Category Archives: 1934

Casablanca (1943)

Goal Progress: 81/485

“I think this may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

I wish I could say that about Casablanca. Instead I’m saying it about my new library card and my discovery that the local library system has free access to half of the movies that I have to see. It was a good day in that respect.

But back to Casablanca. Anytime a new “Best Films of All Time” list comes out, Casablanca is inevitably right at the top alongside such classics as Gone with the Wind and The Godfather. Having said that, when I put the movie in, I was expecting a film of the highest quality. Unfortunately, it looks like my expectations far overshot the reality of my experience with the film. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a terrible film. There’s a reason that it’s survived the ages, but I’m not sure it deserves the pedestal that it get put up on.

The film is set in, where else but, Casablanca. Rick, an American (Humphrey Bogart), owns a nightclub in the city, where he famously doesn’t stick his neck out for anyone. One night, Czech resistance leader Victor Laszlo shows up in Rick’s club with his wife, who is no other than Rick’s onetime Paris love, Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman). In Paris, the two fell in love (“Here’s looking at you kid.”). It seems that when the Nazis invaded Paris, Ilsa had told Rick that she would run away with him to avoid the Nazis, only to disappear from his life, leaving only a note. Unbeknownst to Rick at the time, Ilsa was already married to Laszlo. Laszlo tries to no avail to get from Rick two letters of transit which would allow for him and Ilsa to escape the Nazis in Casablanca. After a romantic reunion with Ilsa, Rick decides to use his letters of transit for himself and take Ilsa with him. Or so he tells Ilsa. His real plan is to help Laszlo and send her away to be with her husband. After a tearful goodbye (“Here’s looking at you kid.”), Ilsa gets on the plane with Laszlo just before the Nazis arrive.

Here’s what I didn’t really like about the film. 1. I found it really boring. Not much of anything happens and when it does, it take forever and a day. Most of the movie is set in Rick’s club. There’s lots of dialogue and sometimes its hard to determine all the characters different motivations and their relationships with each other. 2. I didn’t really find any of the characters to be particularly likeable. I didn’t really find myself caring about Rick and Ilsa’s relationship because she was kind of a bitch to him in Paris, and he was just an ass to everyone in the rest of the film.

The only part I really liked was the last maybe 20 minutes, where everything came together and the “lovers” had their goodbye (“Here’s looking at you kid.”).

What I (being a history major) found interesting about Casablanca is that it’s a film that was made during World War II and was also SET in in World War II. It was made without any knowledge about whether or not the Allies would free France, Casablanca would fall to the Nazis, or if the Allies would even win the war! It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a point in time when it was not clear that the Axis Powers would be defeated.

So in conclusion. Casablanca. Not a terrible movie. But maybe not as good as everyone says.


San Francisco (1936)

Goal Progress: 80/485

Walking out of the theatre, my friend Erin said “Well that was entertaining, though probably not for the reasons the studio intended.”

Oh Erin, how true….how true. The movie is very funny today, much funnier I’m sure than when it premiered in 1936. Some films from this era age so gracefully that they might have been made a week ago (see future blog entries on Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz). Sadly, San Francisco is not one of those films….(and yes, I did say theatre…a local movie theatre has a summer classic film series so I got to experience this film on the big screen from the balcony of an old theatre).

The story involves club owner, Rhett Butler Blackie Norton…. (played by the handsome Clark Gable) signing a new talent, the pure and gentle Mary Blake (Jeanette MacDonald), who dreams of being an opera star. Eventually, she is noticed by a man who owns a theatre and he wants to buy her contract from Blackie. The problem? Blackie loves Mary and doesn’t want to lose his star. Eventually, he lets her go to be happy (a la Beauty and the Beast), only to have her return to him, just to leave again when she is persuaded that he is taking advantage of her for her talent. She gets engaged to the opera owner….blah blah blah….somewhere in there she has a discussion over whether its better to settle for love or money…..blah blah blah….theres a scene about choosing love over a successful career in there too somewhere….blah blah blah….San Francisco earthquake….blah bl….wait what?????

Yes, the main selling part of the movie (besides the stars). The last fifteen minutes involve the Great Earthquake of 1906. I have to say, that for a movie that’s 85 years old…..there were some damn good effects. Legend says that survivors of the real event attended the film’s premiere and that the accuracy of the scene literally made them sick. The film is worth watching for this scene alone.

Afterwards, Blackie walks around the rubble for days (literally….without stopping) looking for Mary. Eventually, he finds her, and the whole city sings “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and they rebuild the city. The End.

I only recommend seeing this movie if you’re trying to watch all of the Oscar nominated films. If not, just watch this clip of the first part of the earthquake sequence and you’ll be set for life.