Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in CASABLANCA [Photograph by Edith-Mary Smith]
With the Moroccan port of Casablanca in Allied hands following Operation Torch
, American cinema audiences were treated to the first screening of the movie Casablanca
. The film opened in New York City, this week in the war, on 26 November 1942.
It was released across the United States in time for the Casablanca Conference (January, 1943) between Allied leaders, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The movie stars Humphrey Bogart as the cynical bar-owner, Rick, and Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa, who is Rick’s long-lost love from the time when the German’s first marched into Paris. “The Germans wore grey; you wore blue,” Rick remembers. (For an interesting take on actress Ingrid Bergman and also on wartime photographer Robert Capa, try reading the novel Seducing Ingrid Bergman by Chris Greenhalgh.)
Bogart and Bergman (right, wearing hat) in CASABLANCA, 1942 [Public domain, wiki]
’s cast of characters includes a Czech Resistance leader named Victor Laszlo (played by Paul Henreid), the head of the local Vichy police, Captain Louis Renault (played by Claude Rains), the infamous Major Heinrich Strasser (played by Conrad Veidt), and piano-player Sam (played by Dooley Wilson), who is the ‘Sam’ in the oft-quoted line, “Play it again, Sam.”
The story in a nutshell: Ilsa, the woman whom Rick met in Paris and who broke his heart and is married to on-the-run Resistance leader Victor Laszlo. She walks into Rick’s nightclub in Casablanca. (“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world,” says Rick, “she has to walk into mine.”) Ilsa must get hold of the letters of transit that will allow her husband to escape and continue his work in America.
Rick has a decision to make: Should he stay out of it (like his fellow Americans were doing in the early stage of the war) or should he pitch in and do his bit to fight the Nazis? To put it another way: Should he continue to bear a grudge, or should he put his resentment against Ilsa behind him (“We’ll always have Paris.”) and help her and her husband to escape?