Before it suddenly popped into front page news, Casablanca in French Morocco was a stopping-off place for refugees from Europe trying to reach Lisbon by a roundabout way. Warner Brothers have fashioned a moving and exciting film about Casablanca in which French, Americans, Germans, Czechs, Bulgarians get tied up into an involved plot before some of those who are fleeing from the nazis escape to Lisbon from where they go hopefully to the Americas. Michael Curtiz has directed this Hal Wallis production with emphasis on characterization and atmosphere. While Casablanca does not drool with the sin and local color of Algiers, it does have the same tense thrill of a strange foreign place in which gather all types of unconventional people. The situation is tightened there in 1941 by the presence of victims of nazi oppression, of Frenchmen who are loyal to Vichy and others to Free France, and of the nazi hunters. The large cast who portray the various roles are exceedingly good. Humphrey Bogart is the American who has continuously fought for the underdog but who is now going to stick his neck out for no one. He likes Casablanca, the excitement of the place, and the night club and gambling joint he runs there. To Rick's Cafe come all of Casablanca's adventurers, seekers, spies and police. Claude Rains is the unscrupulous police prefect who is forced to aid the nazi major, Conrad Veidt. Veidt is searching for Peter Lorre who killed a couple of Germans and stole their Weygand-signed visas. But Veidt is more interested in stopping Paul Henreid, a Czech publisher, from escaping to America where he will certainly continue his fight against Germany. Henreid's wife Ingrid Bergman, who once had an affair with Bogart in Paris, comes to plead for forgiveness. Bergman plays this strange role with subtlety and conviction, but the role itself is not entirely clear because of its continued vacillation. These people are given support by an unusual group of minor characters: Sidney Greenstreet, S. Z. Sakall, Leonid Kinskey, Marcel Dalio. Best of the supporting players is Negro Dooley Wilson as the pianist who is devoted to his boss, Bogart. Wilson's fine singing and piano playing contribute much to the film's effectiveness. The script is good, and Curtiz handled his cast to bring out their best performances. Casablanca is not by any means a first rate film. The motives of its  characters are not always clear, but it is adult cinema fare far above the average. —Philip T. Hartung

Also by this author

Please email comments to [email protected] and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Published in the December 11, 1942 issue: View Contents
© 2024 Commonweal Magazine. All rights reserved. Design by Point Five. Site by Deck Fifty.