Casablanca is a 1942 American romantic drama film directed by Michael Curtiz, starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid, and featuring Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre. Set during World War II, it focuses on a man torn between, in the words of one character, love and virtue. He must choose between his love for a woman and helping her and her Czech Resistance leader husband escape from the Vichy-controlled Moroccan city of Casablanca to continue his fight against the Nazis.
Although it was an A-list film, with established stars and first-rate writers—Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch received credit for the screenplay—no one involved with its production expected Casablanca to be anything out of the ordinary; it was just one of dozens of pictures produced by Hollywood every year. The film was a solid, if unspectacular, success in its initial run, rushed into release to take advantage of the publicity from the Allied invasion of North Africa a few weeks earlier. Despite a changing assortment of screenwriters frantically adapting an unstaged play and barely keeping ahead of production, and Bogart attempting his first romantic lead role, Casablanca won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Its characters, dialogue, and music have become iconic, and Casablanca has grown in popularity to the point that it now consistently ranks near the top of lists of the greatest films of all time.
Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) is a cynical American expatriate living in Casablanca in early December 1941. He owns and runs "Rick's Café Américain", an upscale nightclub and gambling den that attracts a mixed clientèle: Vichy French, Italian, and Nazi officials; refugees desperately seeking to reach the United States, as yet uninvolved in the war; and those who prey on them. Although Rick professes to be neutral in all matters, it is later revealed he ran guns to Ethiopia to combat the 1935 Italian invasion and fought on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War.
Ugarte (Peter Lorre), a petty criminal, arrives in Rick's club with "letters of transit" obtained through the murder of two German couriers. The papers allow the bearer to travel freely around German-controlled Europe and to neutral Portugal, and from there to America. The letters are almost priceless to the continual stream of refugees who end up stranded in Casablanca. Ugarte plans to sell them to the highest bidder, who is due to arrive at the club later that night. Before the exchange can take place, Ugarte is arrested by the local police under the command of Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains), a self-admitted corrupt opportunist. Ugarte dies in police custody without revealing that he had entrusted the letters to Rick.
At this point, the reason for Rick's bitterness re-enters his life. His ex-lover, Norwegian Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), walks into his establishment. Upon seeing the house pianist, Sam, Ilsa asks him to play "As Time Goes By". When Rick storms over, furious that Sam has disobeyed his order never to perform that song, he is shocked to see Ilsa. She is accompanied by her husband, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), a fugitive Czech Resistance leader who has escaped from a Nazi concentration camp. The couple need the letters to leave for America to continue his work. German Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt) arrives in Casablanca to see to it that Laszlo does not succeed.
When Laszlo makes inquiries with Signor Ferrari (Sydney Greenstreet), a major figure in the criminal underworld and Rick's friendly business rival, Ferrari divulges his suspicion that Rick has the letters. Laszlo meets with Rick privately, but Rick refuses to part with the documents, telling Laszlo to ask his wife for the reason. They are interrupted when Strasser leads a group of officers in singing "Die Wacht am Rhein". In response, Laszlo orders the house band to play "La Marseillaise". When the band looks to Rick for guidance, he nods his head. Laszlo starts singing, alone at first, then patriotic fervor grips the crowd and everyone joins in, drowning out the Germans. In retaliation, Strasser has Renault close the club.
That night, Ilsa confronts Rick in the deserted café. When he refuses to give her the letters, she threatens him with a gun, but then confesses that she still loves him. She explains that when they first met and fell in love in Paris, she believed that her husband had been killed attempting to escape from the concentration camp. Later, while preparing to flee with Rick from the imminent fall of the city to the German army, she learned that Laszlo was in fact alive and in hiding. She left Rick without explanation to tend to her ill husband.
With the revelation, the lovers are reconciled. Rick agrees to help, leading her to believe that she will stay behind with him when Laszlo leaves. When Laszlo unexpectedly shows up, having narrowly escaped a police raid on a Resistance meeting, Rick has waiter Carl (S. K. Sakall) secretly take Ilsa back to the hotel while the two men talk.
Laszlo reveals he is aware of Rick's love for Ilsa and tries to persuade him to use the letters to take her to safety. When the police arrest Laszlo on a minor, trumped-up charge, Rick convinces Renault to release him by promising to set him up for a much more serious crime: possession of the letters of transit. To allay Renault's suspicions, Rick explains he and Ilsa will be leaving for America.
When Renault tries to arrest Laszlo as arranged, Rick forces him at gunpoint to assist in their escape. At the last moment, Rick makes Ilsa board the plane to Lisbon with her husband, telling her she would regret it if she stayed, "Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life."
Major Strasser, tipped off by Renault, drives up alone. Rick shoots him when he tries to intervene. When his men arrive, Renault pauses, then tells them to "Round up the usual suspects." Once they are alone, Renault suggests to Rick they join the Free French at Brazzaville. They walk off into the fog with one of the most memorable exit lines in movie history: "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
The play's cast consisted of 16 speaking parts and several extras; the film script enlarged it to 22 speaking parts and hundreds of extras. The cast is notable for its internationalism: only three of the credited actors were born in the U.S. The top-billed actors were:
The second-billed actors were:
Also credited were:
Notable uncredited actors were:
Part of the emotional impact of the film has been attributed to the large proportion of European exiles and refugees among the extras and in the minor roles. A witness to the filming of the "duel of the anthems" sequence said he saw many of the actors crying and "realized that they were all real refugees". Harmetz argues that they "brought to a dozen small roles in Casablanca an understanding and a desperation that could never have come from Central Casting". The German citizens among them nevertheless had to keep curfew as enemy aliens. Ironically, they were frequently cast as the Nazis from whom they had fled.
Some of the exiled foreign actors were:
The film was based on Murray Burnett and Joan Alison's then-unproduced play Everybody Comes to Rick's. The Warner Bros. story analyst who read the play, Stephen Karnot, called it (approvingly) "sophisticated hokum", and story editor Irene Diamond convinced producer Hal Wallis to buy the rights in January 1942 for $20,000, the most anyone in Hollywood had ever paid for an unproduced play. The project was renamed Casablanca, apparently in imitation of the 1938 hit Algiers. Although an initial filming date was selected for April 10, 1942, delays led to a start of production on May 25. Filming was completed on August 3, and the production cost $1,039,000 ($75,000 over budget), above average for the time. The film was shot in sequence, mainly because only the first half of the script was ready when filming began.
The entire picture was shot in the studio, except for the sequence showing Major Strasser's arrival, which was filmed at Van Nuys Airport, and a few short clips of stock footage views of Paris. The street used for the exterior shots had recently been built for another film, The Desert Song, and redressed for the Paris flashbacks. It remained on the Warners backlot until the 1960s. The set for Rick's was built in three unconnected parts, so the internal layout of the building is indeterminate. In a number of scenes, the camera looks through a wall from the cafe area into Rick's office. The background of the final scene, which shows a Lockheed Model 12 Electra Junior airplane with personnel walking around it, was staged using midget extras and a proportionate cardboard plane. Fog was used to mask the model's unconvincing appearance. Nevertheless, the Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park in Orlando, Florida purchased a Lockheed 12A for its Great Movie Ride attraction, and initially claimed that it was the actual plane used in the film. Film critic Roger Ebert called Hal Wallis the "key creative force" for his attention to the details of production (down to insisting on a real parrot in the Blue Parrot bar).
The difference between Bergman's and Bogart's height caused some problems. She was some two inches (5 cm) taller than Bogart, and claimed Curtiz had Bogart stand on blocks or sit on cushions in their scenes together.
Wallis wrote the final line ("Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.") after shooting had been completed. Bogart had to be called in a month after the end of filming to dub it.
Later, there were plans for a further scene, showing Rick, Renault and a detachment of Free French soldiers on a ship, to incorporate the Allies' 1942 invasion of North Africa; however, it proved too difficult to get Claude Rains for the shoot, and the scene was finally abandoned after David O. Selznick judged "it would be a terrible mistake to change the ending."