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PHILOSOPHICAL ISSUES: moral conflict, civil disobedience

CHARACTERS: Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), Captain Renault (Claude Rains), Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt), Signor Ferrari (Sydney Greenstreet), Ugarte (Peter Lorre)

OTHER FILMS BY DIRECTOR MICHAEL CURTIZ: Adventures of Robinhood (1938), Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Life with Father (1947), White Christmas (1954),

SYNOPSIS: “A truly perfect movie, the 1942 Casablanca still wowsviewers today, and for good reason. Its unique story of a love triangle set against terribly high stakes in the war against a monster is sophisticated instead of outlandish, intriguing instead of garish. Humphrey Bogart plays the allegedly apolitical club owner in unoccupied French territory that is nevertheless crawling with Nazis; Ingrid Bergman is the lover who mysteriously deserted him in Paris; and Paul Heinreid is her heroic, slightly bewildered husband. Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Conrad Veidt are among what may be the best supporting cast in the history of Hollywood films. This is certainly among the most spirited and ennobling movies ever made.” -- Tom Keogh


1. Rick appears to have done to Ilsa what Renault was trying to do to the young Hungarian married woman. Is true love a better justification than pure lust?

2. From 1930-1968, Hollywood films were under a strict production code which prohibited sexually explicit scenes. But films during that period were still sexually suggestive. For example, in place of a sex scene between Rick and Ilsa, there is a brief but suggestive shot of a lighthouse. If Casablanca was remade today, it would most certainly contain a sex scene. What if anything would be gained by this?

3. Ilsa essentially got Victor Laszlo’s blessing to seduce Rick into giving up the transit papers. Does that make her a bad wife or him a bad husband?

4. Suppose that Renault only made the sex-for-visa offer to single women. Would there be anything wrong with that?

5. On the surface, it looks like Rick abandoned his anti-Nazi efforts once he left Paris, and then became a self-centered business man. He states to Ilsa “I’m not fighting for anything now except myself. I’m the only cause that I’m interested in.” Did Rick do anything to help the resistance movement in Casablanca, even if only indirectly?

6. Ilsa stated that she can’t fight her feelings for Rick any more, and that she couldn’t leave him again. From the audience’s perspective, is it believable that Ilsa would prefer Rick over her husband after she and Rick had been separated for so long?

7. Rick asks Victor “Don’t you sometimes wonder if it’s worth all this, I mean what you’re fighting for.” Victor responds, “You might as well question why you breathe. If you stop breathing, you’ll die. If we stop fighting our enemies, the world will die.” Is there really a parallel between the need to breathe and the need to fight for a cause as Victor suggests?

8. Rick and Sam were in some sense friends, but Sam always appeared subordinate, regularly referring to Rick as “Mr. Rick”. How might the movie’s portrayal of that relationship have appeared to audiences in the 1940s? How does it appear now?

9. From the standpoint of modern feminism, does Ilsa appear to be a strong or weak female type?


Casablanca is a great movie that details the life of a club owner in Casablanca, Morroco. During, the course of the movie he meets up with one of his past loves, except, she is with a new man. Naturally, Rick, the club owner, still has a love for the love interest in the movie. This leaves him deeply conflicted as to how he should act. During, the course of the movie it becomes apparent that the Nazis are high telling the lovers. Rick, however, has documents that would help the lovers reach safety in Portugal, which is a neutral country during the course of World War II. However, in the end Rick sacrifices his one desire, which is to reunite with his love. However, Rick acts in a selfless manner and helps the two lovers reach safety. The content in this film I believe flirts with ethics and philosophy. Rick, obviously, is very conflicted and it leaves him confounded. That in essence asks the question “What should I do, that is ethically sound, and what is my moral obligation in this matter. Overall, I really liked this movie and loved the dialogue in the movie. The dialogue has become somewhat iconic and part of American film culture. — J.M.

Casablanca serves as a prime example of 1940’s Hollywood film production at its finest. The story takes place in Casablanca, Morocco during World War II. The main character, Ricky, is the owner and manager of Caf Americain, a bar and caf in Casablanca. The audience comes to find out that Ricky works underground to help individuals get transport visas so that they may escape to America. One evening, a famous Jewish runaway named Victor Laszlo and his wife, Ilsa, show up in Ricky’s caf. Victor is on the run from the Nazi s, and is in Casablanca in the hopes to find some transport visas so that he and his wife may escape to America. It soon becomes apparent that Ilsa and Ricky know each other; and a flashback scene reveals that while Ilsa was under the impression that her husband Victor had been killed in a labor camp, she had a romantic fling with Ricky in Paris. Even though Ilsa uses her womanly affections to seduce Ricky into providing she and her husband with the transport visas, both Ricky and Ilsa realize that they cannot be together, and as they say, will always have Paris. Ilsa and Victor narrowly escape for America, and the movie closes on a happy note. This film proposes an interesting thought experiment in the way of highlighting the issue of conflicting moral obligations. For example, Ilsa loves her husband Victor and wants to be faithful to him, but she is faced with a conflicting moral obligation to seduce Ricky in order to obtain visas for she and her husband so that Victor may make strides toward a larger cause. — J.D.

Casablanca: Some movies should never be remade. No spinoffs, no unedited or remastered versions should be created for it. The movie is simply classic as is. Casablanca is one of those movies. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and not because everybody else says so, but because it was seen through the eyes of a twenty-three year old college student whose never seen the movie. I’ve only watched snippets of it. Yet I can name plenty of movies and actors who took elements away from the film and Humphrey Bogart’s character, Rick. All around good film, it was well written, acted, and directed. And it is something to appear about Rick. He controlled everything that happened within the movie, from the acquisition of the transport papers to the shooting of Major Strasser, Rick was the most powerful man in the film albeit the revolutionist and political figures where running around too. To me Rick was a chess player of sorts. He just set up the pieces and made all the right moves. Every time you think he gets cornered he turns around all plays the audience. And the relationship between him and Ilsa was something contradictory to that though. I believe she lied to him when she said that she was still in love with Rick and was only with Victor for the revolution, I think she played Rick for those papers. But I also would like to think that Rick knew that and did it just cause he wanted to and to rub Victor, the famous revolutionist’s nose in it. All in all, Humphrey Bogart is an American icon because of this film and it was his performance that laid the groundwork for Hollywood’s leading man roles, e.g. George Clooney. — B.C.

The first time I saw “Casablanca” was in high school for theatre. I do not remember why we had to view it but I sat and enjoyed myself. This time around I looked at it in a different way. I never thought about the roles women had in this film. To me, Ilsa is portrayed as a weak woman. She lets her emotions take the lead role. She is still in love with Rick, but can’t tell him. This shows some of the inferior roles women were made to play in movies during this time. Another theme that caught my eye was that of role of the black male in this film. During those times, blacks were not allowed major roles, but had to play the comic relief in the movies. This time, the role was upgraded and the black male had an important role. He was next to the lead throughout the entire movie, and he helped with the decisions Rick had to make. I am glad the movie turned out the way it did. Rick in the end made the most important decision to send Ilsa back with her husband. He saw her need to be with him and it made the movie all that much better. — C.J.

Casablanca was an incredible film. I now see why it is so high-ranked in the history of cinema. Humphrey Bogart’s portrayal of Rick was captivating. His character was complex and yet a man anyone could relate to. Anyone who has ever been in a difficult situation, lost a lover or has felt alone in the world can relate to Rick. His altruism at the end of the film does not seem contrived; that is simply the nature of Rick’s character. His attachment to Ilsa is unlike any other I have seen in a film. The tension between the two characters made the film suspenseful. This tension kept rising as we meet Victor and learn the circumstances that led Ilsa to her husband, Victor. I wanted to dislike Victor, but I could not. His dedication to his country and his cause were clear throughout the film, and so was his love for Ilsa. I cannot say I liked or disliked Ilsa; she was just sort of there. I felt sorry for the situation she was put in, both as a refugee and as a woman torn between two men. I loved the end of the movie. Rick acts as a true selfless hero when he lets both Ilsa and Victor get on the plane. Even though she was married to another man, Rick was so desperate to have her safe he encouraged them both to get on the plane. He knew life would not be good for her if she stayed with him. — C.R.

I really enjoyed watching Casablanca, mainly because my wife wanted to see it for the first time. I had seen it once when I was younger and thought I had enjoyed it. The movie has a very methodical pace and takes some getting used to. The idea for Rick to be an uncaring character was hard for me to see because Bogart only plays himself, straight and hard. I believe that the appeal of this film is the mystique behind its history, more than the plot or style. Casablanca has philosophical issues buried within the plot; but they are hard to distinguish even for a student of philosophy. Rick and Ilsa’s relationship seemed strained at best; their back-story should have been more developed. For the time period; the suggestive references to sex were quite explicit; leaving the imagination to fill in the pictures. Also for the time period, the way that Sam’s character is portrayed as the token black character is normal; but with the racist undertones of the Nazis and the true nature of racial relationships in the 1940’s – it seems forced, again an attempt to add a philosophical argument of equality, but being unable to produce an understandable dialogue where the argument can be fleshed out. Sam consistently calls Rick, “Mr. Rick” even though they had traveled across all of war-torn Europe together? — L.T.

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