“Play La Marseillaise. Play it!”

 

A few weeks ago, I was arguing with a friend about a movie. I was strongly in favor; she was apathetic, to say the least.

Some of you, like my friend, may not be fans. It’s possible you are offended by the many continuity gaffes. Perhaps you can’t get past the clunky, rather claustrophobic, sets. Maybe you’ve never liked Bogart, even in The African Queen. (Gosh. I hope that’s not it. Really.) Possibly, you can’t abide the fact that they used ¾-scale cardboard airplane models in the final airport scene and that they hired a gaggle of midgets in overalls to run around on the tarmac, to make the planes look bigger.

Or perhaps you consider yourself a fashion maven, and you simply despise that absurd flying-saucer hat thing that Ingrid Bergman wears on her visit to the market.

I forgive it all. And more.

Casablanca is my favorite movie of all time.

And it sports the only scene, in the entire world of moviedom, that makes me cry every single time I watch it (probably at least fifty times and counting).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTsg9i6lvqU

There’s no kissing. There are no promises of eternal love in the face of impending death. There’s no sex. There’s no violence. There’s no real action of any sort.

There’s hardly even any dialog. As with much good acting, most of it is done with the eyes.

And so we see first, Captain Renault’s knowing glance up to the balcony where Victor Lazlo stands, outraged, and where Rick is realizing, for the first time I think, that his days as a bystander in this particular fight are over. And as Lazlo stalks down the stairs and over to the musicians and orders them to strike up La Marseillaise in opposition to the Nazis singing of Die Wacht Am Rhein, and Rick permits it, we see Ilsa’s beautiful and troubled face, etched with worry, fear, and pride, as she contemplates the two men she loves in such very different ways.

Yes. It makes me sob every time.

Because, for me, in the simplest way, and without any special effects or action heroes, it’s the story of one man who understands the consequences, because he’s already lived them, standing up for what he believes in, against the odds and in the face of evil.

And, for the people he touches, he changes everything.

Paul Henreid, who played Victor Lazlo in Casablanca, died 25 years ago today, on March 29, 1992.

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  1. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Fun fact. That scene was filmed in pieces, days apart and put together. The scene where the trombone player looks at Rick was filmed separately, after the main scene was filmed. When Paul Henreid saw this take he asked what it was for because the trombone player should be looking at him. The directors told him it was nothing important. Bogie nodding (at 1:06) was filmed one day after everyone else had left. He was told to nod, as if greeting a friend. As with Henreid, he was not told why he was doing this.

    The actors making Casablanca never saw the film while they were making it. They had to go to the theater to see what they had produced. Bergman never saw the film until the 1970s when she sat through a retrospective showing.

    Seawriter

    • #1
  2. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    Fun fact. That scene was filmed in pieces, days apart and put together. The scene where the trombone player looks at Rick was filmed separately, after the main scene was filmed. When Paul Henreid saw this take he asked what it was for because the trombone player should be looking at him. The directors told him it was nothing important. Bogie nodding (at 1:06) was filmed one day after everyone else had left. He was told to nod, as if greeting a friend. A

    Exactly.  And somehow, inexplicably, it all still works.  For me, anyway.

    • #2
  3. Tony Sells Member
    Tony Sells
    @TonySells

    Such a great scene and great movie, and dare I say the best national anthem?

    • #3
  4. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    You left out the trumpet player looking for the high sign.

    We do this and we’ll get closed down. So — we doing this?

    Normally, one would have expected the Nazis to be belting out the Horst Wessel song, but the Nazi Party held the copyright to that and would then have had grounds to prevent the film from being shown in neutral countries. So, the 1870’s era Wacht am Rhein it was.

    There was a war on.

    • #4
  5. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    The scene where the trombone player looks at Rick was filmed separately …

    Trumpet player. Trombone players never look for cues.

    • #5
  6. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    She: And so we see first, Captain Renault’s knowing glance up to the balcony where Victor Lazlo stands, outraged, and where Rick is realizing, for the first time I think, that his days as a bystander in this particular fight are over.

    Actually there were two glances, and thus one of the continuity errors. First, Rick is alone on the balcony as Renault walks across the screen and looks up at him. A second later, Lazlo steps in behind Rick and we then see Renault at the bar look up at Rick and Lazlo.

    Was Renault looking for Lazlo to intervene or Rick? Given that the film itself is an analogy to WW2, I assume Rick.

    • #6
  7. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Tony Sells (View Comment):
    . . . dare I say the best national anthem?

    One of them, anyway.

    Actually, I’m shocked (shocked) that the words are still sung in the twenty-first century (translations vary slightly, but you’ll get the idea):

    Arise children of the fatherland
    The day of glory has arrived
    Against us tyranny’s
    Bloody standard is raised
    Listen to the sound in the fields
    The howling of these fearsome soldiers
    They are coming into our midst
    To cut the throats of your sons and consorts

    To arms citizens
    Form your battalions
    March, march
    Let impure blood
    Water our furrows  (translation from the Evening Standard)

    • #7
  8. KC Mulville Member
    KC Mulville
    @KCMulville

    She:There’s no sex. There’s no violence. There’s no real action of any sort.

    There’s hardly even any dialog. As with much good acting, most of it is done with the eyes. […]

    Because, for me, in the simplest way, and without any special effects or action heroes, it’s the story of one man who understands the consequences, because he’s already lived them, standing up for what he believes in, against the odds and in the face of evil.

    Well said. Thank you.

     

    • #8
  9. ST Member
    ST
    @SimonTemplar

    KC Mulville (View Comment):

    She:There’s no sex. There’s no violence. There’s no real action of any sort.

    There’s hardly even any dialog. As with much good acting, most of it is done with the eyes. […]

    Because, for me, in the simplest way, and without any special effects or action heroes, it’s the story of one man who understands the consequences, because he’s already lived them, standing up for what he believes in, against the odds and in the face of evil.

    Well said. Thank you.

    Yep.

    • #9
  10. Jeff Peterson Member
    Jeff Peterson
    @PatJefferson

    The scene that always gets me is the one in which the young bride fleeing Bulgaria with her husband comes to Rick asking for advice and receives help instead: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xD_bKVAZJBw. (“I stick my neck out for nobody” — ha!) Is there a movie that does a better job depicting the dramas of individual lives against the backdrop of events among nations? It’s amazing that a film that was pulled together down to the last minute works so well.

    • #10
  11. JcTPatriot Member
    JcTPatriot
    @JcTPatriot

    It’s actually not my favorite Bogart movie, that is absolutely The African Queen. I have a few issues with Casablanca, and you mentioned a couple of them. However, there is no doubt that it is one of the greatest movies of all time.

    I’m commenting here to recommend another Bogart movie that most people have never heard of, most likely.

    Criterion just released a fabulous Blu-Ray version of “In A Lonely Place” and it is a top-notch video transfer with a new audio transfer that is flawless.

    Fun fact about this film: The lead actress, Gloria Grahame, was married to the director, Nicholas Ray, and during filming, their marriage was falling apart. I think a lot of the pain in her eyes in this movie was not acting.

    • #11
  12. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Percival (View Comment):
    Normally, one would have expected the Nazis to be belting out the Horst Wessel song, but the Nazi Party held the copyright to that and would then have had grounds to prevent the film from being shown in neutral countries. So, the 1870’s era Wacht am Rhein it was.

    Wacht am Rhein better fit the theme of the scene. It is a song about barbarians attacking across the Rhine to invade the homeland.

    The cry resounds like thunder’s peal,
    Like crashing waves and clang of steel:
    The Rhine, the Rhine, our German Rhine,
    Who will defend our stream, divine?

    Dear fatherland, no fear be thine,
    dear fatherland, no fear be thine,
    Firm and True stands the Watch, the Watch at the Rhine!
    Firm and True stands the Watch, the Watch at the Rhine!

    Which, of course, is what the Marseillaise is about, too. In the case of the former, the barbarians are the French, in the latter, the various Germans (since Germany did not then exist).

    Point and counterpoint. And the Warner Brothers (one of the few anti-Nazi studios in 1940) do not have to pay royalties to the Nazis.

    Seawriter

     

    • #12
  13. Franz Drumlin Member
    Franz Drumlin
    @FranzDrumlin

    According to legend, and personal memory which often has a way of creating and shaping a legend, the Epstein brothers were still working on the screenplay as the movie was being filmed. They claim they came up with line “Round up the usual suspects!” while in the car on the way to the studio for the final day of shooting. Funny how artists can sometimes ‘make better than they know.’ How does this come about? Tom Stoppard, the co-screenwriter for Shakespeare in Love has an answer:

    • #13
  14. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Incidentally a first rate book about the making of Casablanca is We’ll always have Casablanca : the life, legend, and afterlife of Hollywood’s most beloved movie  by Noah Isenberg. Just out. Just read it. Really liked it.

    Seawriter

    • #14
  15. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Franz Drumlin (View Comment):
    According to legend, and personal memory which often has a way of creating and shaping a legend, the Epstein brothers were still working on the screenplay as the movie was being filmed. They claim they came up with line “Round up the usual suspects!” while in the car on the way to the studio for the final day of shooting. Funny how artists can sometimes ‘make better than they know.’ How does this come about? Tom Stoppard, the co-screenwriter for Shakespeare in Love has an answer:

    So you are saying the airport scene was the last day of filming. This contradicts.

    The line had been used earlier in the film. Thus they would have recalled it more than came up with it.

    • #15
  16. Amy Schley Moderator
    Amy Schley
    @AmySchley

    She (View Comment):

    Tony Sells (View Comment):
    . . . dare I say the best national anthem?

    One of them, anyway.

    Actually, I’m shocked (shocked) that the words are still sung in the twenty-first century (translations vary slightly, but you’ll get the idea):

    Arise children of the fatherland
    The day of glory has arrived
    Against us tyranny’s
    Bloody standard is raised
    Listen to the sound in the fields
    The howling of these fearsome soldiers
    They are coming into our midst
    To cut the throats of your sons and consorts

    To arms citizens
    Form your battalions
    March, march
    Let impure blood
    Water our furrows (translation from the Evening Standard)

    Interesting musical/historical tidbit: France loses when this is their national anthem.  All the great victories under Napoleon I and III were accomplished singing “Partant pour la Syrie.”

    (And yes, I’m counting WWI and WWII as French losses. Getting rescued by the winning side isn’t the same as winning.)

    • #16
  17. Franz Drumlin Member
    Franz Drumlin
    @FranzDrumlin

    ctlaw (View Comment):
    So you are saying the airport scene was the last day of filming. This contradicts.

    The line had been used earlier in the film. Thus they would have recalled it more than came up with it.

    Hence the ‘legendary’ aspect to that line. You can bet words such as ‘suspects’ and ‘usual’ tossed about when the Epstein brother were spitballing during writing sessions. But what a great story: the final day of shooting, the studio is pushing the Epsteins to come with some element that would tie the story together, their screenwriting careers in jeopardy, when on the drive to the studio the line drops into their minds at the same instant. Print the legend, as they say.

    • #17
  18. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    A wonderful scene from a great movie.

     

    • #18
  19. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    This great post is a part of our Quote of the Day series. You can participate in April by signing up here:

    http://ricochet.com/419286/quote-of-the-day-signup-and-schedule-for-april-2017/

     

     

    • #19
  20. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @nandapanjandrum

    Lovely, stirring, and memorable indeed, @she.

    James Stewart’s filibuster in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939) affects me in just the same way.  No  muss, no fuss, no frills to be had – but, thrills aplenty.

    • #20
  21. Umbra Fractus Member
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    With the caveat that I do not use, “the best,” and, “my favorite,” interchangeably: Casablanca is the best film ever made. It strikes the perfect balance between artistry and entertainment

    • #21
  22. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    Lovely, stirring, and memorable indeed, @she.

    James Stewart’s filibuster in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939) affects me in just the same way. No muss, no fuss, no frills to be had – but, thrills aplenty.

    Since we are talking about France, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” was the last American movie shown in France before the Germans banned American movies.  (Some theaters continued to show the movie after the ban in defiance.)  It was also the first one shown after the ban was lifted.

    • #22
  23. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    Lovely, stirring, and memorable indeed, @she.

    James Stewart’s filibuster in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939) affects me in just the same way. No muss, no fuss, no frills to be had – but, thrills aplenty.

    For me, it’s Joel McCrea’s stirring speech as, in effect, Edward R. Murrow broadcasting from wartime London in “Foreign Correspondent” (1941), filmed when America was still neutral. “Don’t tune me out, America. Defend yourself. Ring yourself with guns and steel. Keep those lights lit, America. They’re the only lights left in the world”. I’d seen the movie for decades, but my wife and I re-watched it a couple of days after 9/11 and I’m not ashamed to say we both cried.

    • #23
  24. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    “Over? Did you say over? Nothing is over until we decide it is. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”

    • #24
  25. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    In 1987 we did a big, risky, expensive repackaging of the Los Angeles film festival into the American Film Institute, and for our opening night event we (shrewdly!) made it a tribute to the late producer Hal Wallis. This gave us a hook to get one of the Epsteins, as well as Bette Davis, Lauren Bacall, Lisabeth Scott, Anjelica Huston (because of her dad) a-a-a-nd, our biggest prize of all–a certain former Warners star who sent us taped greetings from the Oval Office. Of course, later Epstein made a Reagan joke, but it was a goodhumored, gentle one.  That “Casablanca” scene got big applause. It seemed hard to believe there were still so many people around 46 years later.

    Now it’s 30 years since then. Hard to believe.

    • #25
  26. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    It seemed hard to believe there were still so many people around 46 years later.

    Now it’s 30 years since then. Hard to believe.

    The last surviving Casablanca cast member died in May of last year.  Madeleine Lebeau played Yvonne, and must have been only about 19 at the time.

    • #26
  27. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    “We’re not Watusi. We’re not Spartans. We’re Americans, with a capital ‘A’, huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world.”

    • #27
  28. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    She (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    It seemed hard to believe there were still so many people around 46 years later.

    Now it’s 30 years since then. Hard to believe.

    The last surviving Casablanca cast member died in May of last year. Madeleine Lebeau played Yvonne, and must have been only about 19 at the time.

    @quinntheeskimo had a great post post on the movie upon her passing last May.

    • #28
  29. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    My father-in-law insisted on sharing this movie with his grandkids over Spring Break. They all loved it. There were tears, and laughter, and everyone talked about the movie all the next day.

    • #29
  30. Arjay Member
    Arjay
    @

    She (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    It seemed hard to believe there were still so many people around 46 years later.

    Now it’s 30 years since then. Hard to believe.

    The last surviving Casablanca cast member died in May of last year. Madeleine Lebeau played Yvonne, and must have been only about 19 at the time.

    Her defiant singing of the anthem makes me tear up every time I see it.

    • #30

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