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Movie Bucket List Pick: Casablanca

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Casablanca: 1942, Rated PG

I was in a seminar a couple of weeks ago for work and the speaker, who is a physician, dropped three Casablanca lines into his presentation. I was shocked when more than half the room had no idea where the lines came from.

It is because of this faux pas that I have decided to review one of the greatest movies all time (Listed No. 2 next to Citizen Kane on AFI’s Top 100 of all-time list), and one of my absolute favorites.

Casablanca is set in World War II. Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) is the owner of an upscale nightclub and gambling parlor located in a town called Casablanca located in Morocco. Rick’s Café American is a local hotspot for seedy characters, including Vichy French officials and German soldiers out to prey on refugees desperate to get to the still-neutral United States.

A crook named Ugarte murders some German officials and obtains 2 coveted “letters of transit” that will allow the owner to pass freely through German occupied Europe. These are priceless to all refugees in Casablanca. Rick is an entrepreneur and has the pulse of this Moroccan city at his fingertips. Ugarte gives them to Rick to hold but is arrested and ultimately killed before getting them back.

Everything is copacetic until Rick’s former lover Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) walks into Rick’s Café. “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

Rick’s world is thrown upside down. The love of his life, from another life, walks into his club with her husband Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) who just happens to be a wanted Czech Resistance Leader. They need the letters to escape to America for him to continue his work against the Nazi’s. The German Major Strasser has also arrived to thwart the couples plan and arrest anyone who helps them.

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The classic theme song “As Time Goes By” plays in the background as Rick reminisces about falling for Ilsa in Paris in 1940. She disappeared and left him in Paris waiting for her with no explanation. Ilsa explains that she thought her husband was killed in a concentration camp, but when she got word that he was alive, she ran to nurse him back to health.

She desperately needs the letters that Rick has in his possession. She admits to Rick that she still loves him. Rick enlists the help of his friend Captain Louis Renault to help the desperate couple.

Rick has a dilemma. Does he use the letters for himself and Ilsa to escape? Or does he give them to the love of his life and her husband to use to drastically impact the United Nations cause against the Nazi’s…..but lose her again forever. The film builds to a rising tide of emotions as the German’s descend upon the Casablanca airstrip with only Rick knowing his true plans for our desperate couple.

Casablanca is an enduring tale of redemption, forgiveness, and loyalty. It has conflict. It has a Triangle love story. It has the definition of friendship. It has some of the greatest quoted lines ever uttered in movie history.

The dilemma Rick faces is one of epic proportions. To love someone so much to let them go for the greater good or not. He is the deliverer of both dramatic outcomes. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman are magical together with their scene alone at Rick’s after hours as the crescendo of their chemistry.

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Casablanca is a film that will be watched for generations and is timeless by definition. A Bucket list must watch for anyone that wants to see greatness, As time goes by……I give this film a standing ovation 4 out of 4 stars.

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