Almost everybody knows its plot of of wartime intrigue and its doomed romantic triangle of bitter American saloonkeeper Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), the beautiful Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), and her idealistic husband, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid). This trio is supported by a wonderful and varied cast of characters, including Police Prefect Louis Renault (Claude Rains), Rick's faithful friend and piano player Sam Waters (Arthur "Dooley" Wilson), the conniving Ugarte (Peter Lorre), the Russian bartender Sacha (Leonid Kinsky), and the loveable maitre d' Carl (S. Z. Sakall).
The heart of the movie revolves around the conflict created in Rick's heart by World War II. When his former flame Ilsa arrives in Casablanca, does he help her and her husband Victor escape to Lisbon, or does he allow German Major Strasser (Conrad Veldt) to capture the fugitive Czech resistance leader so Rick can take Ilsa to America himself? Or do his natural good instincts surface and get Rick to do the honorable thing?
This movie has a little bit of everything: suspense, drama, comedy, an exotic setting, and lots of music, including renditions of "It Had To Be You," "The Very Thought Of You," and a thrilling duel between Germans singing the "Watch On The Rhine" and the Allies belting out "The Marsellaise." Other songs heard in the film include "Knock On Wood," and the unforgettable "As Time Goes By."
Another crucial element is the snappy and memorable dialog written by the Epstein twins and Hal B. Wallis for this movie:
Rick: I came here for the waters.
Louis: Waters? What waters? We're in the desert.
Rick: Obviously, I was misinformed.
Ilsa: (to Sam) Play it. Play "As Time Goes By."
Rick: (to Sam) Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.
Louis: (pretending to be surprised) I'm shocked, shocked to find gambling in here!
Casino Dealer: (handing Louis some money) Your winnings, sir.
Louis: (takes the money) Thank you.
Rick: (to Ilsa) Now, now...here's looking at you, kid.
With all these ingredients, director Michael Curtiz and producer Jack Warner came up with a recipe for a movie that became a beloved classic, a status recognized when the Library of Congress named Casablanca as one of the most important American films.
Betty June Moore