On November 26, 1942, in the midst of World War II, a film called "Casablanca" premiered at the Hollywood Theater in New York City. Warner Brothers actually rushed the release of the film, as the Allies, led by General Dwight Eisenhower, secured their hold on North Africa and invaded Casablanca that month.
The film became an American icon, ranking third on the American Film Institute's 100 best movies of the last 100 years. "Casablanca" launched Ingrid Bergman's career and established Humphrey Bogart as a romantic lead. It is one of the most referenced films of all time, from Woody Allen's "Play it Again, Sam" to the Muppets.
Jeanine Basinger, professor of film studies at Wesleyan University and author of "The Star Machine," curates the Ingrid Bergman archives. She says that the "Casablanca" team had no idea their film would become such a major part of American film history.
Basinger attributes the movie's durability to it's technique, rather than it's content. "The plot really isn't the point of it, it's the way it's done that's made it last," she says.
"It's about the myth of Americans as being heroic, as going out into fights that aren't necessarily their own to fight, for people who are being treated unjustly," she says. "The romantic hero of Rick represents that."
"There's a kind of melancholy quality to it," she says. "The reluctance to fight unless you have to. It's romanticizing a definition of our personal American hero." Bogart has the face for this part, she says – he isn't a pretty boy. He looks weathered, rugged, and tough.
Though the movie may have been quite timely in its spirit of wartime patriotism, it has held up for 70 years. And while Bergman and Bogart will always have Paris, we will always have Casablanca.
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