The Casablanca Narrative
Historical context of World War II
- references to war, refugees, Nazis, Vichy and Free French
- play written in 1940, one month after the fall of France
- Warner Bros made Confessions of a Nazi Spy in 1939, Sergeant York with Gary Cooper as WWI hero Alvin York and The Maltese Falcon with Humphrey Bogart as steel-strong loner Sam Spade in 1941; record movie attendance of 100 million per week in October 1941; Warner's profits were $5.4m.
- Hal Wallis named the film "Casablanca" Dec. 31, 1941, and ordered screenplay written Jan. 9, 1942
- production began May 25, 1942 - "1st all-cotton movie" due to wartime shortages of wool and silk
- filming ended Aug. 2, 1942
- OWI praised the film in October 1942 - was good propaganda
- Op. Torch, the invasion of North Africa, began Nov. 6, 1942
- NY premier Nov. 26 with flag flying of the Free French (tricolor with Cross of Lorraine)
- National release of the film Jan. 23, 1943; White House announced Jan. 24 that a conference had been held in Casablanca with FDR and Churchill Jan. 14-24.
- intrigue, romance, melodrama, duty, sacrifice
- Ilsa's love for Rick and her husband Victor - emotion, tension, conflict
- romance of Rick and Ilsa, but the film is not about love; rather, it is about sacrifice and nobility - love cannot "conquer all" - problems of a few people are not important compared to the Nazi threat
- three-acts, separated by Ilsa's entrance into the cafe and Rick's decision to use the letter
- Rick and Ilsa's past love unknown until the second act - flashback to Paris (music montage)
- Ilsa is luminous, pure, innocent, nurturing
- Rick is strong, self-confident, mysterious - no past, no future, only the present
- Rick is a metaphor for America - must sacrifice to defeat the enemy
- solo hero vs. group unity
- POV - half of the movie is shot/reversal shot - narrow emphasis on individuals - glycerine dissolve (coating of glycerine on glass slide in front of camera lens) to produce point-of-view shot that Ilsa was viewing the scene through tears
- shadow covers Ilsa's forehead to shift attention to her eyes
- chirascuro to create mystery, tension - no windows in the cafe
- hierarchical mis-en-scene - emphasis on the indivdual hero, not the group
- objects to intensify emotion - tear-stained letter, letters of transit, Cross of Lorraine ring vs Strasser's Iron Cross medal, heavy doors of the cafe as barriers, white suits, hats (worn outdoors only), trenchcoat, fog that isolates the characters from the real world (but no fog in the desert)
- music - Paris flashback, battle of the anthems, some "mickey mousing" underscoring actions
- "here's looking at your, kid" was improvised by Bogart while he and Ingrid Bergman made champaign toast in the Paris Cafe, La Belle Aurore
- "of all the gin joints ... she walks into mine" was Bogart's change from the scripted "of all the cafes ... she walks into my cafe"
- fear of the Breen office caused script line "the girl will be released in the morning" to change to "the girl will be released later."