Casablanca Premiered Today, 1942

Reviews were actually – it was seen as just another melodrama that Warner Brothers had become so practiced at churning out – but the public loved it and it went on to win an Academy Award for best picture in 1943. And of course now – the film has reached cult status.

I have put together 5,000 quotes about Casablanca from the book The Making of Casablanca: Bogart, Bergman, and World War II, by Aljean Harmetz.

Here is one of my favorite anecdotes from the book.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy all the quotes. A couple are in the extended entry here:

Assorted quotes:

Billy Wilder says, “This is the most wonderful claptrap that was ever put on the screen … Claptrap that you can’t get out of your mind. The set was crummy. By God, I’ve seen Mr. Greenstreet sit in that same wicker chair in fifty pictures before and after, and I knew the parrots that were there. But it worked. It worked absolutely divinely. No matter how sophisticated you are and it’s on television and you’ve seen it 500 times, you turn it on.”

Sociologist Todd Gitlin writes:

Casablanca dramatizes archetypes. The main one is the imperative to move from disengagement and cynicism to commitment. The question is why Casablanca does this more effectively than other films. Several other Bogart films of the same period — Passage to Marseilles, To Have and Have Not, Key Largo — enact exactly the same conversation. But the Rick character does not simply go from disengagement to engagement but from bitter and truculent denial of his past to a recovery and reignotion of the past. And that is very moving, particularly because it is also associated with Oedipal drama. But there is also a third myth narrative, a story about coming to terms with the past. Rick had this wonderful romance; he also had his passionate commitment. It seems gone forever. But you can get it back. That is a very powerful mythic story, because everybody has lost something, and the past it, by definition, something people have lost. This film enables people to feel that they have redeemed the past and recovered it, and yet without nostalgia. Rick doesn’t want to be back in Paris. And the plot is brilliantly constructed so that these three myths are not three separate tales, but one story with three myths rushing down the same channel.

Aljean Harmetz, author of The Making of Casablanca writes:

I was in elementary school during World War II; I did my part in the war by rolling tinfoil and rubber bands into balls and bringing them to the Warners Beverly Theatre on Saturday mornings. World War II had receded with all its certainties and moral imperatives, leaving muddy flats behind. The world is a cornucopia of grays. I believed the romantic interpretation of Casablanca then — love lost for the good of the world — and believe it now. But it is the very ambiguity of Casablanca that keeps it current. Part of what draws moviegoers to the movie again and again is their uncertainty about what the movie is saying at the end …

Casablanca‘s potent blend of romance and idealism — a little corny and mixed with music and the good clean ache of sacrifice and chased down with a double slug of melodrama — is available at the corner video store, but Casablanca couldn’t be made today. There is too much talk and not enough action. There are too many characters too densely packed, and the plot spins in a hard-to-catch-your-balance circular way instead of walking a straight line. There is no Humphrey Bogart to allow the audience a permissible romance without feeling sappy. And the studio would insist that all the ambiguity be written out in the second draft.

Happy birthday, Casablanca! Hard to imagine the American film landscape without it.

This entry was posted in Movies and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Casablanca Premiered Today, 1942

  1. Rob says:

    Rains stole every scene he was in. Didn’t hurt that he had the best lines.

  2. red says:

    In my opinion Claude Rains is an impeccable actor. That’s the word that always comes up for me when I see him act. He is just perfect. Now Voyager – NOTORIOUS – God, he’s fantastic in that … he is just impeccable. LOVE him.

  3. Rob says:

    Renault to the arriving police: “Major Strasser has been shot.”
    Rick glances at Renault.
    Renault glances back at Rick.

    The two glances are perfect. The first time I ever saw this movie was on the late show with my Dad. I was probably 10 or so. Remember late shows? The happily ambiguous Renault is “in” now. Whatever he says next will determine which side. When you didn’t know what he was going to say and the only time you didn’t know was that first time you saw it, that was the most perfect moment in all of film. “Round up the usual suspects” is the best line of all time. It says exactly what you wanted to hear in the most satisfying way. I have watched that film 100 times since because of that moment. Every other great moment in the film has grown on me since but that one got me the very first time.

  4. Casablanca and a CrabAppleLane Sunday

    Sheila and I are big fans of Casablanca. She did a whole series of entries on it yesterday. I popped in the DVD last night on the anniversary of the premier. Can you remember the first time you saw it? Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen it, please rejo…

  5. red says:

    //When you didn’t know what he was going to say and the only time you didn’t know was that first time you saw it, that was the most perfect moment in all of film. “Round up the usual suspects” is the best line of all time. //

    God, Rob, you are SO RIGHT.

  6. Dave W says:

    Thank you very much for that, Sheila. This will always be one of my favorite films. But then I’m a sentimentalist.

    The story about the collaboration between Koch and the Epsteins explains much about how fun the movie is to watch, with the whimsical amusing lines lightening up the melodrama. Bogart’s cynicism helps too, and in the end the effect is to convert the melodrama into delicious drama. That being said, somebody dropped the ball on the “Was that cannon fire? Or was it my heart pounding?” line. Excise it, please. It’s so bad that it’s embarrassing.

  7. red says:

    Dave W – hahahaha Totally!!

    If you notice, Bergman buries her head in Bogart’s shoulder as she says the line. I think she was embarrassed by it too!!

  8. Dave W says:

    Oh, one other comment. The last (only?) time I saw Casablanca in a movie theatre was many years ago at one of those little theatres that show old films, foreign films, that kind of stuff. They showed Casablanca/Play It Again, Sam as a double feature. I think that’s a perfect pairing, and it may have contributed to the fact that I still think that’s one of Woody’s best films.

  9. mitch says:

    When you didn’t know what he was going to say and the only time you didn’t know was that first time you saw it, that was the most perfect moment in all of film. “Round up the usual suspects” is the best line of all time.


    I remember the first time I saw it, 24 years ago (the first of 42 times I’ve seen it); the whole scene was so perfect, I had one of those very rare moments where I could barely contain my pure…glee? That feeling you get when you’ve seen some piece of art that’s just perfect.

    Love love love that movie.

  10. They Wait. And Wait. And Wait…

    Red noted, as is her frequent wont, that yesterday was the 62nd anniversary of the release of Casablanca, my favorite movie of all time and the best American movie ever made (counting Citizen Kane). Sheila has all the real details…

  11. Dave W says:

    That’s a good point, Sheila. The other line I found rather embarrassing was when Bergman says something like “I don’t know what to do anymore; you’ll have to do the thinking for both of us.” And if I recall correctly, she buries her head in his shoulder that time, too.

Comments are closed.