Casablanca as Wartime Propaganda (1942)

Historical Problem:

Is Hollywood's most famous romantic melodrama also an example of political propaganda?

Summary of the Movie:

During World War II, the Moroccan city of Casablanca in unoccupied French North Africa served as an exit point for Europeans seeking to flee war-torn Europe. An expatriate American, Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), runs a nightclub in Casablanca where refugees try to purchase illegal letters of transit allowing them to escape to America. In December 1941, he is approached by Victor Laslo (Paul Heinreid), a leader of the anti-Nazi resistance, and his wife Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), whom Laslo had secretly married before his capture and imprisonment by the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police. Unbeknown to Laslo, during the months when he was presumed dead, Ilsa had an affair with Rick, only to leave Rick when Laslo reappeared.

German Major Strasser (Conrad Veldt) tries to stop Laslo from obtaining two exit visas stolen from two murdered German couriers. Whether Laslo and Ilsa will escape to the United States depends on Rick and on French police Capt. Louis Renault (Claude Rains).

Assignment: To examine Casablanca as an example of cinematic propaganda.

During World War II, the federal government established the Bureau of Motion Pictures (BMP) to watch over the film industry. In its "Government Informational Manual for the Motion Picture Industry," the BMP asked every producer to consider one central question: "Will this picture help win the war?"

The BMP reviewed every film made during the war. Its reports evaluate the contribution--or lack of contribution--that each film made to the war effort. Read the BMP Report and write about the way the report assesses the movie's effectiveness as propaganda.

Read the Bureau of Motion Pictures Report

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