At 75, does Casablanca still resonate?

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the release of Casablanca, one of the most celebrated motion pictures of the 20th century.   It’s a film full of excellent performances, great dialogue, and memorable quotes (that are often misquoted).  It also contains exotic locales, intrigue, humor and a few plot points that don’t make a lot of sense.  For instance, letters of transit signed by Charles DeGaulle would be worthless, since DeGaulle was a leader of the French Resistance to the Nazi occupation of France at the time of the film’s production and release.

As much as we love Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains (all of whom were nominated for Oscars, and none of them won!), the most powerful scene for us is one where the principals are almost incidental.  It’s the scene where Nazis have taken over Sam’s piano and are singing the German nationalist song “Die Wacht am Rhein (“The Watch On The Rhine”).  Enraged by this, Victor Laszlo requests the house band play “La Marseillaise,” the French national anthem.  The crowd at Rick’s Cafe Americane take their cue from Victor and joins together in song to drown out the Nazis.

The message is simple but powerful: “There are more of us than there are of them.”

Since Casablanca premiered during the darkest days of World War II, the power of this message cannot be overestimated.  World War II is long over, but this a message that still resonates.  While oppressive forces remain a constant in the world, they will always be outnumbered by the good people who will win out in the end.  The “Marseillaise” scene never fails to bring tears to our eyes.  That’s why Casablanca remains relevant today and also why it still appeals to movie fans born long after the war.

Casablanca screens at the Byrd, under the Big Screen Classics banner theme “April in Paris”.

Wednesday, April 5th @ 7:15 PM
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Wednesday, April 12th @ 4:30 PM
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