This film is the classic story of an American café owner, Rick Blaine, who is living in Casablanca, Morocco, during World War 2. Rick is both a cynical and caring individual who came to Casablanca after falling in love with a Norwegian woman, Ilsa, during his time in Paris. Although their affair was a short one, Rick believed that they would leave Paris together, after the German armies occupied France in the summer of 1940. Unfortunately, and for reasons that Rick did not understand at the time, Ilsa chose to stay in Paris, and apparently leave Rick forever. Naturally, Rick was broken hearted. A year later, in 1941, Rick is running his own successful café in Casablanca, when Isla unexpectedly arrives with her Czechoslovakian husband, Victor Laszlo. Laszlo is well known for leading the underground movement against Hitler’s armies in Europe, and for having twice escaped from a German concentration camp. Both Isla and Victor had come to Casablanca, like so many others, to find a French exit visa that would allow them to fly to Portugal, and then travel on to America. But when they arrive, Isla is shocked to find herself with Rick again, and both Isla and Victor find it much harder than they thought it would be to obtain the exit visas that they so desperately need. While waiting for a chance to escape from Casablanca, Rick learns the real reason that Isla had left him back in Paris, and the real story of her marriage to Victor. Although Rick and Isla clearly still loved each other, Rick makes sure that when Isla and Victor get a chance to escape, Isla chooses the man she is truly supposed to be with….
A Background Note on the Geopolitical Situation:
This film takes place in 1941 in the city of Casablanca, which was and is the largest city in the North African country of Morocco. At the time, Morocco was still a French colony, but the situation was complicated by the fact that Germany had invaded France in 1940. When France surrendered, Germany agreed to not invade Southern France, but only if a pro-German government was installed. This government, located in the city of Vichy, was in charge of running France’s colonies, including Morocco. Thus, Morocco was still considered "French soil," although German military officials who came there had a great amount of influence. The French officials who ran the colony were careful not to offend the Germans, although many of them probably supported the "Free French" under General Charles DeGaulle, who was the leader of the French government in exile in London. This group rejected the authority of the government in Vichy, and continued to fight with the British against the Germans.
A note on the English used in this movie:
Except for Rick and Sam, no major character in this film is supposed to be a native English speaker. There are Czechs, Italians, Norwegians, Germans, Russians and various others, and while they all have their charming accents, they all speak perfect English. Needless to say, this isn’t realistic! It’s also worth noting that while English had already become the most important international language by the time of World War 2, French would have still been the key language of communication between foreigners in Morocco. In fact, there is quite a bit of French and German heard in this film (though no Arabic!). Still, it is English that is presented as the dominant language, thanks to decisions that were not made in Casablanca, Paris or even Berlin, but obviously, in Hollywood….