to The History of American Film: Primary Sources
OF MOTION PICTURES REPORT (1942)
Feb., 1943 (Sched.)
by Julius and Philip Epstein and Howard Koch, from play by
Murray Burnett and Joan Alison
III B (United Nations - Conquered Nations) Drama
Minor: II C 3 (Enemy - Military)Drama
the standpoint of the war information program, CASABLANCA is a
very good picture about the enemy, those whose lives the enemy
has wrecked and those underground agents who fight him unremittingly
on his own ground. The war content is dramatically effective.
Many excellent points are scored:
The film presents an excellent picture of the spirzt of the underground
movement. Victor Laszlo, a Czech patriot, has fought fascism by
printing the truth about it in illegal newspapers in Prague and
Paris. He has suffered in a concentration camp, from which he
finally escaped. Unintimidated by his experiences he plans to
continue his work. In Casablanca, a Norwegian anti Nazi says:
"The underground is well organized here as everywhere."
We learn that people of all nationalities meet secretly everywhere,
despite the danger, planning the destruction of the oppressor.
Their courage, determination and self sacrifice should make Americans
proud of these underground allies.
Some of the chaos and misery which fascism and the war has brought
are graphically illustrated. Refugees of all nationalities are
crowded into Casablanca. A few have money, but it goes quickly.
They attempt to sell their jewels, but the market is flooded.
Some refugees are reduced to stealing; women sell themselves;
others bribe corrupt officials who in turn double-cross them.
There are pickpockets, murderers, Black Markets in visas. Personal
honor and dignity have departed; degradation and treachery have
taken their place. This is part of what fascism has brought in
its wake. Another facet of Nazi aggression is shown in scenes
which depict the Nazi march into Paris. A sense of the honor and
confusion of the French population is very well projected.
It is shown that personal desire must be subordinated to the task
of defeating fascism. To Laszlo and the other underground workers,
the defeat of fascism is of paramount importance. The heroine
and the man she loves sacrifice their personal happiness in order
that each may carry on the fight in the most effective manner.
They realize that they cannot steal happiness with the rest of
the world enslaved.
It is brought out that many French are by no means cooperating
wholeheartedly with the Nazis. Renault, the French Prefect of
Police, tells Rick that he "goes the way the wind blows."
He is cynical and not above taking bribes. Yet, when Rick, the
American hero murders Strasser, Renault not only allows him to
escape, but goes with him to the nearest Free French garrison.
Then again, the French people in Rick's cafe, led by Laszlo, the
Czech patriot, courageously sing the Marseillaise to drown out
the song of their conquerors. Here is illustrated the love and
pride of the French in their country, conquered though it is.
We feel that it will rise again.
America is shown as the haven of the oppressed and homeless. Refugees
want to come to the United States because here they are assured
of freedom, democratic privileges and immunity from fear. The
love and esteem with which this country is regarded by oppressed
peoples should make audiences aware of their responsibilities
as Americans to uphold this reputation and fight fascism with
all that is in them.
Some of the scope of our present conflict is brought out. It is
established that Rick, the American cafe owner, fought for the
loyalists in the Spanish Civil War, and for democracy as far back
as 1935 and 1936, when he smuggled guns for the Ethiopians. Points
like these aid audiences in understanding that our war did not
commence with Pearl Harbor, but that the roots of aggression reach
The film presents a good portrayal of the typical Nazi. In the
arrogant Major Strasser, with his contempt for anything not German,
his disregard for human life and dignity, his determination that
all peoples shall bow to the Third Reich, we get a picture of
the Nazi outlook. These are the kind of men who would enslave