The Conrad Veidt Society
By Barbara Peterson
NOTE: For a complete list of actors and the production crew of this film, go to the Internet Movie Database here.
World War II. Germany is exultant after achieving early victories. Defeated France has been split into Vichy France, which supports the Nazis, and free France, which remains free as long as it remains neutral. Refugees from countries overrun by the Nazis are desperate to reach the safety of the United States. Their only hope is to get to Casablanca, a city in French Morocco, located on the upper rim of Africa. Merely to get to Casablance is an arduous trek, but once there, the struggle is not over. If they do not have the money or influence to obtain an exit visa, they are forced to stay in the city, and survive how they can.
It is an eventful day in Casablanca. Two German couriers traveling there have been murdered, and the important documents (two letters of transit) they were carrying stolen. Nazi Major Strasser and his aides have arrived in Casablanca via plane in order to ensure that a notorious underground leader, Victor Lazlo, is not able to leave the city. Police Prefect Captain Louis Renault, and the local Gestapo chief greet Strasser at the airport. Renault assures him that the murderer of the couriers is known and will be arrested later that night.
At Rick's Cafe Americain, the refugees conduct their business, selling their diamonds or whatever they can to obtain money for exit visas. Ugarte, a seller of visas on the black market, arrives at the club, and reveals to Richard that he's the one who killed the couriers and stole the letters of transit. Ugarte asks Rick to keep them for him for a few hours. Rick agrees. Ugarte goes to gamble. Captain Renault enters, and tells Rick that there is to be an arrest in his club that night. Rick's eyes involuntarily shift in Ugarte's direction, but Louis advises against warning him. Renault also sounds Rick out over the possibility that he might be interested in helping the refugee Victor Laslo. Rick assures Renault that he sticks his neck out for nobody.
Major Strasser and his aides arrive, and are given the best table.
Strasser and Renault discussing events at the Cafe Americain.
There Strasser sees Renault's men arrest Ugarte. Minutes later, Victor Laslo and Ilse arrive at the club. The lady looks surprised when she sees Sam at the piano, and Sam also recognizes her and does not seem happy about it. After they are seated, a man approaches attempting to sell them a ring. He is a Norwegian called Berger, a member of the underground, and reveals that Laslo's contact, Ugarte, has just been arrested.
Renault introduces himself and sits down at their table. Ilse asks who owns the club, and Renault tells her about Rick. As Major Strasser walks by Renault introduces him to Laslo. Strasser informs Laslo that he would like to speak with him the next day at the prefect's office. Renault and Strasser leave, and then Laslo goes to the bar to talk with Berger.
Alone at the table, Ilse asks Sam to play As Time Goes By. Rick enters and comes
up to Sam angrily, but Sam indicates Ilse. Then comes a sequence of events that shock
Captain Renault to the core -
That night, Rick sits in his club drinking while Sam putters about, worried. Rick
knows Ilse will come. While he's waiting, and drinking, he remembers scenes of better
times in Paris, before the Occupation, when he and Ilse were very much in love. Then
the day the Germans marched in, and he waits for her at the train station, and she
doesn't come -
The next day Laslo and Ilse arrive for their appointment at Renault's office. Strasser points out that, since no one can leave Casablanca without a visa signed by Renault, Laslo is trapped there. He will not be able to leave unless he tells Strasser the names of resistance leaders in the various countries under control by the Nazis. Laslo refuses. After being informed with relish that Ugarte has been killed, they are allowed to leave the office.
While Laslo goes in search of visas on the black market, Ilsa goes open-
At the club that night, a young woman comes to Rick. Her husband is playing roulette in an attempt to win enough money for two exit visas, but of course he's losing all their money instead. Meanwhile Renault has told her that if she sleeps with him, she can have the visas. (She doesn't put it that plainly, of course). She wants to know if Renault will keep his word. Rick says he will. The young woman then says that its okay, isn't it, to do a bad thing if it will make her husband happy? Rick realizes that the woman will probably be ashamed for the rest of her life if she carries through this sacrifice for her husband, and arranges for his croupier to let the husband win the money for the visas. Renault sees this happen and is not amused.
Laslo asks to see Rick in private. Rick refuses to give him the exit visas. When Laslo wonders why, Rick says, "Ask your wife." They leave his office to see that the Germans, in their corner, have started to sing Watch on the Rhine. Laslo sets his jaw, strides up to the musicians and demand that they play Le Marseillaise. The musicians glance at Rick for confirmation, and after he nods they begin to play. Laslo leads the entire cafe in Le Marseillaise, drowning out the Germans. Furious, Strasser demands that Renault close the club. He then goes up to Ilse and makes not so veiled threats. Ilse sets her jaw as she realizes what she must do. Renault informs Rick that he is shocked, shocked to find that gambling takes place on the premises, and closes the club.
Later that night, Laslo leaves his wife to attend a resistance meeting, and Ilse
goes to Rick's apartment (above his cafe), begging Rick to give her the visas. When
he refuses she pulls a gun, but Rick disarms her with no trouble, and they embrace.
Ilse explains that, when she was in Paris, she had thought Laslo was dead, but on
the very day they were to leave, had learned that he was alive. She couldn't leave
him then. But now, seeing Rick again, she realizes she is still in love with him
as well. Suddenly there is a noise from downstairs. The Nazis had broken up the resistance
meeting and Carl has brought Laslo to the Cafe Americain to help him bind up a cut
arm. Rick calls Carl up to his apartment -
The next day Rick speaks with Renault. He advises Renault to release Laslo because
he doesn't have any proof Laslo was at the resistance meeting the night before, and
will only be able to hold him for a few days. After Renault refuses, Rick goes on
to admits that he does have the letters of transit, but that he's going to use them
himself. He is going to take Ilse with him on the last plane to Lisbon that night.
He tells Renault that if Laslo is released, he will have him come to the Cafe Americain
to pick up the letters of transit. That will be an illegal act and Renault can arrest
him and throw him into a concentration camp. Rick then goes to Ferrari to sell him
the Blue Parrot -
That night, Laslo and Ilse show up at the Cafe. Renault comes out from hiding and announces the arrest. He turns to see that Rick is holding a gun on him. Rick makes Renault call the airport to ensure there's no problem with the letters of transit. Renault calls Strasser's office instead. Strasser orders a squad of police to meet him at the airport, then hurries from his office.
Rick has Renault drive him and the two Laslo's to the airport. Laslo goes to ensure his luggage is loaded properly. Rick seizes this opportunity to tell Ilse that she must go with Laslo, because she's his reason for living. Ilse protests but Rick is adamant. Laslo and Ilse get on the plane, and it readies for takeoff. Strasser arrives as the plane starts to taxi. He picks up the phone to order the tower to recall the plane. Rick orders him to get away from the phone, but Strasser pulls a gun. Rick fires first. The police car arrives. Renault informs them that Strasser has been shot, and orders them to round up the usual suspects. The police pick up Strasser's body and hurry away. Louis decides its time to become a patriot, throwing away a bottle of Vichy water, and he and Rick walk off into the fog.
The saddest scene in the movie.
Laslo: ''May I speak with him?'' (Ugarte)
Strasser: ''You would find the conversation a trifle one-
Renault: ''I'm filling out the report now. We can't decide if he committed suicide or died while trying to escape.''
Rick: ''Remember this gun is pointed at your heart.''
Renault: ''That is my least vulnerable spot.''
To be added.
I'm not a fan of Ingrid Bergman or Humphrey Bogart, and I never have liked this film very much. I've never liked Ilse's character. For me, Louis Renault by Claude Rains carries the film. Conrad Veidt is sheer malevolence as Major Heinrich Strasser.
NOTES OF INTEREST
Veidt's film countdown
This was Conrad Veidt's 108th film.
Echoes of World War II
Marshall Petain became leader of Vichy France. A poster with his likeness on it is pasted up on a wall of one of the buildings, underneath which dies one of the refugees who flees the police because he does not have valid papers.
Charles De Gaulle refused to accept Marshall Petain's surrender of his country, and
fled to Africa to form the Free French. He was at odds with other Frenchmen attempting
to form the Free French -
Highest Paid Actor
Conrad Veidt was the highest paid actor on the set of Casablanca (on the basis of days worked for money earned).
Actor Hated His Character
Paul Henried originally turned down the role of Laslo, because the character was not dynamic enough and he felt it would hurt his career as a leading man. (It did so). Also, as a refugee from Hitler's Germany himself, he felt it would be ridiculous for a refugee leader to sit at the same table with a Nazi. After World War II broke out, the British were going to deport or intern Henried as an enemy alien. Conrad Veidt spoke out for him and he was allowed to stay in England, and eventually reach America.
I've Seen That Face Somewhere Before
The announcer who broadcasts the murder of the two couriers and the call for the rounding up of suspects is Wylie Williams, Mr. Memory from Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps.
At Rick's, a man arranging for passage is John Alexander, who played Teddy in Arsenic and Old Lace with Cary Grant.
After Rick has allowed Ugarte to be dragged away without trying to help him, a blond mustachioed man says, ''I hope you'll be more helpful when the Nazi's come for me, Rick.'' That man is actor George Meeker, who had a part just as small in the Paul Muni Angel on My Shoulder, a larger role in a Miss Withers mystery with Edna May Oliver, Murder on a Honeymoon, and made about 40 other movies in a career spanning over twenty years.
CAN ANYONE ANSWER THIS?
There are so many books and articles written about Casablanca that I don't have any questions to ask. If anyone can supply more info on the activities of Veidt, Rains and Lorre while making the film, please let me know. Also, if anyone would like me to post their questions here, please email me.
OTHER WEB SITES
Vincent's Casablanca Homepage is an excellent source for information, sounds, and photos.
To comment on this page, or to add information, please email Nocturne_CVS@yahoo.com.
Rick Blaine, proprietor of Rick's Cafe Americain
Ilse Lund Laslo, married to Victor
A Czechoslovakian freedom fighter
Major Strasser, intent on seeing Victor Laslo dead.
Captain Louis Renault, prefect of police
Sam, friend of Rick's. Piano player and singer.
Ugarte, a cut-
Ferrari, owner of the Blue Parrot, another black marketeer.
Carl, the Headwaiter at Rick's.
Berger, the Norwegian Resistance Contact
Sascha, the bartender.
S. Z. Sakall