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Play it again, Casablanca

Nobody ever thought that Michel Curtiz's Casablanca would turn into a classic. In 1942, when Warner Brothers released it in the middle of World War II, the film attracted very little attention, writes Gautaman Bhaskaran.

hollywood Updated: Mar 12, 2012 15:18 IST
Gautaman Bhaskaran

Nobody ever thought that Michel Curtiz's Casablanca would turn into a classic. In 1942, when Warner Brothers released it in the middle of World War II, the film attracted very little attention. However, over the years, Casablanca went on to develop an almost cult status with many of its lines and characters becoming immortal.

Who can forget Humphrey Bogart as a salon-keeper in Casablanca, the city where people driven by the Nazi monstrosities fled to in the hope of finding visas for the New World or America? Often hidden in cigarette smoke that he blew out, Bogart's Rick Blaine ran his Rick's Café Americain, deeply cynical and saddened by the memory of his brief love affair in Paris with Ilsa Lund, played with exceptional brilliance by Ingrid Bergman, whom he addressed as "kid".

Ilsa was tormented by her love for Rick, as she was by her immense regard for her husband, Victor Laszlo, a Hungarian Resistance fighter. "What about us? She tearfully asks Rick one night. "We would always have Paris", he soothes her despairing heart.

Beyond these unforgettable characters and their lines was an array of equally excellent performers: Claude Rains as the local French cop, Captain Louis Renault, whose loyalties were certainly with those fighting Hitler, and Dooley Wilson, whose Sam the pianist and Rick's Man Friday invoked a line as celebrated as Play it Sam.

Warner Home Video is now all set to rekindle the magical romance of Casablanca on the movie's 70th anniversary, March 27. A three-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack in a gift set - which includes a reproduction of the 1942 French poster, a 60-page production art book and collectible drink coaster set - will be out that day. The discs also come with two documentaries - Casablanca: An Unlikely Classic and Michael Curtiz: The Greatest Director You Never Heard Of.

As many of us would watch Casablanca, perhaps for the zillionth time, on Blu-ray, we would be prodded to walk down memory lane with Rick and Ilsa, his line, "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine", taking us back to days when cinema moved us as nothing else.