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“Well, there are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn’t advise you to try to invade.” – Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), in Casablanca, to Nazi Major Strasser who had taunted him with the idea of Hitler invading New York.
Hitler thought that Americans were stupid, lazy mongrels who would never withstand a German military machine powered by Aryan purity. When Casablanca hit the screens in November of 1942, events seemed to be conspiring to prove Hitler right.
1942 was a bad year for the United States, though there were some victories just before the release of Casablanca. For most of the year, the Nazis seemed unbeatable and were riding high. Rommel was winning most of his battles in North Africa. Japan was running roughshod over us in the South Pacific. 1942 was the year of the Bataan Death March. The battle of Midway was an important exception, but for most of 1942 we were losing.
I doubt 1942 Americans felt like losers, but the events of that time must have been made them nervous. They couldn’t know then how the war would turn out.
Casablanca, a cinematic middle-finger directed at the Nazis, must have been a tonic for our fellow citizens in 1942. I’ll bet audiences cheered (and laughed) when Bogart said the above line.
Then there’s the scene where Victor Lazlo led the crowd in singing “La Marseillaise” in defiance of the Nazis. Imagine seeing it in 1942, not knowing whether we were winning or losing.
So give yourself a treat. Find that Casablanca DVD in your cabinet and … uh … play it again!Published in