Rick Blaine is the protagonist of Casablanca played by Humphrey Bogart. He was born in New York City and had to leave for some unknown reason. He has a history of being anti-fascist, running guns to Ethiopia and fighting against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. For this reason, he is on the Nazis' blacklist, and when the Axis powers invaded Paris, Rick had no choice but to flee, inviting his lover, Ilsa Lund, to join him. She abandoned him at the train station without a reason, breaking his heart. In Casablanca, Rick, now a hardened cynic, owns Rick's Café Americain, an establishment that he keeps apolitical out of self-interest. However, Ilsa Lund comes back into his life and throws it into emotional turmoil. Ultimately, we learn Rick has a strict moral code and is willing to sacrifice his own happiness for the greater good.
Ilsa Lund is the female protagonist played by Ingrid Bergman. She is from Norway and married to Victor Laszlo, a leader of the Czech Resistance. She thought her husband had died in a concentration camp and was living in Paris when she met Rick Blaine. They fell in love without knowing much about each other's pasts. Once Nazi forces invaded Paris, Rick, who was blacklisted, was forced to flee. Ilsa, however, mysteriously ditched Rick at the train station and left him heartbroken. Rick and Ilsa are reunited in Casablanca, where Ilsa and Laszlo (who turned out to be alive) are trying to obtain exit visas to escape to America. Although Rick and Ilsa both still have feelings for one another, they sacrifice their happiness for the Allied cause. Ilsa is a woman of great conviction and passion, and she ultimately has to put the former above the latter.
The Czech Resistance leader played by Paul Henreid. He is married to Ilsa Lund and considered an enemy of the Third Reich because he was running an underground newspaper in Prague even after the Occupation. He has escaped from the Nazis three times, once from a concentration camp. The Gestapo have been chasing Laszlo all over Europe and Major Strasser has arrived in Casablanca to ensure that Victor Laszlo does not escape again. However, thanks to Rick Blaine, Laszlo does obtain an exit visa and flees to America with Ilsa Lund. He does not change over the course of the film, and lacks any kind of ambiguity; to him, his participation in the underground is as necessary as breathing. Aljean Harmetz writes, "even though Laszlo symbolized all that was heroic and noble in an imperfect world, Paul Heinreid wanted to turn down the role because he instinctively understood that being weighed down by perfection is not a recipe for longevity."
Captain Louis Renault
Claude Rains plays Vichy Captain Louis Renault. He is knowingly corrupt and abuses his power as much as he can, suppressing his true political beliefs in order to remain autonomous and free to pursue his decadent lifestyle in Casablanca. However, by the end of the film, watching his friend Rick make a selfless sacrifice for the anti-fascist cause leads Renault to turn against his Vichy employers. He and Rick eventually leave Casablanca for the Free French Garrison at Brazzaville. Aljean Harmetz writes, "...the relationship between Rick and Renault lies as close to the emotional heart of the film as the relationship between Rick and Ilsa" (Harmetz 49).
Major Heinrich Strasser is played by Conrad Veidt. He is deeply aligned with the Nazi cause and, like Laszlo, does not change over the course of the film. Veidt himself described the character of Major Strasser as "the reason [Veidt] gave up Germany many years ago. He is a man who turned fanatic and betrayed his friends, his homeland, and himself in his lust to be somebody and get something for nothing." At the end of the film, Rick shoots Major Strasser in order to stop him from apprehending Victor Laszlo.
The Italian owner of The Blue Parrot in Casablanca, played by Sydney Greenstreet. Ferrari runs most of the black market in Casablanca and is a friendly rival of Rick Blaine. He eventually buys Rick's Café Americain when Rick leaves Casablanca.
A petty criminal played by Peter Lorre. He is responsible for the murder of two German couriers, which he orchestrated in order to obtain their Letters of Transit. Renault apprehends Ugarte at Rick's Café Americain and he is eventually killed in prison.
Carl the Waiter
The loyal German waiter at Rick's, played by S.Z. Sakall. Along with Victor Laszlo, Carl is also a member of the underground resistance.
A young French patron of Rick's played by Madeline LeBeau. She has an ill-fated affair with Rick. She rediscovers her patriotism after a short dalliance with a German soldier.
The pianist at Rick's Café Americain, played by Dooley Wilson. Sam came to Casablanca with Rick from Paris and remains his loyal friend and companion. Rick gives Sam 25% of the proceeds from the saloon.
A young Bulgarian refugee played by Joy Page. She has an affair with Renault in exchange for exit visas for herself and her husband, Jan. After Annina comes to Rick for help, he rigs a roulette game so that she and Jan can pay for the visas and escape Casablanca.
A Norwegian member of the Resistance who works with Laszlo in Casablanca, played by John Qualen.
The Russian bartender at Rick's Café Americain, played by Leonid Kinskey. Sascha is in love with Yvonne but she does not return his affections.
Also known as 'Dark European', played by Curt Bois. The Pickpocket warns unsuspecting foreigners in Casablanca about 'vultures' while simultaneously stealing their passports and wallets.
Emil the Croupier
The dealer at Rick's who oversees the roulette table and makes the appropriate payouts. Emil's role is played by Marcel Dalio.
A Bulgarian refugee and the husband of Annina Brandel, played by Helmut Dantine. Rick helps Jan win at Roulette so he and Annina can purchase exit visas.
A middle-aged German refugee played by Ludwig Stossel. Along with his wife, Mr. Leuchtag, starts speaking English (poorly) in preparation for their impending immigration to America.
Mr. Leuchtag's wife, played by Ilka Gruning. Like her husband, she speaks English very poorly.
The Executive Producer of Casablanca, and the youngest of the four Warner Brothers who ran their namesake studio. He was the head of Warner Bros.'s filmmaking operations based in Los Angeles. Jack Warner is credited with making Warner Brothers one of Hollywood's most successful studios, one that is still making films today.
He was known for his brash manner and opinionated rants, and often clashed with Hal Wallis, especially over Casablanca. Despite Warner's reputation for living a fast life filled with gambling and women, he and his brother Harry kept Warner Bros. the most fiscally responsible studio out of the Big Five. They had a no-frills approach to production, and along with the writers and directors, Warners' actors were also expected to accept the studio's frugality. The studio's fiscal discipline drew criticism from big stars, like Errol Flynn.
During the years leading up to American involvement in World War II, Jack Warner and his brothers were firm and public about their Anti-Nazi stance. "The first public anti-Nazi gesture by a Hollywood mogul was made by Jack Warner in 1938, when he held a fund-raising dinner at his home for the Hollywood Anti-Nazi league" (Harmetz 245).
The lead actor who plays the role of Rick Blaine. Like Rick, Bogart was born in New York City. He stumbled into acting after a stint in the Navy during World War I. He worked hard, acting in 42 films over 11 years before his well-regarded turn in the Maltese Falcon solidified his star status. One year later, his role as Rick Blaine in Casablanca made him Warner Bros.'s top box office star, replacing Errol Flynn.
Bogart treated acting as a serious profession and did not take advantage of his star status. He even said humbly about his portrayal of Rick, "Anytime that Ingrid Bergman looks at a man, he has sex appeal." During the shoot, Bogart's wife, Mayo Methot, an alcoholic, actually accused him of having an affair with Bergman (which was not true). Methot was often jealous, which made Bogart surly and unhappy on set. Regardless, Bosley Crowther of the New York Times classified Bogart's performance as "of the first order...Mr. Bogart is, as usual, the cool, cynical, efficient and super-wise guy who operates his business strictly for profit but has a core of sentiment and idealism inside. Conflict becomes his inner character and handles it credibly." He died in 1957 from cancer, and was survived by his fourth wife, Lauren Bacall, and their two children. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Humphrey Bogart as the greatest male star in the history of American cinema.
The romantic lead of Casablanca opposite Humphrey Bogart. Bergman was born to Swedish and German parents and starred in Swedish films before starring in Intermezzo in 1939. By 1941, she was under contract with David O. Selznick, who was trying to find the perfect role for his new star. Meanwhile, Bergman was married to Dr. Petter Lindstrom and living in Rochester with him and their 3-year old daughter, Pia. She was miserable in Rochester, tired of the cold and anxious to get back to work, when Hal Wallis came calling with the offer for Casablanca. The role of Ilsa Lund made her a star, even though she was confused about her character on set and it annoyed her later in life when people would tell her how much they loved her in the film.
Nevertheless, she would go on to win three Academy Awards, two Emmy Awards, and a Tony Award over the course of her epic career. Bergman's marriage to Lindstrom ended in divorce after she had a scandalous affair with director Roberto Rossellini, with whom she had two children, including actress Isabella Rossellini. That marriage only lasted 5 years, and her third marriage, to Swedish shipping heir Lars Schmidt, ended in divorce in 1975.
She died in 1982, on her 67th birthday. Her legacy as one of the world's most recognizable film stars, however, lives on today.
Harold Brent "Hal" Wallis was a producer who oversaw many iconic films for Warner Bros including Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon. Wallis had a longstanding friendship with Michael Curtiz, long before Casablanca. Curtiz credits Wallis with being the creative force behind the film, telling friends that "[Wallis] was the only person who had faith in the movie, [and] that Jack Warner was convinced the movie would be a disaster" (Harmetz 64). In fact, Wallis was the one who wrote the film's final line, when Humphrey Bogart's Rick says to Claude Rains' Renault, "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
Hal Wallis was known to be reserved but he had a bitter rivalry with Jack Warner, which reached a boiling point during the awards campaign for Casablanca. Tom Pryor, who wrote about Hollywood for the New York Times and later, Daily Variety, wrote, "After Wallis left [Warner Bros.], Warner pictures were not what they had been. [Wallis] was a cool man, a somewhat distant person, but he was the most brilliant producer this town has known" (Harmetz 31). As an independent producer, Hal Wallis was instrumental in elevating the careers of stars like John Wayne, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lewis, and Dean Martin.
His produced over 400 films over his impressive career, and died in 1986.
Rains was born in England and served in World War I, ascending the ranks to Captain. He began his career as a theater actor in London and made his American film debut in 1933 as the titular role in James Whales' The Invisible Man. He was a contract player at Warner Bros, a veteran of 32 films, and Wallis never considered anyone else for the role of corrupt Vichy official Captain Louis Renault. Rains was excited about the role, even though it meant spending the summer away from his beloved farm in Pennsylvania. "He sat on the set of Casablanca and read brochures on fertilizer and soybeans" (Harmetz 149).
Rains was married six times but had only one child. He died in 1967.
Paul Henreid was born into an aristocratic family in Austria. After a successful stint in Austrian theater, UFA (Germany's top studio at the time) offered Henreid a contract that stipulated that as an employee of the studio, he would have to up "uphold Nazi ideology" (Harmetz 97). He quickly returned to Austria and then to England before ending up penniless in New York.
After gaining some traction in Hollywood, Paul Henreid received the screenplay for Casablanca. He turned it down, saying later that he "thought it was a fairy tale". Henreid eventually accepted the role of the stiff resistance leader Victor Laszlo for the money. Ingrid Bergman wrote in her diary that Henreid exhibited prima donna behavior on set. Even though the role of Laszlo garnered him co-star billing with Bogart and Bergman, Henreid is rarely mentioned as part of what made the film so legendary. Film critic Pauline Kael writes, 'Casablanca set Paul Henreid as a stiff" (Harmetz 99).
Phil and Julius Epstein
Part of the three-person writing team (along with Howard Koch) who are credited with the screenplay of Casablanca. They were identical twins and were known for the "kind of dialogue that is usually referred to as 'sparkling'" (Harmetz 41). "Julie" Epstein described the environment for screenwriters at Warner Bros. as an assembly line. Since the Epstein brothers were notorious wisecrackers, they were often brought onto a film to make the dialogue more "zippy". Hal Wallis felt that the brothers were especially good at adapting plays into screenplays.
The Epsteins had made four films with Curtiz before Casablanca. Years later, Julie disdainfully pronounced the Casablanca screenplay as "slick shit", possibly because he was upset that Howard Koch claimed most of the credit. Koch later apologized. Conflicts aside, film professors have used Casablanca as an example of an exceptional screenplay for nearly six decades.
One of the screenwriters of Casablanca. He started on the project while Phil and Julie Epstein were taking a break to work on patriotic training documentaries for Frank Capra. Aljean Harmetz writes, "For most of Casablanca, Koch was writing behind the Epsteins and revising their work" (Harmetz 45). Although there have been a number of conflicts about which parts of the screenplay were written by which of the writers, Koch was "uniquely responsible for providing Rick with a background of fighting for the Loyalist cause in Spain and running guns to Ethiopia." Koch's political leanings eventually got him in trouble with HUAC and after 1947, he spent his career in England writing under a pen name.
Casablanca Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Casablanca is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Rick is rather a noir type of character. He is a man of the world who has seen so much crime and shady dealings. He runs his Cafe with this knowledge and does his best to keep out corruption or, at the very least, control what goes on in his bar....