Casablanca (1942)

Film and Plot Synopsis

In Casablanca, Rick Blaine is a cynical expatriate running a nightclub in Casablanca, Morocco during the onset of WWII. Despite the wariness of local authorities, Rick’s cafe is something of a haven for refugees seeking to obtain illicit letters that will help them escape to America. One night, when a woman named Ilsa and her husband show up, Rick finds himself in a tough dilemma as Ilsa is an old flame that still burns in his heart. If he is to help the two, there will be unforeseen complications, much heartbreak, and one tough decision to make.

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‘Casablanca’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
Casablanca (1942)In Casablanca, Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) is an American expatriate who runs an upscale nightclub/gambling den in Casablanca, Morocco 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 (Peter Lorre), is one such predator. Ugarte shows up to the Cafe and asks Rick to hide two letters of transit they took 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, the local police, under the command of Vichy Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains), arrest him. We ultimately find out that Ugarte dies in custody without revealing that he had entrusted the letters to Rick.

A haunting guest shows up in the cafe

Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), a renowned fugitive Czech Resistance leader, and his wife Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) soon arrive at Rick’s; looking for Ugarte. Ilsa is the source of Rick’s bitterness and disillusionment; having broken his heart in Paris a few years before. Victor and Ilsa are fleeing the Germans, and hope to leave the territory via the letters. German Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt) follows Victor into Casablanca to see that Laszlo does not succeed.

With Ugarte’s death, Laszlo makes inquires about the location of the letters of transit. Signor Ferrari (Sydney Greenstreet) is a major underworld figure and Rick’s friendly business rival. He suggests to Laszlo that Rick has the letters. When Laszlo confronts Rick, he refuses to sell at any price, telling Laszlo to ask his wife the reason. Strasser leads a group of officers in the German anthem; interrupting Laszlo. Laszlo pokes the bear with a rousing rendition of the French national anthem to drown out the Germans. In retaliation, Strasser orders Renault to close Rick’s club.

That night, Ilsa confronts Rick in the deserted café. When he refuses to give her the letters, she threatens him with a gun. She can’t shoot because she still loves him. She explains that she believed her husband was dead when they first met in Paris; killed in a concentration camp. It was only when preparing to flee Paris with that she learned that Laszlo was alive and in hiding. She left Rick without explanation to tend her ill husband. Reunited as lovers, Rick agrees to help Ilsa. She leads him to believe that she will stay behind with him once Laszlo leaves.

Laszlo and the transit papers

Aware of Ilsa’s feelings for Rick, Laszlo also arrives at his Café. He tries to persuade Rick to use the letters to take Ilsa to safety. The police arrest Laszlo on a minor, trumped-up charge, and Rick convinces Renault to release him. Rick promises to set Laslo for a much more serious crime; possession of the letters of transit. To allay Renault’s suspicions, Rick explains he and Ilsa will be leaving for America.

When Renault tries to arrest Laszlo as arranged, Rick forces him at gunpoint to assist in their escape. At the last moment, Rick makes Ilsa board the plane to Lisbon with her husband. She would regret it if she stayed. “Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life.”

Major Strasser, whom Renault tipped off, drives up alone. Rick shoots Strasser when he tries to intervene. When the police arrive, Renault pauses, then tells them to round up the usual suspects. As they walk off into the fog together, Renault suggests to Rick that they join the Free French at Brazzaville—the sequel that the studio never made for Casablanca.

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Warner Bros. Pictures released Casablanca to theaters on January 23, 1943. Michael Curtiz directed the noir classic which starred Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid.

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