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.
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.