Why we still love ‘Casablanca’ almost 80 years on
Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine. It’s one of those lines that everyone knows, even those who have never seen the most famous wartime movie of them all.
Casablanca premiered in Hollywood in November 1942, having been brought forward by two months to coincide with the Allied invasion of North Africa, and saw worldwide theatrical release the following year. That’s ancient history now, but while Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains are all long gone, a part of them lives on forever in what remains one of the best-loved movies of all time.
Just what is it about Casablanca that won our hearts – and continues to do so all these years later?
Bringing the release forward those two months was a marketing masterstroke. It meant Casablanca would have that cosy, feel-good association with things taking a turn for the better in the war effort: emotions that would be felt time and again with every rewatch.
But even producers Hal Wallis & Jack Warner couldn’t have predicted just how strong this emotional attachment would become. Over the ensuing decades, watching movies on TV was a far more social activity than it is today. Into the 1960s and 70s, Casablanca would be shown again, new generations would watch, and those emotional ties would rub off from parents and grandparents.
The best casino scene ever
Hollywood movies are littered with great casino scenes, but the two minutes at the roulette wheel in Rick’s casino have yet to be beaten. A young Bulgarian couple needs money for American visas and need it now, so they head to the roulette wheel. It’s a decision with which any of us can empathize.
Almost 80 years later, we can stroll into the virtual version of Rick’s casino at a site like CasinoEuro to play some online roulette. As a game, it’s tempting for the beginner – unlike poker or a slot machine there’s no mystery or strategy involved, just spin the wheel and hope luck is on your side.
Of course in Rick’s casino, luck had nothing to do with it – he shot the croupier a knowing glance and told the young visitor to put everything on black 22.
An enduring soundtrack
“The fundamental things apply, as time goes by.” With each passing year, that theme tune seems ever more appropriate to the movie. How astonishing, then, that it was only used in a last-minute change of plan.
“As Time Goes By” featured in the original play on which the movie is based, but Max Steiner had planned to replace it with a composition of his own. However, by the time that decision was reached, Ingrid Bergman had cut her hair short for her next film role, so it was too late to reshoot the scenes.
The most quotable lines in movie history
From “round up the usual suspects” to “we’ll always have Paris”, Casablanca brought us lines that have come into everyday use, and even inspired other movies over the years. Without a doubt, future generations will still be talking about Casablanca and rewatching when its centenary comes around in 2042. Here’s lookin’ at you, kid!