Dooley Wilson tells Humphrey Bogart to get his act together. Image: Telemagazyn

Movies, especially modern movies, changed for us when we saw Casablanca (1942) the first time.

That’s not to say we don’t like modern cinema; indeed, we were treated to some real gems in 2022, including:

  • Top Gun: Maverick, because of the Over-The-Top fossil-fuel adrenaline after two years of lockdowns.
  • See How They Run, a cheeky, self-knowing nod to whodunnits and Alfred-Hitchcock-style storyboarding.
  • Guitar Lessons, a powerful Canadian indie flick that you must see if you get the chance.

Casablanca was not the first old movie we saw. We (yours truly) discovered classic film as a young teenager, when we fell in love with Laurel and Hardy shorts, along with Bob Hope in The Princess and the Pirate, and the faintly cynical Warner Bros. animated shorts.

We heartily appreciated these comedies; however, they didn’t prompt us to actively source classic film. But when we stumbled over the WWII drama Casablanca, we unearthed a whole substrata of cinema we knew little about.

When we were in our late teens, a local television station aired Casablanca late one Saturday night. We went into it Unimpressed and prepared to hate-watch an insipid melodrama.

But Casablanca is not that movie. We discovered a smart film with witty lines, fascinating characters, and an underlying current of Dread.

Our movie viewing hasn’t been the same since.

Conrad Veidt and Claude Rains conspire to take over the city โ€“ and the movie. Image: Pixels

Our family didn’t Go To The Movies very often Back in the Day; indeed, no theatre chain grew rich from our attendance. Most of the entertainment we received was from the three channels on our television, which we were probably lucky to get, considering we lived in a rural area.

We (yours truly) were impatient with viewing choices before we saw Casablanca. We were quick to point out continuity errors and perceived script weaknesses, as though our opinions made things better.

Strangely, our siblings felt our editorializing lessened their viewing enjoyment. They resented it, and eventually we learned to keep our mouth Shut if there was to be any peace in the household.

So, it’s hardly surprising that we should see Casablanca alone. Ironically, we watched it all The Way Through without comment or criticism.

It was, perhaps, the most sophisticated film we’d ever seen. It balanced an ill-fated romance with a taut political situation, and when it was over, we felt elated and a little cheated. Where had this wonderful film been all our life?

We liked the nuance in the storytelling, and that things didn’t need to be Spelled Out. We liked the runtime at just over 100 minutes, and that the story could be told in 100 minutes. We liked the absence of drawn-out, preachy sequences, which ensured a steady, even tempo.

These things became our Requirements for a Good Movie, and, we must admit, they still are.

Sidney Greenstreet (l) counsels Paul Henreid and Ingrid Bergman. Image: Quora

Now, we don’t mean to oversell Casablanca. It has its flaws and convenient plot devices, but it’s not the only film guilty of these sins.

You’ve likely heard all the stories about the production: How other writers were brought in to round out the flashback/romance; how the script was being re-written as it was filmed; and how the ending was altered slightly in post-production.

Yet the film doesn’t feel chaotic. It gives you the feeling it knows where it’s going, and it rewards you with a fabulous pay-off. This, surely, contributed to the film’s seven Academy Award nominations. (It won two, including Best Picture.)

If you haven’t yet seen Casablanca, consider this your homework assignment. If you have seen this legendary film, do you remember the first time you saw it?

This is part of the DISCOVERING CLASSIC CINEMA Blogathon hosted by The Classic Film and TV Corner.

Casablanca: starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid. Directed by Michael Curtiz. Written by Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch. Warner Bros., B&W, 1942, 102 mins.

Happily blogging about old movies and using the royal "We".

36 Comment on “How Casablanca Ruined Us for Other Movies

  1. Pingback: The Discovering Classic Cinema Blogathon Arrives! – Classic Film And TV Corner

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