The greatest movie ever made: Casablanca

Rick Casablanca

Washed up in Casablanca early in the Second World War, Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), a veteran of the Spanish Civil War, runs a bar and tries to forget his previous political commitment. All this changes when Elsa (Ingrid Bergman), a woman from his past, turns up in town with Victor Laslo (Paul Henreid), a Czech leader of the Resistance, both on the run from the Nazis and in need of help to evade them further.

If you don’t fall in love with the movie Casablanca when you see it there is, in my humble opinion, something wrong with your soul. It is a film that has just about everything: some great humour, some great songs, a poignant love story, political commitment, and it is a cracking wartime thriller to boot. It is one of the most quotable films in movie history (“Round up the usual suspects!”), but the wise cracking does not overshadow some powerful emotion: the La Marseilles scene, when the refugee clientele of Rick’s bar, many of them Jewish in real life, drown out the singing of the German soldiers, I still find one of the most electrifying in cinema history.

Louis and StrasserTo add another level to this, the villian of the movie, Major Strasser, was played by the great Conrad Veight, himself a German and a committed anti-Nazi who fled Germany with his Jewish wife to continue the struggle, raising funds for the war effort by making movies such as Casablanca.

The movie began as just another run of the mill production but somehow, not least through great casting and superb writing, it turned into something magical. It is brilliant at just about every level, and like any classic bears up to repeated viewing. It is a sublime piece of work, possibly the most joyously brilliant film ever made.

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