Casablanca’s 75th Anniversary

By Ryan Zunner

Classic movie fans got to “play it again” earlier this month, with “it” being the legendary film Casablanca (1942). The cinematic masterpiece starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman celebrates it’s 75th anniversary this month, and to mark the occasion, the film was re-released in select theaters across the country.

In what is consistently hailed as one of the greatest films of all time, Casablanca tells the tale of an American ex-pat nightclub owner in Casablanca, Morocco, named Rick (Bogart) who lives a comfortable life during WWII in the fascist controlled city. Casablanca is a city filled with refugees who have fled war-torn Europe, and are at their last stop to getting to America.

Rick usually tries to separate himself from Nazi-resistance groups and the refugee process, but is pushed into it all after a past lover Ilsa (played by Ingrid Bergman) crosses paths with him in Casablanca. Not only do they have to overcome German authorities, but also those of the Vichy French and the local black market.

There is a pivotal scene in the film where a group of drunken-Nazi SS soldiers take over the piano at Rick’s Cafe and start singing the German National Anthem. A French Resistance leader who Rick is helping sees the commotion and directs the club band to play the French National Anthem. This triggers most of the club patrons to also start singing the French Anthem, and this begins a duel between the two groups to see who can play louder. Eventually, the soldiers realize they are outnumbered and are then thrown out by Rick.

A re-release of a classic that film that represents people’s resistance to nationalism in Europe cannot come at a more coincidental time. Earlier this month, far-right nationalists in Poland disrupted the nation’s independence day, per CNN. In what was supposed to be a celebration of Poland’s proud history and advances in social structure, quickly turned into thousands of peoples in bandannas and camouflage lighting flares and waving political flags advocating violence.

The issues that these far-right socio-political groups were encouraging included banning refugees and Muslims, and making Poland a pure white country. Also, one far-right protester told a Polish television station that he wanted to “remove Jewry from power.”

It is amazing to think that just 75 years ago, many citizens of countries like Poland, France, Belgium, Netherlands, etc., were once refugees themselves, and being portrayed as such in one of the greatest films of all time, Casablanca.

 

Photo courtesy Warner Brothers

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