s just not my thing to engage people who seem so SET in how they see things. Especially because I myself am so SET. At least in this realm.

    My politics are pretty much under-cover, because it doesn’t please me to blog about it, in general, and so I stay out of the fray. That’s just my personal choice. My political blogging usually comes up when I write about American history. Or political theory. Or the mistakes of communism and fascism.

    But you will not hear me railing about “the left”, or “MSM”, or any of those short-hand terms. It’s just not me.

  56. Linus says:

    Coming in late and briefly, I confess I can’t run across discussions of Rick and Ilsa without thinking rapturously of the story in Robert Coover’s A Night at the Movies, or, You Must Remember This. Have you read it? It starts with the upstairs cut when the two of them are alone together in Casablance, and races forward from there into an imagined amazing steamy kinky sex scene between them. Spectacular idea.

  57. red says:

    I haven’t read it, Linus – it sounds incredible!! I admit: I have fantasized about that sex between those two that we never got to see. I ADMIT IT.

    It’s so effective, so sexy to not see it! Even though you’re dying to!

  58. Linus says:

    YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK! Even if I cleverly put a typo into the name of the movie up above, and forgot to close my italic bracket. Oops.

  59. red says:

    I love it when people scream YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK at me. I ALWAYS listen when people scream those particular words.

    Thanks, Linus. :)

  60. Mr. Lion says:

    I have to agree on the Champaign Cocktail– I dunno what the hell they were thinking. If I’d escaped from a concentration camp and been chased across half of Europe by the frickin’ Nazis, I’d be pounding whiskey in pretty short order and chain-smoking for a good month.

    Laszlo’s character was pretty washed out, but I think the film is the better for it. Sometimes a supporting actor has to suck a bit to let one understand the principles better, and in this case it works well. It gives Ilsa’s character much more depth, for example, lest we otherwise think she’s something of a tart.

  61. Ron says:

    I think it’s interesting to think how much of Casablanca depends on the villians being the Nazis. A more morally ambigious villian and does the romance work? (“Ilsa, you must help Lazlo keep the dominoes from falling in French Indo-China!”) Ummm…no! The outside world is clearly defined while our conflicts are within ourselves!

    Following Lisa’s point, perhaps after the war, Rick and Ilsa can get together when Lazlo realizes he truly loved Renault (or Ferrari!)[insert Sidney Greenstreet laugh here] all along…Ilsa was just part of work (not love!), the thing(!) that kept him going…

  62. Mr. Bingley says:

    Actually, I think the Champagne Cocktail was a nice touch, in that after all of the barbarism that was Nazi Germany, and the general feeling that civilization was going down the tubes with it, to walk into a bar and be able to order that says to me that there’s hope, after all.

    And heck, red, I figure you know I’m not one of those ‘my way or the highway’ types (except when I am, of course).

  63. Independent George says:

    Casablanca is permanently linked in my head with The Third Man. I think it’s because I actually didn’t see Casablanca until I was 19, so the image of Harry Limes was already burned into my imagination; he’s the character Rick could have very easily turned into if he’d just made a few ever-so-slightly different choices.

  64. Independent George says:

    “I am just shocked – SHOCKED – to find gambling going on in this establishment.”

    I know it’s been done to death, but that has to be one of my favorite movie lines, ever.

  65. red says:

    Bingley – I know you’re not a my way or the highway kinda guy. I was just ranting about those who ARE. hahaha

    And I completely agree with your assessment of that bar … It makes being a refugee look attractive and romantic. I want to hang out at that bar!

  66. red says:

    Lion – I TOTALLY see what you mean. Yes – because Lazslo is this kind of humorless activist kind of guy … and she loves him … it gives her more depth of character. She obviously isn’t just a floozy – there’s a good reason she loves Lazslo – she loves his mind, his intellect, yadda yadda.

  67. red says:

    George – absolutely. It’s a classic moment.

    “Your winnings, sir.”
    “Oh, thank you. EVERYBODY OUT.”

    hahahaha

    Claude Rains – so perfect.

  68. CW says:

    I learned about life from Casablanca, although I did not expect it to turn out to be so explicitly true.

  69. red says:

    Oh, CW.

    I know just what you mean.

  70. Ron says:

    red — But don’t you think the Bogie archetype for men is now gone? I think Bogie helped create the image that men had of themselves for a long time, but I think the sixties and seventies destroyed the romantic irony that’s at the center of Mr. Bogart… just asking.

  71. red says:

    Ron – that archetype will never EVER be completely gone. Because it’s too attractive. To men AND to women. Cultural forces have changed the archetype for now … but it’s not dead.

    For example: there’s a REASON why Russell Crowe made such a massive success for himself in LA Confidential. He had that kind of quiet pained masculinity … a throwback to earlier times … and he did it SO well and SO convincingly. Men related to him, and women turned into puddles over him.

    That archetype will never be killed completely. At least not if I have anything to say about it.

    I;ve known plenty of guys who live by that Casablanca code of masculinity. You can’t look to the wider culture for affirmation – you have to live by your OWN code. So what that Alan Alda as Hawkeye is suddenly the new archetype? So what? Women have had to deal with changing archetypes since the beginning of time. Hell, we have to deal with different body types being in style, out of style. It’s good to have big breasts – oops, now it’s not good, please be flat-chested, etc. If you pay attention to that stuff, it’ll drive you crazy.

    You have to live the life that is right for you, and not worry so much that your “type” might have gone out of “style”.

    I believe that Russell Crowe as Bud White gave one of the most insanely sexy performances in the last 20 years – and it’s because he tapped into that old archetype. He made people remember that kind of masculine hero. Beautiful.

  72. red says:

    Basically what I’m saying is:

    Men can choose to sit around and whine over how Bogie has gone out of style, but that’s unattractive – because that means they don’t feel comfortable being themselves and are looking to BOGIE for validation. OR they can just be themselves, even if they are not reflected anymore as cultural archetypes, and trust that there are women out there who will want what they are selling. Because you mark my words – they are out there. But man, whining is very unattractive.

    A woman who constantly whines over how the body type shown in magazines doesn’t represent REAL women is not attractive. She is annoying and insecure. She doesn’t trust that some man will love her body as it is … and chooses instead to feel victimized by the culture. Blah.

    Girls: Just be yourself.

    So you don’t look like Kate Moss. Some men don’t want Kate Moss. Stop whining. Be yourself. If you’re unhappy being fat? Then fucking go on a diet. If you’re okay with your body, then stop whining and find a man who loves fat girls, and be happy, and FLOURISH.

    Same with men. Stop whining about Alan Alda taking over the culture. it’s unattractive. Why do you need to feel validated by a fictional character? Be yourself. There are women who still want what you’re selling but they sure as hell won’t want it if they have to listen to your whining.

  73. Mr. Bingley says:

    please be flat-chested

    What?!?!?!?!?

  74. red says:

    Bingley – hahahaha

    Member FLAPPERS??? The body-type was prepubescent boy. Also the sixties. Twiggy. You know. Suddenly, big boobs were not cool.

    But yes: insane, right? Who wants to camouflage boobs???

  75. Mr. Bingley says:

    I’ve always found the Twiggy types completely unappealing. You’re exactly right, the “prepubescent boy” fantasy that a lot of men seem to have. Ick.

    Of course, i was just rereading some Euripides the other day…

    heh.

  76. Ron says:

    Hellfire, Red, I hope you don’t think I’m whining about the lack of Bogartism! Far from it, I’m just commenting on how much the culture changed, and not necessarily for the better! I totally agree with your remarks about Crowe in LA Confidential!

    Ah, but that damnable Hawkeye Pierceism! It won’t go away! (Ever notice as MASH the TV show went on over the years, the cast looked cleaner and more polished?)

    I’m not defending you Mr. Alda; I stick my neck out for nobody!

  77. red says:

    I think it comes from certain men being uncomfortable with the different-ness of women from them. There’s something embarrassing about the curves and the softness, so the fashions are then designed to hide that difference.

    I would have been screwed during the flapper age, even though I LOVE the clothes. I should have been born in the 1950s, actually. But again: I can’t focus too much on that because that way madness lies. My body is my body. I try to take care of it, and not gain weight, yadda yadda … but its shape is its shape. Some men love the curves of it. A guy who’s looking for Twiggy will not be into me. And so I don’t let myself fall for guys who want Twiggy.

    Seems kind of simple to me. There’s always gonna be SOMEone out there who wants what you’re selling!!

  78. Mr. Bingley says:

    Well, I like ‘em built for comfort, not for speed.

    Those boney little twiggy things…yech!

  79. red says:

    Ron – oh shit, man, I should have clarified that the “you” was a generalized “you” not a specific “you”.

    Sorry.

    Well, look, on another note: look at how firemen and cops suddenly swept back into fashion post-9/11. At least they did here in New York. These are taciturn TOUGH guys who run INTO burning buildings as others run OUT.

    I do hear a lot of whining out there about the feminization of men – and BELIEVE ME – I sympathize. I like manly guys. I like tough beefy guys who wear backwards baseball caps and pretend they don’t cry. I love guys like that. And I do NOT want men to be made to feel ashamed about the things that make them men.

    But WHINING about it constantly, and being HOSTILE towards all women as a result is extremely unattractive.

    But still; that “you” was not specific towards you. :)

  80. red says:

    And let me just say this, and I’ll be done with it:

    I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing that our concept of masculinity has broadened in the last 50 years or so.

    There are guys who would be living a lie if they tried to be tough, or taciturn … it wouldn’t be right for them.

    In the same way that it wouldn’t be right for me to fit myself into the square peg of an apron-wearing cake-baking domestic housewife.

    That, for me, would be spiritual death. Not that I judge those who DO live a life like that and who love it … but I would literally DIE in my SOUL if I had to fit into that ideal.

    I think it’s a good thing that Hawkeye Pierce came along, for that reason alone.

    Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater please. Give me the Bogies, and the Bud Whites … and leave the hawkeyes to the girls who love them.

    There’s enough for everybody! Well. Hopefully. I’m still single. We’ll see how THAT goes.

  81. Ron says:

    Red — S’cool, I understand! [Bogart voice] You’re all right.

    (I like the identification of the “you” as the “royal” you! Always liked that phrasing!)

    Me likey the curves,m’self…sticks belong in trees.

    Not that I have anything against trees!

  82. Independent George says:

    You know, I really love the way that no matter what the topic, every conversation eventually turns into a discussion of breast size. Or maybe those are just my conversations.

    Carry on.

  83. /b says:

    re champagne cocktail:

    The point was, I think, that Lazlo was refined, a professor or other kind of scholar before the war. It was consistent with who he had been. One of the ways people survive trauma/war is to try to maintain normalcy. Henreid’s protestations notwithstanding, the champagne cocktail (along with the white suit) was absolutely the right choice.

  84. Steve says:

    “They may say the problems of two little people don’t amount to a hill of beans. But this is OUR hill, and these are OUR beans.”- Leslie Nielson, to Priscilla Presley, in “The Naked Gun.”

  85. derringdo says:

    I remain amused by the alternate ending suggested to me by a Claude Rains fan: “Ilsa dumps Rick AND Lazlo, takes Louis.”

  86. Just coming over from Althouse, and I love this thread!

    Casablanca is one of my favorite movies and I love the ending. It’s perfect. But to those who think that it could have worked any other way, I ask that they consider The English Patient, which in a way reverses the morality of Casablanca. László betrays millions to fulfill a promise to the woman he loves and it all ends rather badly for everyone. Much as I adore Ralph Fiennes in this role, I still think I’d prefer Rick!

  87. Ron says:

    Red — If you had to cast Casablanca today, who would be in it?

    Crowe for Bogie?
    John Cusak for Lazlo?
    (I know I’ll get hooting) but Sandy Bullock for Ilsa? (they can make her look luminous!)

    Kevin Bacon for Louie?
    Gary Oldman for Strasser?
    hmmm…Chris Rock for Sam?
    Steve Buscemi for Ugate?
    Jack Black for Ferrari?

    Just throwing it out there!

  88. Mark says:

    First off, Casablanca is possibly the best movie ever — but on to the point, — nobody has really talked about wheteher Rick really wanted Ilsa back — sometimes I think Rick pushes Ilsa out of his life because he can’t stand losing her again — Maybe he is the tough dude and she’s what makes him not tough, so he bails — maybe he’s not being noble and sacrifical, maybe he’s scared.

  89. Peter says:

    I love Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon: basically, I love Bogart. But if I was to recast it…

    Rick: Michael Madsen
    Louis: Jean Reno
    Ilsa: Franka Potente
    Victor: Jeremy Irons (younger)
    Strasser: Jürgen Prochnow

    Madsen would nicely play off Irons: neither guy is a pushover, both would communicate decency, but you would instantly see why Irons is running from the Nazis while Madsen is running a bar. Potente, the heroine of Run Lola Run, would be utterly convincing as a lately grown-up ingenue. Prochnow would be at least as smoothly menacing a villain as Conrad Veidt (Strasser was perhaps the most sympathetic Nazi in any WWII film). Jean Reno has a comic touch that would make a perfect Capt. Renault.

    • Sarah says:

      Peter, you are spot on! You all have captivated me, so I thought I’d throw in my 2 cents…

      Rick: If not Michael Madsen (good choice), George Clooney
      Ilsa: Charlize Theron
      Laszlo: What about Ralph Fiennes?
      Renault: Jean Reno all the way!

      That’s about as far as I got! :)

  90. Sarah says:

    Oh, but this movie could NEVER be remade!

  91. joan shelton says:

    You people are mostly nuts. Paul Henreid has more acting ability in one eyelid than poor Humphry Bogart has in his whole body. He’s a more interesting character, too. He’s been crawling under barbed wire, earning that scar and that white hair, for around 3 years now: no pantywaist. And his love for Ilse comes across more directly than Rick’s, whose motivation is jealousy & rivalry with his hated rival, Victor. Rick & Ilse love the memories about Paris, loved the feelings, they’re in love with romance, but they’d never pan out in real life. MeanwhileIlse also loves the Cause Victor embodies. She no doubt has had other strong feelings she’s also been enjoying, about tenderness, courage, nobleness, commitment, when she’s with Lazlo. There’s even a theme in the movie for it, called “high ideals.” It plays, for example, when Ilse and Victor sit in their hotel. Notice that Lazlo trusts her twice to make up her own mind, while Rick never trusts her once. Interestingly, more & more people are coming to value Victor. He’s a man for our time. Ilse lucked out when she flew away with him.

  92. alex says:

    Right on, joan shelton.

  93. Enbaoli says:

    I pass through this, but, as i said to my father – who was watching this movie with me – “she got the chance to choose even rick choosing for her.” . I didn’t.
    For me, the choice was between “flowers” and “trees”: we could be trees and live forever or we could be flowers and last for only a season.

    I saw this kind of choice – is funny to say it – on two Elvis movies: wild in the country and change of habit. They both talk about being trees or remain flowers…

  94. Eloise Walters says:

    Ilsa had the choice of being with Rick, a man whom she could remember simply loving in an almost dreamlike world in Paris, shutting out painful reality or she could be brave and face reality with all of its terrors and be with Lazlo, the man with whom she shared real love. Like Rick, she chose to be strong and face reality and fight evil and not hide into a simpler romantic haze.