Bill Cunningham’s Film of the Week is the 78 year old Casablanca. Another great choice and well worth watching if you haven’t seen it before (it’s currently on the BBC i-Player).
This week’s choice is a film from 1942 that is listed as one of the greatest films ever made, Casablanca. Although initially not a great success it is now considered a classic war romantic drama that won three Oscars including Best Film and Best Director for Michael Curtiz, plus one for the Screenplay.
The cast is an astonishing list of great Hollywood stars with Humphrey Bogart as the mysterious Rick who owns an American Café in Casablanca in Free French Morocco and Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa, his one time lover and husband of resistant leader Victor Lazlo played by Paul Henreid. Claude Rains is the duplicitous French Police Chief and Conrad Veidt is the ruthless Nazi Major Strasser. Sidney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and the wonderful avuncular S.Z. Zakall are familiar faces from the 1940’s. And of course, Dooley Wilson who plays that song even though he was a drummer and faked the piano playing!
Many of the cast were refugees from Europe (only three of the credited cast were born in the USA) and many of the extras similarly were escapees from the war so much so that in the famous scene when the Marseillaise was sung to blot out a Nazi anthem many were seen to be in tears. This lends the film an authenticity that still comes through plus those famous lines from Bogart that are still quoted today. No matter how many times I have seen it I love the characters, the atmospheric photography and the directness of the story telling played to perfection.