I kicked off my classic movie quest this week with one of the most celebrated movies of all time: Casablanca.
It’s a movie packed full of memorable quotes and passionate romance, and the cast delivers an amazing performance. That being said, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed seeing it for the first time. In my mind, the movie was immortalized as a must-see film phenomenon that shook the world with its impact. I’ve seen movies that rocked my world and stuck with me for the rest of my life, but Casablanca was not one of them.
The movie is set in Nazi-occupied Morocco during World War II. Rick Blaine, played by Humphrey Bogart, owns an upscale nightclub that attracts all kinds of people, from Nazi soldiers to refugees seeking to flee them. While Blaine attempts to be neutral in the Nazi conflict, his long-lost love interest, played by Ingrid Bergman, comes strolling into the bar.
After several iconic quotes are delivered and their romantic history is laid bare, Humphrey decides to help Ingrid and her new husband flee to America, thereby sacrificing any chance at love between the two main characters. In the end, Humphrey delivers a bunch of memorable quotes in a few sentences of dialogue and strolls off into the dark mist, saddened by his doomed love but cheered by his new friend, Louis.
What I don’t understand about the movie are the memorable quotes. What makes them so memorable? Let’s take Ingrid’s first iconic quote for example:
“Play it Sam, Play As Time Goes By.”
It’s a simple enough line, right? She likes the song the piano guy is playing in the bar because it gives her nostalgic feelings of love, so she asks him to play it. It’s just a command, yet it has become one of the most famous movie quotes ever. Sylvester Stallone has better lines than that.
Humphrey has an equally perplexing iconic quote.
“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”
It’s an interesting quote, but why is it so important?
I think it has to do with the fact that the movie came out during World War II, right after the United States invaded North Africa. The historical context is extremely important to understand in watching classic movies, and this context helps me to understand how important Casablanca was at the time of its release. Basically, any line Humphrey or Ingrid spoke could have been immortalized simply because the movie came at the right time. It probably has much to do with why the movie still charts at the top of people’s all-time greatest movies lists.
Casablanca is a great simple romance and keeps you interested the whole time, but it doesn’t beat some of the other classics I’ve seen. It lacks the depth that the best films have. Maybe I’m just too young to appreciate a truly great classic, or maybe Casablanca really is overrated and nobody realized it yet.