There’s this guy who’s been burned in love, see. So he hangs out at his bar and acts like he doesn’t care about anyone. Then his lover comes back, only now she has a husband who has secret papers he has to get out of the country, fast. Now, the barfly could get his revenge and forget them both, or he could help the guy out and snooker his old flame into staying with him. Ah, what’s a World War II apolitical in occupied France to do?
If you’re lucky enough not to already know this scenario, I highly urge you to buy the two-DVD set of Casablanca, winner of 1942’s Best Picture Oscar. The rest of us can once more enjoy a legendary movie that, like The Wizard of Oz or Citizen Kane, only grows better with time.
In a career-defining role, Humphrey Bogart plays Rick, the nightclub owner who appears stoic until visited by old flame Ilsa (dreamy Ingrid Bergman), who sends his stoicism up in flames and has a few issues of her own to deal with. For one thing, there’s a war going on. It’s impossible for anyone who didn’t live through the Second World War to appreciate the intensity of what was at stake. But Casablanca gives us a pretty darned good idea, just by personalizing the whole thing under the guise of romance.
Ably supporting Bogart and Bergman is the supporting cast of a lifetime, including Claude Rains, Paul Heinreid, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet. There’s also the miracle of an Oscar-winning screenplay (by Howard Koch and Julius and Philip Epstein), which was derived from a so-so stage play and then made up as it went along. (Even the actors didn’t know how the ending would occur until the day they filmed it.)
Lastly, there’s the great music. Most of it is Max Steiner’s lush score, but the movie also makes much of a then-little-known song called “As Time Goes By.” And wait until you see what this movie does for the French national anthem (a rousing highlight of the movie, shown in the clip linked below).
The DVD set includes tons of extras, including two documentaries hosted by Bogart’s widow Lauren Bacall. But my personal fave extra is the long-overdue Bugs Bunny-Daffy Duck parody Carrotblanca, which, for my money, was the funniest movie of 1995. (You’ll be pleased to know that Tweety Bird does a wicked Peter Lorre imitation.)
So round up the usual suspects and savor a Hollywood classic. You’ll be glad you stuck your neck out for this one.