Herald Journal Columns
Dec. 12, 2005, Herald Journal

‘Casablanca’ best movie ever


Nov. 26 was the 62nd anniversary of the premier of the movie “Casablanca.” The anniversary was overshadowed by Thanksgiving and the big shopping weekend, but for people like me, who consider “Casablanca” the best movie ever made, it’s fun to think back on all the great scenes in the flick.

If you have not seen “Casablanca” yet, stop reading this column and run, don’t walk, to the nearest video store and view it. You will not regret it.

My all time favorite scene is when the patrons in Rick’s Place sing the French national anthem, “Le Marseillaise,” at the same time the Nazis sing their song, “The Watch on the Rhine.” The Nazis know the patrons are demonstrating their resistance and try to sing louder. Eventually the bar patrons drown them out, the Nazis give up, and go back to drinking their beer silently.

The two songs are in perfect counterpoint to each other. This scene makes me cry every time I see it and I have watched “Casablanca” many times.

The movie also is loaded with humorous touches although it has a serious theme. Even people who have not watched “Casablanca” have probably heard about the scene in which the police chief is told to shut Rick’s down and he is “shocked, shocked” that there is gambling going on. He pockets his winnings handed to him while he is still speaking, though.

Another scene that cracks me up is the elderly couple who are learning to speak English because they are on their way to America. They believe they speak it fairly well but they don’t. The man asks his wife, “What watch?” She responds, “Ten watch.” Then when he finds out what time it is he says, “Such much?” The look on the waiter’s face when he hears this exchange is priceless.

I think the reason “Casablanca” is a great movie is that the producers started with such a great story. It has everything, drama, romance, humor, violence, intrigue, tragedy, and history, although the “history” was actually a current event in 1943.

Many movies made today come from books or scripts that have been doctored by screen writers to make them politically correct. There wouldn’t be a character like “Sam,” a black man who played the piano, that would link the past with the present, as there was in “Casablanca.” It would be considered racist now.

Many modern films are so much alike they seem to be following a formula.

Screen writers also didn’t decide how “Casablanca” would end until the last minute. Ingrid Bergman had already cut her hair for her next movie. This means the actors’ and actresses’ ambivalence about what they would do in the conclusion of the story was real, not acting.

Put all these ingredients together and it makes “Casablanca” into a classic.

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