What to Watch: “Casablanca”

Two protagonists in the movie Casablanca (Courtesy of facebook.com/CasablancaTheMovie)

It is 1941. Adolf hitler has marched into Poland and declared the second World War on the entire western world. The Russians fend against the Third Reich’s Nazis from tainting the motherland.

At home, the USA is recovering from the Great Depression, and in the wake of the day that shall forever live in infamy. Also America and its might have declared war on Japan and have vowed to stop the atrocities Hitler is committing across Europe.

In the desolate sands of French-occupied Morocco, Casablanca lies in all of its glory. This a city of fine gin, forgotten dreams and a passage to the New World. Casablanca is a place of tranquility, where sworn enemies trade war secrets and smoke cigars.

Yet to be touched by the horrors of World War II, Casablanca houses refugees fleeing from the Nazis and mysterious foreigners  looking for fortune and those who wave no flags. One such foreigner  is Rick Blaine; an American and the  owner of Casablanca’s finest bar, club, hotel and illegal casino, Rick’s Cafe Americain.

Blaine left America a criminal, had found himself all across the known globe. From gun-running in Spain, selling passports to the States and racketeering, the mysterious Rick Blaine has been involved in numerous illegal activities that have led him to his “permanent” home of Casablanca.

But in Paris, France, 1940. Adolf Hitler has began his march across Europe, but are being held up by intense Russian opposition. Rick Blaine is in France on “business” when he meets the women of his dreams and the breaker of his heart.

But  he wound up in Casablanca after the Nazis occupied Paris and the love of his life ran off with another man, leaving him to stand amidst the hundreds fleeing Paris on the train platforms. All the while standing in the cold, pouring rain.

In the film, a square in Casablanca is crowded by dozens of merchants, peasants and criminals. A whistle is blown as the “usual suspects” are rounded up by the French police and are sent for questioning for the sealing of classified documents.

The scene changes to a lively, cigar-smoke filled bar as customers drown their sorrows in expensive bourbons and illegally gamble to earn various amounts of cash to support a better and brighter future in the New World.

A mysterious Rick Blaine is centered in on as he sits quietly at a table playing chess against himself. Blaine’s name is learned as he requests to have drink with the owner. A waiter reports back to the Blaine, and he states “Rick Blaine doesn’t drink with the patrons.”

Rick Blaine, played by the world-renown actor Humphrey Bogart, is the mysterious man who has been to all parts of the known globe. Some say he left his home a fugitive, some say he is escaping captors. Many do not know the truth of his actions, so wild stories circulate. But there are a small few who know the truth.

Blaine’s love life is also unpredictable with Ilsa Lund, played by Ingrid Bergman, were the best of both of their lives. The two were madly in love, but the idyllic days came to an end once the Nazis began their occupation of France. It had been months since Rick had seen Ilsa, but she somehow found another way into his life.

As Ilsa enters Rick’s establishment, he is unknowingly thrown into a world of government secrets and broken friendships.

While Rick and Ilsa were in Paris, she had been previously married to a Victor Laszlo, a former concentration camp inmate a a Czech Resistance leader. Rick is tasked with getting Victor Laszlo out of Casablanca alive.

All the while they are being hunted down by French police and Nazi officers.

With Rick forced into this, he embarks on harrowing tasks that involve espionage and exposing the true nature of the Nazis intentions if they were to capture Mr. Laszlo.

After finally twisting the arms of Nazi officers, Rick suavely gains the passports to America that will allow Laszlo to escape and let his once lover leave his world once more.

As the plane to New York City leaves, Rick and long time friend Captain Louis Renault walk down the tarmac with Rick Blaine saying one of the most famous quotes in cinema history: “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

All the while “As Time Goes By” is playing, The song of Blaine’s broken heart, and the troubles he has faced to forget the best thing that has ever happened to his life. All together, Casablanca is an engaging story of drama, love and fighting for what was truly right.

For the year it was released, 1942, Casablanca was an important film that condemned the Nazi regime. Just over 70 years later, this film still stands as one of the most popular and important pieces to ever grace the silver screen and has the nostalgic appeal that makes you feel as if you are smoking fancy cigars and drinking fine gin with the most evil of friends in a place where sworn enemies are the closest friends.



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