- Casablanca review by Steve Mason
Casablanca is perhaps the ultimate justification for the Hollywood studio system. It wasn't a prestige project. No one knew they were making a classic. But because Warners had great salaried talent to call on, they transformed an unproduced one act play set in Casablanca in WWII into something enduring and universal.
It lacks realism in some respects, but it feels true. During the cathartic scene when the refugees of many countries sing La Marseillaise in Rick's cafe to drown out the Germans' anthem, the cast and extras were in tears for real. Many of them were refugees themselves. Humphrey Bogart and Dooley Wilson are the only American actors.
What makes the film cohesive is Max Steiner's unmistakable score and Julius and Philip Epstein's legendary script. What exalts the film is the compelling romance between Rick (Bogart) and Ilsa (Ingrid Berman). She gives the film so much of its emotional intensity, he delivers the sassy humour and famous epigrams with immortal cool.
The many famous production complications perhaps contributed to the impression of a precarious world. Casablanca could have been yet another film on the Warner's roster. But it is loved, because it captures a sensation of the uncertainty of exile at crossroads in history while touching our hearts and giving us faith in a greater good.
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