Cinemallennials: Casablanca (1942)
For those of you unfamiliar with cinemallennials, it’s a bi-weekly podcast where me and another Millennial watch a classic movie we’ve never seen before and discuss its importance and relevance in today’s world.
In this episode I spoke to Alexandra Riba about one of the most famous and popular films of all time, Casablanca. From its multi-dimensional characters and timeless themes to its writing style, camera work and soundtrack, Casablanca is often referred to as “the perfect movie”. Many filmmakers have been influenced by its themes and elements – some have incorporated direct references to it in their films, while others incorporate some of its brilliance into their own works.
Set during World War II, Casablanca tells the story of the American Richard Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), owner of Rick’s Café Américain in the Casablanca refugee camp, who has to decide whether to flee Casablanca from his former lover Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) and her freedom-struggling husband Victor Laszlo (Paul Heinred) so that they can continue their fight against the Nazis.
The film was titled after an unproduced play by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison in 1940 Everyone comes to Rick’s. The story is based on Burnett’s experiences when he and his wife traveled to Vienna in 1938 to help Jewish relatives smuggle money, and later when they both went to a nightclub in the south of France where black jazz was playing and the clientele consisted of French, refugees and Nazis.
Many of the actors were refugees themselves, fled their own countries and eventually made their way to America. Conrad Veidt, who plays Major Stasser, the menacing Nazi officer, defied Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels by identifying himself as a Jew when asked to indicate his race on a questionnaire designed to clean up the film industry. Veidt was not a Jew, but his wife was, and nothing in this world would force him to break off his relationship with her or his support for the German-Jewish community. Helmut Dantine, who played Jan (the young refugee trying to make money to buy travel visas for him and his wife) was imprisoned in a concentration camp after fighting against the Nazis in Austria before being released and arrived in California. Madeline Lebeau, who plays Yvonne – and who has a wonderfully impressive scene in which she cries while she sings passionately La Marseille –made exactly the journey to freedom that many wanted to make Casablanca. After fleeing the Nazi invasion of France, Lebeau and her husband received transit visas and eventually arrived in America. These are just a few examples of the journeys that influenced the film’s emotionally resonant performances that continue to touch audiences around the world to this day.
In this episode, Alex and I discuss topics such as doing the right thing to help others, how inaction can create violence, and the relationship between sacrifice and love. Through Casablanca, the main characters are given the choice of doing the right thing (and losing everything they love to help the world) or serving themselves alone (and keeping the things they love most). That moral dilemma still resonates today as more and more global conflicts arise, but if you watch Casablanca, we as the young generation can be made aware of how our decisions can affect others and the world around us.
I hope you enjoy this episode of cinemallennials, which you can find here on Apple Podcasts or on Spotify. Please contact me as I would like to hear your thoughts on this Casablanca, especially if it’s your first time too!
– Dave Lewis for Classic Movie Hub
You can read all of Dave’s CMH Cinemallennials articles here.
Dave Lewis is the producer, writer, and host of Cinemallennials, a podcast in which he and another Millennial watch a classic movie from the early 1900s to the late 1960s that they have never seen and its significance and relevance in our present day Discuss world. Prior to writing for Classic Movie Hub, Dave wrote about Irish and Irish-American history, the Gaelic Athletic Association in the United States, and Irish innovators for Irish America Magazine. You can find more episodes of cinemallennials, film reviews and historical analysis on Dave’s website dlewmoviereview.com or his YouTube channel.