Play It Again – Casablanca

Play It Again – Casablanca. By Jess Lomas.

Play It Again is a weekly feature in which classic-film connoisseur Jess Lomas revisits a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up… or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line (hey, whatever; it fits!).

“Play it once, Sam. For old times’ sake.” This is one of cinema’s most misquoted lines, and provided the name for this regular feature. The film in question, 1942’s Casablanca, is undoubtedly a Hollywood classic that falls in the “never should be remade” category alongside Gone With the Wind.

Directed by Michael Curtiz (Mildred Pierce), Humphrey Bogart stars as the weary American expatriate Rick Blaine, living in Casablanca during the early stages of the Second World War. He runs a nightclub that provides access for refugees seeking illicit letters of transit to escape to America, attracting the unwanted attention of Captain Renault (Claude Rains).

When Victor Laslo (Paul Henried), a famed rebel, seeks his help to acquire papers for himself and his wife, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), Rick is reunited with his once true love – Ilsa. Despite fleeing him when the Nazis invaded Paris, Ilsa now wants to stay with Rick in Casablanca, however the film’s honest depiction of the way the heart makes one act sees Rick discover love and virtue are one and the same.

Despite the film’s popularity now, at the time of its release those involved were not aware they were creating something so unique. Written by Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch, the film went on to win Best Picture, Best Director and Best Writing, Screenplay at the Academy Awards. It also earned nominations for Best Leading and Supporting Actor, and Best Cinematography, Black and White, amongst others.

Interestingly, the film was shot in sequence as the script pages were still being written during production, resulting in a surprise ending not only for those involved in the film, but for the audience too. The film’s famous closing lines were recorded several weeks after shooting had concluded.

For a film that is written about countless times, what is it that makes Casablanca such an endearing story? It gives its audience a perfect balance of drama, romance, political tension and even laughs, and despite some wooden characters and some weak dialogue, the romance portrayed by Bogart and Bergman makes the film a true Old Hollywood classic.

Casablanca is available on DVD and Blu-ray, and can be streamed immediately on our Watch Now service.

3 Responses to “Play It Again – Casablanca”

  1. I’m note sure I agree with the notion that ‘she now wants to stay in Casablanca’. To me the beauty of the film is that one is never sure. According to legend so to were the writers. As you alluded to they wrote jut in advance of shooting – with a few options for the ending (does she go, stay etc). Apparently after they shot the actual ending – the directors decided that was the right one. So many great lines too. Agree is cannot be made again.

  2. Her name is Ilsa, not Isla.

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