Singer, Barnett. "'CASABLANCA' IN ITS TIME -- AND OURS." Contemporary Review; Oct2005, Vol. 287 Issue 1677, p233-237, 5p
Casablanca speaks the message that no matter what the year is, what side we are on, how desolate or enslaved our lives may be, we always have choices. Even in Vichy Morocco, Rick made a choice at the end of the movie to become involved and fight for what is right. The film also speaks to a semblance of realism at the time. The actors had backgrounds that allowed them to draw on real life feelings and experiences to portray the characters. Bogart, Henreid and Bergman all had off screen personalities that helped to form a basis for there characters.
Although the film has many connections to reality, parts of the film are not perfectly accurate of Unoccupied French Morocco. The Vichy regime was not historically as bad as portrayed in the film. French intelligence did work to hinder the German KIA by wiretapping phones and providing false information. Information dealing was a large part of life in Casablanca. Everybody from waiters to chambermaids sold information. Serge-Henri Parisot and his team led extensive counterintelligence against the Germans. He found people who had escaped from the Germans and along with having them tell him what they know, he used them to break and “repair” German telephones with bugs installed. Casablanca got some of the atmosphere of the real city correctly: the information and black market exchanges, the attitudes of many in the city; However, in regards to the villianization of the Vichy government, the film does not do accurate justice to the independence and French loyalties of the government against the Nazis.
Jacobs, Lewis. "World War II and the American Film." Cinema Journal, Vol. 7. (Winter, 1967-1968), pp. 1-21.
World War II was extremely influential in what movies were produced and vice versa. The type of movies that dealt with the war (which was approximately one third of all Hollywood pictures produced) progressed along with the war. Starting with attacks against Fascism in Confessions of a Nazi Spy, Hollywood started to attack the enemy in its films. Charlie Chaplin’s film The Great Dictator used satire and humor to both mock Hitler and Mussolini and to deride them. Chaplin did not receive a lot of initial support for the film because people were nervous about enraging Hitler. In 1941 films started to become more militant as the Nazis invaded Russia and started sinking American ships. Movies started a call to war movement that was solidified with the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The government suggested themes to Hollywood to make films successfully support the war. These included: The issues of War, The Nature of the Enemy, The United Nations, The Production Front, The Home Front, and The Fighting Forces.
Casablanca doesn’t neatly fit into the chronology of the war because it was made after the attack on Pearl Harbor, but is about getting Americans into the war. It is film, however, that helped bolster support for the war effort, and it gave people a reason and explanation for being involved in the war. The movie established that it was the duty of America and in fact all Americans to do there part to help with the war effort. The support was crucial because without support on the Home Front by American citizens, the nation may not have been able to endure the limitations on life at home, and the loss of life in the battlefield.
Green, Gary. "The Happiest of Happy Accidents"? A Reevaluation of "Casablanca" Smithsonian Studies in American Art, Vol. 1, No. 2. (Autumn, 1987), pp. 2-13.
While many have called Casablanca a “happy accident” or suggested that the film serendipitously arose from a series of problems and random mistakes, Gary Green suggests a reevaluation of the film looking at it as a product of its director, Michael Curtiz. He says that the distinct ties between the visual and narrative aspects of the film are what make it most enduring and that Curtiz is chiefly responsible.
The main visual and narrative motif that is carried out in the movie is the triangle. Rick is part of two distinct triangles: the romantic triangle between him, Ilsa and Lazlo, and the political triangle with him, Strasser, and Renault. Visually Curtiz explores these two triangles by positioning the actors within the frame to represent their ties and connections. Through positioning Rick at the same spot at the table at the initial meetings of both triangles, he makes a connection between them. He uses two shots and close ups in the climactic last scene to show the breaking up of the triangles. In the end Ilsa is visually and narratively paired with Lazlo, while Rick is paired with Renault.
The other style that Curtiz lends to the film is the look of the films of the film noir period. Following in the footsteps of German Expressionists, his dark style with harsh painted on shadows help the audience become closer tied to Rick’s inner feelings. As the film goes on the style becomes darker as we become more and more involved in Rick. Even the stylistically light flashback sequence ends with a darker more sinister scene when they part with the train leaving. The end of the film is particularly dark visually with the airport almost lost in darkness. These stylistic elements that bring us closer into the film are the main reason for the film’s lasting ability, and the reason why it has become regarded as a masterpiece. Green wants to make sure that in our reevaluation of the film, we give credit where it’s due: to Michael Curtiz.
The disparity between the cinematic representation of Casablanca and the real city show the liberties that the filmmakers took to promote the message of US involvement in World War II. While the film has small crowded streets and sets and props that do not reflect anything really found in the city, Casablanca has strong Moroccan and French architecture that was left out of the movie. The filmmakers used set design to help portray a visual style that presented a stronger argument for American audiences. The film used literal shadows to make a great contrast between the dark and light, the good and the bad. The gray areas present in real life Casablanca are conveniently left out of the film. Even though the filmmakers use documentary style footage in some of the scenes surrounding the war, it is only used to define a truth that is supportive to the American war effort.
Casablanca in itself is built as a city defined by creating an image to try and change the reality. The French used strong French architecture when they colonized Morocco to define the country as a French colony. However, where architecture is a slow process to define a region, film can almost instantaneously change the hearts and minds of viewers. The film creates a new Casablanca, one in which the American public can find a unifying idea. It doesn’t matter that the city is not an accurate portrayal, what matters is the effect that the created portrayal conveys. In the same way that architecture can be used to visually define a city, film can be used to visually create and redefine the city. Casablanca presents a stereotyped and allegorical city which was used to win over the loyalties of the American public.
Casablanca represented not only the political feelings of early 1940s America, but also many aspects of life at home in the United States. Part of the reason the movie was so well received among the hundreds of war movies of the time was its direct connection to wartime audiences. Besides the bombardment of advertisements calling for American’s to sacrifice and join the war movement, everyday personal life was also reflected in the film. The parallels to American society include the heavy smoking and drinking culture portrayed by a smoking Rick sitting at his bar; Rick’s Café Americain was a prototypical nightclub which was in extreme popularity at the time. Rationing at home led to a large black market like the one represented by Mr. Ferrari in Casablanca. American audiences had an easy time believing the life portrayed in the film, as it greatly reflected how they felt at home. In a time of renewed financial prosperity in the United States, Americans had the money to buy luxury goods and services but could not find them being produced. These imposed government restraints were caricatured in Rick and other characters in the film. Almost all of the characters had money, but the money was almost worthless because there was nothing to buy. People were stuck in Casablanca as Americans at home were stuck when they had used up there rations.
The film does still play at heart to the need for American’s to endure self-sacrifice and to be an important part of the war. Rick had forgotten that need until, Ilsa reminded him of how he was in Paris: a political idealist and activist. As Ilsa brings back the need to join the cause and fight the good war, Casablanca speaks to the American public about the importance of joining the war effort. Like Lazlo does to Rick, the film says to all of America, “Welcome back to the fight.”
Jackson, Kathy Merlock. "Playing It Again and Again." Journal of Popular Film and Television; Wntr2000, Vol. 27 Issue 4
Casablanca has imprinted itself forever in hearts and minds of the American public like few films ever have. On many important top-ten lists including number 2 on the American Film Institute’s 100 best movies of the century, Casablanca occupies an important place in American pop culture. The film has become one of the most quotable movies, with people who haven’t even seen the film saying “Here’s looking at you kid.” The imagery from the movie including Rick in his white suit with a cigarette dangling from his lips, or the final scene when Rick tells Ilsa that she must leave with Lazlo are among the most recognizable in American mass media. The film has spawned a radio show, numerous plays, and spoofs but never ended up having a sequel, although one was in development. References to the movie abound in film, television and even comic strips. Nightclubs and restaurants based on the film or with similar Moroccan themes have sprung up in popular areas, with people capitalizing on the films popularity. A large market has appeared for memorabilia and collectibles from Casablanca with Sam’s piano selling for $154,000. Popular items include posters, one-sheets, sheet music and Humphrey Bogart collectibles. Ted Turner continued to popularize the movie when he bought the rights to the film and started licensing it to various companies. The enormous impact of the movie reaches far beyond the plot, characters and message, and has reached into the homes of the American people as a lasting piece of American culture. The film has permeated every media and has become part of our vernacular. We’ll always have Casablanca.
Matthews, Chris. "There's a Little Rick in All of Us" Newsweek, 00289604, 10/28/2002, Vol. 140, Issue 18
In his Newsweek article published shortly before the United States declared war on Iraq, Chris Matthews presents the case that Americans today are as much like Rick Blaine in Casablanca as they have ever been. It is hard to make the choice between protecting America’s interests by staying out of harms way and fighting for just causes to protect the world. Historically America has been the “reluctant warrior,” joining the fight in causes that Americans think are right. Matthews worries that the Bush administration is acting against American history by joining in “entangling alliances.” He fears that Bush is transforming America from “reluctant warriors” into aggressors waiting for a fight.
Casablanca has as much relevance today as ever. The film teaches that it is important to know when the time is right to fight for good and when it is time not to get involved. The danger arises when America decides to fight, but it is not to stick up for dying ethics and morality in the world. The Iraq war is America fighting for the wrong reasons, against the general consensus of what is right. America is not sticking to the model presented by Rick.
The article was published before problems arose and provides a forward thinking view about the dangers of getting involved in Iraq. The contrast between the reasons America got involved in World War II as shown in Casablanca and the reasons that America is going into Iraq, highlight the changes being made by the bush administration.
Call#: Van Pelt Library E744 .P68 1991
After America’s short period of neutrality and isolation at the beginning of World War II, President Roosevelt used subtle steps to help bring the United States into the war without going against public opinion and flat out declaring war. Through revision’s to the Neutrality Act to support European democracies with arms, supplying Britain with Destroyers, and instituting the Lend-Lease programs Roosevelt and the United States supported Britain in its war against the Axis powers. Like Rick Blaine in Casablanca who ended up helping the Resistance movement by giving Lazlo visas to exit Casablanca against Nazi orders, American policies during a time of declared neutrality gave crucial aid to the soon to become Allied forces.
Roosevelt could not openly declare war on Germany because American public opinion mirrored Rick who would “stick [his] neck out for nobody.” Direct involvement meant sending American troops into battle with certain casualties. Roosevelt defended his actions by saying that all the steps were necessary to protect the national security of the United States against the threat of attacks by the Axis powers. Rick justifies helping Lazlo because he realizes that Nazi control of Casablanca will eventually destroy him no matter if he stays neutral. Both America and Rick have strong moral and ideological ties to the Allies and under the guise of protecting themselves, they both end up reversing their hard-line policies of neutrality and help provide support against the Nazis.
Call#: Van Pelt Library E744 .J65
America’s passing of the Neutrality Act causes a declared foreign policy of not becoming involved in any way in either the impending war in Europe or the resistance of China against Japanese aggressors. This policy has been the historical one for the United States, which has tried to stay out of most foreign conflicts. This policy however does not speak to the hearts and minds of the American people. While the majority of the American public may be against war, they have still taken sides in their hearts against the dictatorship aggressors, and support the European democracies of Britain and France, and China in the East.
While Casablanca takes place after 1938, Rick Blaine represents the same America that is shown in this editorial. In order for him to personally survive in Casablanca, he must remain neutral and isolated. However in his heart, he has strong ties to pre-Vichy France as represented in Ilsa. The movie shows Rick’s transformation as a parallel to America’s, but this article shows how Rick represents America at the beginning of the movie.
America, like Rick, does not want to risk being involved in a war, but their outward policies do not reflect there beliefs and ties. Americans want to support the democracies but at the same time have a strong self-preserving desire to stay uninvolved. This form of isolationism is represented in Casablanca as an allegorical film about America.
Polan, Dana. "Stylistic Regularities (and Peculiarities) of the Hollywood World War II Propoganda Film." WARNERS’ WAR: POLITICS, POP CULTURE & PROPAGANDA IN WARTIME HOLLYWOOD. pp. 38-47
World War II significantly changed American cinema. Not only were new propagandist messages infused into most films, the actual narratives changed to reflect the new wartimes. Propaganda did not come easy to Hollywood films that had built up a tradition of creating apolitical escapist films. Some films were awkward in their addition of political messages. Many used direct addresses to the audience through the use of voice over or radio newscasts. The heart of the change, however, was in the way romance was treated.
With the clear separation of men and women during wartime, there was an increased feeling that romantic relationships were frivolous and hurt the war movement. This led to a change in the dynamic of on screen couples. Many films were made about woman going to join the men on the battlefront, or the opposite: having the men come home to the woman in America.
One way to view Casablanca is as a romance movie built on separation. The separation of Ilsa from Lazlo in Paris and the night that she asks Rick for the letters of transit, and the separation of Rick and Ilsa when she leaves on the train in Paris. The ambiguous ending of the film in which we are uncertain of what the characters will do when they part, and how the war will end. This reflects the feelings of many Americans throughout the time. The complicatedness of Rick’s feelings towards the war and Ilsa make his character much more identifiable with most Americans compared to the straight forward Lazlo. The movie is a reflection of the time.