Casablanca (1942) PodcastMay 1, 2013
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Casablanca is best summarized as Harry Reasoner from 60 Minutes summarized it – “Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back again. Boy gives up girl for humanity’s sake.” But since we are not into the whole brevity thing, here is Casablanca.
Rick Blaine, played by Humphrey Bogart, is a cynical American expatriate who runs an upscale nightclub and gambling den in Morocan city of Casablanca in 1941. “Rick’s Café Américain” attracts a mixed clientele, but mostly it attracts refugees desperate to reach the still neutral United States; and those who are willing to prey on those who have little hope. Petty crook Ugarte, played by Peter Lorre, is one such predator. Ugarte shows up to the Cafe and asks Rick to hide two “letters of transit” that were obtained from two murdered German couriers. The papers, the magufin in the film, allow the bearer to travel around German-controlled Europe and to neutral Portugal. The letters of transit are priceless, and men, obviously, will kill for them. Rick agrees to temporarily hide the letters, but before Ugarte can sell them that night, he is arrested by local police under the command of Vichy Captain Louis Renault, played by the pitch perfect Claude Rains. We ultimately find out that Ugarte dies in custody without revealing that he had entrusted the letters to Rick.
The potential buyers for the letters soon arrive at Rick’s, looking for the now incarcerated Ugarte. They are Victor Laszlo, a renowned fugitive Czech Resistance leader, and his wife Ilsa Lund, played by Paul Henreid and Ingrid Bergman. We quickly learn that Ilsa is the source of Rick’s bitterness and disillusionment, having broken his heart in Paris a few years before. Victor and Ilsa are on the run from the Germans and are hoping to leave German friendly territory via the letters of transit. Victor is soon followed into Casablanca by German Major Strasser, played by Conrad Veidt, who is to see that Laszlo does not succeed…