views updated May 08 2018


USA, 1942

Director: Michael Curtiz

Production: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.; black and white, 35mm; running time: 102 minutes. Released November 1942. Filmed at Warner Bros. studios.

Producer: Hal B. Wallis; screenplay: Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch, contributions by Aeneas Mackenzie and Hal Wallis among others, from an unpublished play Everybody Comes to Rick's by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison; photography: Arthur Edeson; editor: Owen Marks; sound: Francis J. Scheid; production design: Carl Jules Weyl; set decoration: George James Hopkins; music: Max Steiner; songs: Herman Hupfeld and M. K. Jerome; special effects: Laurence Butler and Willard Van Enger; costumes: Orry-Kelly (gowns); technical advisor: Robert Alsner; opening montage: Don Siegel.

Cast: Humphrey Bogart (Rick); Ingrid Bergman (Ilsa Lund); Paul Henreid (Victor Laszlo); Claude Rains (Captain Louis Renault); Conrad Veidt (Major Strasser); Sydney Greenstreet (Senor Ferrari); Peter Lorre (Ugarte); S. Z. Sakall (Carl, a Waiter); Madeleine LeBeau (Yvonne); Dooley Wilson (Sam); Joy Page (Annina Brandel); John Qualen (Berger); Leonid Kinsky (Sascha, a Bartender); Helmut Dantine (Jan); Curt Bois (Pickpocket); Marcel Dalio (Croupier); Corinna Mura (Singer); Ludwig Stössel (Mr. Leuchtag); Ilka Gruning (Mrs. Leuchtag); Charles La Torre (Tonelli, the Italian officer); Frank Puglia (Arab vendor); Dan Seymour (Abdul); Lou Marcelle (Narrator); Martin Garralaga (Headwaiter); Olaf Hytten (Prosperous man); Monte Blue (American); Paul Pracasi (Native); Albert Morin (French offcer); Creighton Hale (Customer); Henry Rowland (German officer); Richard Ryen (Heinz); Norma Varden (Englishwoman); Torben Meyer (Banker); Oliver Blake (Blue Parrot waiter); Gregory Gay (German banker); William Edmunds (Contact); George Meeker (Friend); George Dee (Casselle); Leo Mostovoy (Fydor); Leon Belasco (Dealer).

Awards: Oscars for Best Film, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, 1943.



Epstein, Julius J., Philip G. Epstein, and Howard Koch, Casablanca:Script and Legend, edited by Koch, New York, 1973; also in Michael Curtiz's "Casablanca," edited by Richard Anobile, New York 1975.


McCarty, Clifford, Bogey: The Films of Humphrey Bogart, New York, 1965.

Michael, Paul, Humphrey Bogart: The Man and His Films, Indianapolis, 1965.

Warner, Jack, My First 100 Years in Hollywood, New York, 1965.

McBride, Joseph, editor, A Collection of Film Criticism, Madison, Wisconsin, 1968.

Quirk, Lawrence J., The Films of Ingrid Bergman, New York, 1970.

Barbour, Alan G., Humphrey Bogart, New York, 1973.

Brown, Curtis F., Ingrid Bergman, New York, 1973.

Canham, Kingsley, Michael Curtiz, Raoul Walsh, Henry Hathaway, London, 1973.

Parish, James Robert, and Michael R. Pitts, editors, The Great SpyPictures, Metuchen, New Jersey, 1974.

Baker, M. Joyce, Images of Women in Film: The War Years 1941–45, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1980.

Francisco, Charles, You Must Remember This: The Filming of"Casablanca," Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1980.

Pettigrew, Terence, Bogart: A Definitive Study of His Film Career, London, 1981.

Rosenzweig, Sidney, Casablanca and Other Major Films of MichaelCurtiz, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1982.

Taylor, John Russell, Ingrid Bergman, London, 1983.

Ray, Robert B., A Certain Tendency of the Hollywood Cinema1930–1980, Princeton, New Jersey, 1985.

Winkler, Willi, Humphrey Bogart und Hollywoods Schwarze Serie, Munich, 1985.

Eco, Umberto, Faith in Fakes, London, 1986.

Kinnard, Roy, and R.J. Vitone, The American Films of MichaelCurtiz, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1986.

Leamer, Laurence, As Time Goes By: The Life of Ingrid Bergman, New York, 1986.

Fuchs, Wolfgang J., Humphrey Bogart: Cult-Star: A Documentation, Berlin, 1987.

Jarvie, Ian, Philosophy of the Film: Epistemology, Ontology, Aesthetics, New York, London, 1987.

Harmetz, Aljean, Round Up the Usual Suspects: The Making ofCasablanca—Bogart, Bergman, and World War Two, New York, 1992.

Lebo, Harlan, Casablanca: Behind the Scenes, New York, 1992.

McArthur, Colin, The Casablanca File, London, 1992.

Miller, Frank, Casablanca: As Time Goes By, 50th AnniversaryCommemorative, Atlanta, 1992.

Siegel, Jeff, The Casablanca Companion: The Movie and More, Dallas, 1992.

Robertson, James C., The Casablanca Man: The Cinema of MichaelCurtiz, London, 1993.

Osborne, Richard E., The Casablanca Companion: The Movie Classic and Its Place in History, Indianapolis, 1997.


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Variety (New York), 2 December 1942.

The Times (London), 13 January 1943.

Cooke, Alistair, "Epitaph for a Tough Guy," in Atlantic Monthly (Boston), May 1957.

Luft, Herbert, "Peter Lorre," in Films in Review (New York), May 1960.

Sarris, Andrew, "Likable But Elusive," in Film Culture (New York), Spring 1963.

Stein, Jeanne, "Claude Rains," in Films in Review (New York), November 1963.

Dienstfrey, Harris, in Film Culture (New York), Fall 1964.

Nolan, Jack Edmund, "Michael Curtiz," in Films in Review (New York), September 1970.

Sarris, Andrew, in Village Voice (New York), 8 January 1970.

Kinskey, Leonid, "It Lingers Deliciously in Memory as Time Goes By," in Movie Digest, September 1972.

Vernhes, M., in Cinéma (Paris), March 1973.

Day, B., "The Cult Movies: Casablanca," in Films and Filming (London), August 1974.

"Casablanca Revisited: 3 Comments," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), October 1976.

Rubinstein, L., in Cineaste (New York), Summer 1977.

McVay, D., in Focus on Film (London), 30, 1978.

Greenberg, J., "Writing for the Movies: Casey Robinson," in Focuson Film (London), April 1979.

Hanson, Stephen L., in Magill's Survey of Cinema 2, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1981.

Ross, C., "The Great Script Tease," in Film Comment (New York), November-December 1982.

Sigal, Clancy, in Listener (London), 12 July 1984.

Eco, Umberto, "Casablanca: Cult Movie and Intertextual Collage," in Substance (Madison, Wisconsin), vol. 14, no. 2, 1985.

Altman, R., "Dickens, Griffith, and Film Theory Today," in SouthAtlantic Quarterly (Durham, North Carolina), no. 2, 1989.

Parshall, P. F., "East Meets West: Casablanca vs. The Seven Samurai," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), no. 4, 1989.

Jorholt, E., "Spil den igen og igen og igen, Sam!" in Kosmorama (Denmark), Fall 1989.

Wilson, Robert F., Jr., "Romantic Propaganda: A Note on Casablanca's Prefigured Ending," in Film and History, vol. 19, no. 4, December 1989.

Gabbard, K., and G. O. Gabbard, "Play it Again," in Journal ofPopular Film and Television (Washington, D.C.), no. 1, 1990.

Davis, J. H., "Still the Same Old Story: The Refusal of Time to Go By in Casablanca," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), no. 2, 1990.

Deutelbaum, M., "The Visual Design Program of Casablanca," in Post Script (Commerce, Texas), no. 3, 1990.

Helman, A., "Dekonstruuje Casablanke," in Kino (Warsaw), March 1990.

Case, Brian, "As Time Goes By," in Time Out (London), 1 July 1992.

Corliss, R., "Still Talking," in Film Comment (New York), November-December 1992.

Norman, Barry, in Radio Times (London), 12 August 1995.

Stackpole, J., "A Converted Classic," in Audience (Simi Valley, California), no. 188, April/May 1996.

Télérama (Paris), 6 November 1996.

Boon, Kevin A., "Scripting Gender: Writing Difference," in Creative Screenwriting (Washington, D.C.), Spring 1997.

Larson, R.D., in Soundtrack! (Mechelen), December 1997.

* * *

"I have discovered the secret of successful filmmaking," says Claude Chabrol sarcastically, "Timing!" Casablanca belongs in the vanguard of films created by the era they so flawlessly reflect. Assured and expert, it is not in either substance or style superior to its director Michael Curtiz's Mildred Pierce or Young Man With a Horn. Bogart, Bergman, Rains, and Henreid all gave better performances; of those by Greenstreet, Lorre, Kinsky, and Sakall, one can only remark that they seldom gave any others. Producer Robert Lord categorized the story on the first reading as "a very obvious imitation of Grand Hotel;" Jerry Wald saw parallels with Algiers. Both were right.

Hal Wallis wanted George Raft to star and William Wyler to direct. Both declined. (There is some evidence he also planned it as a vehicle for the Kings Row team of Ronald Reagan and Ann Sheridan, with Dennis Morgan in the Henreid role. And both Lena Horne and Ella Fitzgerald had a chance at the singing part taken eventually by Dooley Wilson.) Vincent Sherman and William Keighley likewise refused the project before it went to Curtiz.

Casablanca might have joined Sahara and Istanbul on the shelf of back-lot travelogues had an Allied landing and summit conference in the north African city not coincided with the film's November 1942 release. Topicality fed its fame. Curtiz, accepting an unexpected Academy Award in March 1944, betrayed his surprise. "So many times I have a speech ready, but no dice. Always a bridesmaid, never a mother. Now I win, I have no speech." The broken English was entirely appropriate to a film where only Bogart and Dooley Wilson were of American origin.

Beyond its timing, Casablanca does show the Warners' machine and Curtiz's talent at their tabloid best. The whirling globe of Don Siegel's opening montage and the portentous March of Time narration quickly define the city as a vision of the wartime world in microcosm. The collaborative screenplay, signed by Julius and Philip Epstein, and Howard Koch, but contributed to by, among others, Aeneas Mackenzie and Wallis himself (who came up with Bogart's final line), draws the characters in broad terms, each a compendium of national characteristics.

Bogart, chain-smoking, hard-drinking, arrogant, is the classic turned-off Hemingway American. Henreid, white-suited and courteous, is a dissident more akin to a society physician, untainted by either Communism or bad tailoring. The Scandinavian virgin, untouchable in pale linen and communicating mainly through a range of schoolgirl grins, Bergman's Ilsa succumbs to passion only when she pulls a gun on the unconcerned Rick, triggering not the weapon but a revival of their old affection.

The remaining regulars of Rick's Cafe Americain, mostly accented foreigners, dissipate their energies in Balkan bickering, petty crime, and, in the case of Claude Rains's self-satisfied Vichy policeman, some improbable lechery dictated by his role as the token, naughty Frenchman, all moues and raised eyebrows. Cliché characterization leads to a range of dubious acts, notably the fawning Peter Lorre, an arch intriguer and murderer, entrusting his treasured "letters of transit" to Bogart's moralizing ex-gunrunner, a gesture exceeded in improbability only by Bogart's acceptance of them.

As with most formula films, technique redeems Casablanca. Arthur Edeson's camera cranes sinuously through Carl Jules Weyl's Omar Khayyam fantasy of a set. Typical of Curtiz's work is the razor-sharp "cutting on action" by Owen Marks, a legacy of the former's Hungarian and Austrian training. He forces the pace relentlessly, even to dissolving the back projection plate in mid-scene during the Parisian flash-back, an audacious piece of visual shorthand.

Narrative economy distinguishes the film. As its original material (an unproduced play by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison) suggests, Casablanca in structure is a one-set play; many events take place offstage, from the murder of the couriers to the resistance meeting attended by Henreid and Sakall that is broken up by the police. Everybody Comes to Rick's is an apt title, since it's the ebb and flow of people through the cafe's doors that gives the story its sole semblance of vitality. As an entity, Casablanca lives on the artificial respiration of ceaseless greetings, introductions, and farewells. Even the Parisian flashback does little to elucidate the characters of Rick and Ilsa. They remain at the end of the film little more than disagreeable maitre d' and troublesome patron.

In 1982, the journalist Chuck Ross circulated Casablanca's script as a new work to 217 American literary agents. Of those who acknowledged reading it (most returned it unread) 32 recognized the original, while 38 did not. Clearly this betrays the profound ignorance of the agenting community. But also implicit in their ignorance is Casablanca's unsure standing as a work of art. Unremarkable in 1942, it rose to fame through an accident of timing. No better written or constructed today, it exists primarily as a cultural artifact, a monument of popular culture. Woody Allen was right in his Play It Again, Sam to show the film as one whose morality, characters, and dialogue can be adapted to social use; icons now, they transcend their original source. It is as folklore rather than as a cinematic masterwork that Casablanca is likely to survive.

—John Baxter


views updated May 29 2018


The script for Casablanca (1942), one of the most successful films of all time, arrived at the Warner Brothers Studio the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 8, 1941. Timing is just one of the many reasons why this legendary film about patriotism, love, exile, and sabotage is often referred to as the happy result of a series of accidents. If the studio had carried out its original plans to cast Ronald Reagan as Rick Blaine or Ella Fitzgerald as Sam, now

infamous lines and lyrics like "Here's lookin' at you, kid" and "As Time Goes By" may never have attained the same powerful significance they have had for generations of movie fans. Set in French Morocco during WWII, Casablanca was directed by Michael Curtiz and starred Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Peter Lorre, Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, and Conrad Veidt. Based loosely on a play entitled Everybody Comes to Rick's, Casablanca profiles the life of Rick Blaine (Bogart), an embittered nightclub owner with a broken heart and a checkered past. Blaine is exiled in Casablanca as a result of the Nazi invasion in Europe. His elegant casino/bar, Café Americain, is the unofficial meeting point for war refugees attempting to purchase exit visas on the black market to reach the United States. Rick's life comes to a halt when when his long lost love, Ilsa (Bergman) comes into town in search of exit papers for herself and her husband, famed resistance fighter Victor Laszlo (Henreid).

This comparatively low-budget, romance/adventure film was recognized as a masterpiece from the beginning. Casablanca won several Oscars at the 1943 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Writing. The film also received nominations for Best Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, and Best Music of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture. Some critics attribute the timeless freshness of the movie's dialogue to the fact that nobody working on the film, including the scriptwriters, knew how the film would turn out until the last minute. In spite of the relatively low-budget of the film, playwrights Murray Burnett and Joan Alison were offered the highest fee ever paid for an unproduced play—$20,000—for Everybody Comes to Rick's.

Filmed almost entirely in the Warner Brothers soundstage in Burbank, Casablanca is one of the most popular films of all time. In 1973, a Los Angeles Times headline announced that Casablanca was ranked as Warner Brothers' most popular film in fifty years. The runners-up in this public poll were The Maltese Falcon (1941), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966), A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948). In 1977, the American Film Institute disclosed its list of the best American films of all time before President Carter and a television audience at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Casablanca came in third place, behind Gone With the Wind (1939) and Citizen Kane (1941).

The film's director, Michael Curtiz, was born Mihaly Kertesz in Hungary. Curtiz came to Warner Brothers from Austria in 1926, having already made 62 silent pictures, and went on to become one of the studio's top money-earners. Between the period of 1930 and 1940 alone, he directed 45 talking films ranging in genre from horror to westerns to gangster films. Curtiz's Mission to Moscow (1943) was listed in the FBI's "Communist Infiltration of the Motion Picture Industry" file as a source of Communistic propaganda. Though Jack Warner defended the film while it was in production in a letter to Ambassador Davies, his later humiliation and fear as a result of making the movie have been attributed to his readiness to turn dozens of employees over to the House Committee on Un-American Activites (HUAC) in 1947.

Given the fact that most Americans resisted the idea of U.S. involvement in the war in Europe at the time during which Casablanca was set, Jack Warner has been viewed as having declared war on Germany early, not only with Casablanca, but with earlier films like Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939) and Underground (1941). Of all the Hollywood moguls at the beginning of the war, Harry and Jack Warner were anti-Nazi at a time when opposition to Hitler was far from common. In July 1934, Warner Brothers became the first studio to close down operations and leave Germany. MGM, Fox, and Paramount, by contrast, continued to operate in Germany up to 1939. Between the period of 1942 and 1945, Hollywood produced 500 features films which dealt with war subjects directly and were designed to foster the nation's support for the Allied war effort.

One of the more popular interpretations of Casablanca's success posits that it is a political movie centered around resistance to fascism. A 1942 Motion Picture Herald article portrayed the film as a tribute to the occupied people of France. Its opening night performance in New York was sponsored by the organizations "France Forever" and "Free French War Relief." A French delegation of Foreign Legion-naires, recently returned from battle, as well as leaders from the DeGaulle movement, marched in a parade from Fifth Avenue to the opening of the film at the Hollywood Theater. The political film interpretation focuses on the anti-fascist aspects of Casablanca and places importance on Ingrid Bergman's character and her relationship to fascism.

According to critic Umberto Eco, writing in " Casablanca : Cult Movies and Intertextual Collage," Casablanca can also be seen as a cult object. As such, it possesses the following qualities: it provides its audience with a completed vision of the world which fans can incorporate into their own world; using quotes and trivia from the film as a form of shared expertise, the narrative can be dislocated so that one need only remember a part of it, regardless of its original relationship to the whole film; and the film displays a variety of ideas and does not contain a central philosophy of composition. The cult paradigm revolves around near worship of Bogart's masculinity and patriarchal discourse and the repitition of key moments in the film's narrative. Casablanca diehards, for example, have elevated the status of the song "As Time Goes By," a song which references the romantic relationship between Rick and Ilsa, at the expense of other important songs, like "La Marseillais." What Casablanca possesses, Eco argues, is a heavy amount of archetypal appeal which creates a feeling of déjá vu, drawing audiences to the film again and again.

Regardless of how the movie is interpreted, stories of the movie's making continue to enthrall fans. According to Ingrid Bergman, for example, the movie's narrative was invented at the same time the movie was shot. Not even Curtiz knew whether Ilsa would end up with Rick or with Victor until far into the shoot. Because of this continual state of improvisation on the set, the scriptwriters conjured up any number of archetypal tropes and threw them into the plot. Some claim that this almost baroque overabundance of stock formulas is the secret to Casablanca's timeless success. Ingrid Bergman, known for her cleanly appearance and objection to wearing makeup, was universally liked on the set of Casablanca, by hairdressers and wardrobe people alike. She was patient, easy to work with, and did not demand privileges, though she was not given to forming lasting friendships with any of the people on the set. By contrast, Humphrey Bogart is said to have been obsessive about everything from his love scenes, to the script, to his own personal life. He has been called every name in the book, from "troublemaker" to a "real guy"; Warner Brothers publicist Ezra Goodman once called him "sadistic." Bogart is said to have been good friends with Claude Rains and Peter Lorre. Lorre and Bogart lived a few blocks from each other in the Hollywood Hills and worked together on two other Bogart movies, The Maltese Falcon (1941) and All Through the Night (1942).

Popular for nearly six decades, Casablanca has reverberated throughout American culture. Aside from numerous songs, book titles, comedy routines, commercials, and magazine advertisements that have made reference to the film over the years, in 1972, Woody Allen made his own tribute to Casablanca, entitled Play it Again Sam, in which he wore a trenchcoat like Rick Blaine and repeated the famous "Here's looking at you, kid" speech in the context of a narrative about sexual difficulties and masculinity. In this scenario, Casablanca was recreated as a cult object which references Bogart and his style of masculinity. Bogart's character is said to have sparked an onslaught on trench coat sales, and the image of him in the coat in the original Warner Brothers poster purportedly launched the movie poster business. In the late 1940s and 1950s, Casablanca was an important film on college campuses as cinema began to be viewed as a serious art form. In the 1970s, a string of Rick Blaine-styled bars and cafes began to appear in a variety of cities in the United States with names like Play It Again Sam (Las Vegas), Rick's Café Americain (Chicago), and Rick's Place (Cambridge, Massachusetts).

—Kristi M. Wilson

Further Reading:

Eco, Umberto. " Casablanca : Cult Movies and Intertextual Collage."In Modern Criticism and Theory: A Reader, edited by David Lodge. London and New York, Longman, 1988.

Francisco, Charles. You Must Remember This… : The Filming of Casablanca. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice-Hall, 1980.

Harmetz, Aljean. Round Up the Usual Suspects: The Making of Casablanca: Bogart, Bergman, and World War II. New York, Hyperion, 1992.

Koch, Howard. Casablanca. New York, The Overlook Press, 1973.

Lebo, Harlan. Casablanca: Behind the Scenes. New York, Simon &Schuster, 1992.

McArthur, Colin. The Casablanca File. London, Half Brick Images, 1992.

Miller, Frank. Casablanca, As Time Goes By… : 50th Anniversary Commemorative. Atlanta, Turner Publishing, 1992.

Siegel, Jeff. The Casablanca Companion: The Movie and More. Dallas, Texas, Taylor Publishing, 1992.


views updated Jun 08 2018


CASABLANCA (Ar. Dār al-Baiḍā ), largest city and harbor of (former French) *Morocco, known as Anfa during the Middle Ages. The city was destroyed by the Portuguese in 1468, and its Jewish community was dispersed. Moses and Dinar Anfaoui (i.e., "of Anfa") were among the signatories of the taḳḳanot of Fez in 1545. In 1750 the Rabbi Elijah Synagogue was built, but it was only in 1830 with the arrival of Jewish merchants, principally from *Mogador, Rabat, and *Tetuan, that the community really developed. At the beginning of the 20th century there were 20,000 inhabitants, of whom 6,000 were Jews. There were then two synagogues, eight talmud torah schools, and four private schools. The first *Alliance Israélite Universelle school, founded in 1897, was supported by the local notables. After the plunder in 1903 of Settat, an important center of the region, the community received 1,000 Jewish refugees. Later, Casablanca was itself devastated by rebellious tribes, and a large number of its inhabitants were massacred in August 1907. Among the Jews, there were 30 dead, others gravely injured, and 250 women and children abducted. By 1912 Casablanca had become the economic capital of Morocco and, thereby, an important center for the Jews of Morocco, as well as for their coreligionists all over North Africa and Europe. The Casablanca community distinguished itself in all spheres by the intensity of its activities. Many of its members held high positions in commerce, industry, and the liberal professions.

Urbanization and Growth of the Community

The process of urbanization in Morocco during the 20th century turned Casablanca into both the country's major economic center and the place of the chief concentration of its Jews. The new Jewish population was young. Many Jewish immigrants to Casablanca were like the Muslims who were moving from agriculture to modern professions, but they resembled no less the city's European residents: the more skillful Jews became agents for French commercial companies; others joined the ranks of the French bureaucracy or became suppliers to its administration and army or telephone and telegraph companies. Casablanca required numerous officials, lawyers, notaries, technicians, and manual workers. In all these fields, Jews had to compete with other groups. Socioeconomic differences were expressed in residential areas as well. The more affluent lived among the Europeans in Casablanca's new quarters, the poor resided in the suburbs, in the medīna or the Muslim quarters. Among the Jews immigrating to Casablanca from 1850 to the early 20th century were those from the villages in the Middle Atlas who had suffered from the arbitrary rule of the Ḳāids or the internecine quarrels of the Berber tribes. In 1931 Jews numbered close to 20,000 (out of a total population of 163,000), almost as many as the longer established community in Marrakesh. In 1936–51 their number grew by more than 90% (while the number of Muslims tripled), but most continued to live in their own *mellah – both for socioeconomic reasons and because they felt safer there.

The upper class of Casablanca's Jewish community founded numerous philanthropic societies to care for the needs of their coreligionists who arrived in successive groups from the interior of the country. The new arrivals, who were often without any means of livelihood, gathered in the mellah district of the ancient medina and lived in great poverty. The "community council" provided them with various kinds of support, the funds for which were collected from a tax on meat and from private donations. The schools of the Alliance also provided free education. During World War ii the anti-Jewish policies of the Vichy government restricted the rights of the Jews, especially in Casablanca, where a Gestapo office was active, and even deprived them of their livelihood until the landing of the Allies in 1942. A transit camp was later set up near Casablanca for about 3,000 Jewish refugees from Spain, Malta, Libya and Greece, most of whom migrated to the U.S. After the liberation of Morocco, many Jews from the interior, often only the men, were attracted to Casablanca by the city's prosperity. For more than 35 years the community was led by Yahia Zagury (d. 1944). Principal spiritual leaders of the community had included Hayyim Elmaleh (d. 1857), David Ouaknin (d. 1873), Isaac Marrache (d. 1905), Moses Eliakim (d. 1939), and Ḥayyim Bensussan. A bet din continued to deal with matters of personal status, ritual slaughter, and supervision of the cemeteries. Rabbis continued to encourage the community and, in some cases, to stand up for the poor, R. David Danino, who devoted most of his writings to remonstrate with the rich about their indifference to their less fortunate brethren. Among the well-to-do were immigrants from Algeria, who had their own synagogues, like the splendid Beth-El.

[David Corcos /

Shalom Bar-Asher (2nd ed.)]

From 1945

The Zionist movement intensified its activities among Jews in Muslim lands following the end of World War ii, including Morocco, the largest Jewish community among those lands. Plans were drawn up to bring to Ereẓ Israel not only Jews from the 19 towns but also from the Sahara desert and the Atlas mountains, where about a third of Morocco's Jews were living. Transit camps were set up throughout Morocco in 1947–48 and Zionist groups established in the towns increased their activity as Morocco's independence drew near.

Between 1948 and 1968 tens of thousands of Moroccan Jews went to Casablanca, either to settle there or to await emigration. Numerically, the drop in population resulting from the emigration was offset by the constant influx of Jews from the provinces so that the population figures of the Jews in the town hardly changed until 1962. In 1948 the number of Jews in Casablanca was estimated at about 70,000; while census reports indicated that 74,783 Jews in 1951 (34% of Moroccan Jewry) and 72,026 Jews in 1960 (54.1% of the total Jewish population of Morocco) lived in Casablanca. However, in 1964 the number of Jews in Casablanca was estimated at only about 60,000 out of the 85,000 Jews in Morocco. There followed a large-scale exodus of Jews from the town; their numbers were not replenished by new arrivals. Out of a total of 50,000 Moroccan Jews there remained an estimated 37,000 in Casablanca in 1967 and no more than 17,000 out of a total population of 22,000 Jews in the following year. Until Morocco gained its independence, Casablanca Jews did not enjoy equal rights, and in 1949 only 600 of the 70,000 Jews in Casablanca had the right to vote in municipal elections. From 1956, however, when all Moroccan Jewry acquired equal rights, Jews in Casablanca voted and were elected in municipal elections. In 1964 three Jewish representatives sat on the Casablanca City Council, and in 1959 Meyer Toledano was elected deputy mayor. From 1948 to 1968 there were several instances of attacks on Jews, particularly on the eve of Moroccan independence (1956) and to a lesser extent after the Six-Day War of June 1967. The authorities did their utmost to protect the Jewish population.

R. Ḥayyim ben Shushan officiated as the head of the bet din and afterwards, for 23 years, R. Shalom Mashash, one of the greatest Sephardi poskim, until his death in 2003. Among the best-known rabbis of his bet din were R. Moses ben Malka, R. Isaac Hazan, and R. Makhluf Abihatsira.

As the largest Jewish community in North Africa, Casablanca had many communal institutions, including schools of Alliance Israélite Universelle, Otsar ha-Torah (which had 2,079 pupils in 1961), Em ha-Banim, and *ort. There was also a rabbinical seminary, Magen David, founded in 1947. A total of 15,450 pupils attended Casablanca Jewish educational establishments in 1961 but most of these institutions closed after 1965. The community had many charitable organizations, administered by the community committee. The *American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee carried out social and professional activities in the city, starting in 1949. Its representative was a lawyer, Helen Cazès ben Attar, a prominent leader of Casablanca's Jews who later was a strong Zionist activist. *wizo also had an office in town. All these were closed down in 1957 after Morocco became independent, but the Joint, as an American institution, was permitted to resume its activities, which it did until the early 1990s.

In 2005, around 3,000 Jews remain in Morocco. Regular community activities were held only in Casablanca: a community center and a primary school (named after Maimonides), of whose pupils 20% had to be Arabs by government order. A Chabad school operated as well. Some 30 minyans were active, but most of the synagogues were only partly attended. The city's Jews consisted mostly of businessmen and elderly people, while the young preferred to get an education in Europe or Israel; many of these did not return home. The city has become a starting point for Israelis coming on "roots tours" or on business.

[Hayyim J. Cohen /

Shalom Bar-Asher (2nd ed.)]


B. Meakin, Land of the Moors (1901), 179–83; N. Leven, Cinquante Ans d'Histoire… (1920), 83–86; J.L. Miège, Maroc, 2 (1961), 178–83; 3 (1962), 26–28; 4 (1963), 377–81; (index). add. bibliography: Y. Bauer, American Jewry & the Holocaust (1981), 202–5; D.F. Eickelman, Knowledge and Power in Morocco (1985), 72–79; M. Laskier, The AIU and the Jewish Communities of Morocco 1862–1962 (1987), 100–47.


views updated Jun 11 2018


largest city in morocco.

As of 2002, Casablanca (al-Dar al-Bayda, in Arabic) had a population of 3,334,300. The wilaya (province) of Greater Casablanca, which covers 646 square miles (1,615 sq km), is composed of twenty-three urban districts and six prefectures. Situated on the Atlantic coast, the city is the principal maritime and air transport hub and the major industrial center of the country.

The site of modern Casablanca was occupied by Anfa, a commercial center in the thirteenth century. After being held briefly by the Portuguese, who called it Casa Branca (White House), it was abandoned in ruins about 1468. The village was rebuilt in 1770 by Sultan Muhammad III (17571790), who translated the name into Arabic as al-Dar al-Bayda. It was later retranslated into Spanish as Casablanca.

Muhammad III hoped to encourage trade with Europe through the port of Essaouira (Mogador); thus Casablanca remained small and inactive. When the tribes of the Shawiya district around Casablanca revolted in the 1790s, Sultan Sulayman (17921822) closed Casablanca and several other ports to European commerce. It began to revive under Sultan Abd al-Rahman (18221859), who reopened it to commerce in 1831. Trade slowly grew from 3 percent of Moroccan maritime trade in 1836 to 10 percent in 1843. The port handled mainly agricultural produce: hides, wool, and grain. The population was estimated at 1,500 in the late 1850s and perhaps 4,000 a decade later as European merchants set up agencies, and steamship services started to call. By the late 1880s the population had increased to around 9,000. Although the port still had no proper wharves, it was important enough for French agents to take control of the customhouse following the Act of Algeciras (1906). European attempts to construct a modern port in 1907 led to an attack on

the worksite by people from the surrounding countryside. A French warship bombarded the port, local people looted the town, and French and Spanish troops then occupied it.

The population grew quickly after the imposition of the French protectorate in 1912. It rose from perhaps 40,000 in 1914 to around 250,000 in 1930. The first French resident general, Louis-Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey, decided to make Casablanca the main port and the commercial center of Morocco; Rabat became the political capital. The port relied in particular on the export of phosphates, which became Morocco's largest and most valuable export.

European speculators quickly bought up land, and the city began to grow haphazardly. In 1914 Lyautey gave the French architect Henri Prost the task of designing the city. Prost developed an overall master plan for a European city surrounding the old Muslim madina and Jewish mellah. Public buildings were required to harmonize with traditional Moroccan styles; the post office, the city hall, and the Palais de Justice made particular use of Islamic architectural elements within a European-style structure. The commercial district was dominated by the kilometer-long Boulevard de la Gare (now Boulevard Muhammad V). The European suburbs spread quickly with little control. To the rapidly growing European population was added an explosive growth in the Moroccan population. This led to the emergence of shantytowns (bidonvilles) in the early 1930s. By the mid-1930s, some 70,000 to 80,000 Moroccans lived in bidonvilles.

European working-class immigrants brought French socialist politics with them, and Moroccan workers were soon involved. In June 1936 a series of strikes began in state enterprises and spread to commercial enterprises in Casablanca; both European and Moroccan workers took part.

After the Allied landings in North Africa in November 1942, Sultan Muhammad V had two meetings with U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt. This assured the sultan of American interest and support for Moroccan independence and raised his reputation in the eyes of the Moroccans. After the war, the political movements in Casablanca became increasingly militant for independence. This was reinforced by an incident on 7 April 1947, when

Senegalese troops in France's colonial army fired on a crowd in Casablanca, apparently after an argument over the molestation of a Moroccan woman. French officials did little to stop the massacre, in which several hundred people were reported killed.

Following Morocco's independence in 1956, Casablanca's population continued to grow and to become predominantly Moroccan as the Europeans left. By 1960 the population was nearly 1 million, and by 1970, 1.8 million. Although some attempt was made to house the new residents, most of whom moved in from the countryside, the apartment blocks that were built were woefully insufficient. This led to continued political radicalization in Casablanca, and there were riots in the poorer districts in 1965, in which large numbers of people were killed. A state of emergency was declared and remained in force for five years. Tension continued throughout the 1970s, and there were more, and very serious, riots in June 1981. In the 1980s and 1990s Ali Yata, the leader of the Party of Progress and Socialism (Parti du Progrés et Socialisme, the renamed Communist Party) repeatedly won election for a Casablanca constituency. There has been some Islamist activity as well. The importance of Casablanca politically was graphically shown when King Hassan II chose it as the site of the world's biggest mosque (the Hassan II Mosque), which was opened in 1993.

see also bidonville; communism in the middle east; lyautey, louis-hubert gonzalve; muhammad v; roosevelt, franklin delano; yata, ali.


Issawi, Charles. An Economic History of the Middle East and North Africa. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.

Wright, Gwendolyn. The Politics of Design in French Colonial Urbanism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

Zartman, I. William, ed. The Political Economy of Morocco. New York: Praeger, 1987.

C. R. Pennell


views updated May 17 2018


Casablanca is one of the most famous films of the 1940s. The movie contains some of the most familiar dialogue and images in any Hollywood (see entry under 1930s—Film and Theater in volume 2) film. Most of the action takes place in Rick's bar in Casablanca, Morocco, in North Africa, where refugees from a Europe ravaged by World War II (1939–45) gather to wait for their U.S. visas (documentation on a passport giving permission to travel). Casablanca has an unoriginal plot and characters made up from a set of stereotypes: a cynical, clever American; a ruthless German; a weak but brave Frenchman; and an untrustworthy Arab. It is all the more surprising then that the film should have caught not only the mood of the time but the imaginations of millions of filmgoers ever since.

Casablanca was a low-budget movie, one of fifty filmed that year by Warner Brothers. The cast reads like a list of the best-known actors of the time, including Humphrey Bogart (1899–1957; see entry under 1930s—Film and Theater in volume 2), Ingrid Bergman (1915–1982), Paul Henreid (1908–1992), Peter Lorre (1904–1964), Claude Rains (1889–1967), Sydney Greenstreet (1879–1954), and Conrad Veidt (1893–1943). But the film's early success was mostly due to the date of its release— 1942—about the same time as the first Allied landings in North Africa. Nominated in several categories, in 1943 the film won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Direction (Michael Curtiz, 1886–1962), and Best Writing (Julius J. Epstein, 1909–2000, and Philip G. Epstein, 1909–1952). The rendition by Dooley Wilson (1886–1953) of the song "As Time Goes By" and many memorable lines, such as "Here's lookin' at you, kid," have added to Casablanca's enduring appeal. The final foggy scene at the airport is one of the most famous in Hollywood's history.

As in many other Bogart films of the period, the reluctant heroism of Casablanca's main character reflects the American war effort. The film is also a touching love story told with good humor and a sharp wit. One reason for its popularity is that it boils down the large-scale horrors of the war into a simple human drama. Although it was an accidental classic, Casablanca and its stars have become a point of contact between the twenty-first century and the heroic yet dark days of World War II.

—Chris Routledge

For More Information

Miller, Frank. Casablanca: As Time Goes By, 50th Anniversary Commemorative. Atlanta: Turner Publishing, 1992.

Siegel, Jeff. The Casablanca Companion: The Movie and More. Dallas: Taylor Publishing Company, 1992.


views updated May 14 2018

Casablanca ★★★★ (PG)

Can you see George Raft as Rick? Jack Warner did, but producer Hal Wallis wanted Bogart. Considered by many to be the best film ever made and one of the most quoted movies of all time, it rocketed Bogart from gangster roles to romantic leads as he and Bergman (who never looked lovelier) sizzle on screen. Bogart runs a gin joint in Morocco during the Nazi occupation, and meets up with Bergman, an old flame, but romance and politics do not mix, especially in Nazi-occupied French Morocco. Greenstreet, Lorre, and Rains all create memorable characters, as does Wilson, the piano player to whom Bergman says the oft-misquoted, “Play it, Sam.” Without a doubt, the best closing scene ever written; it was scripted on the fly during the end of shooting, and actually shot several ways. Written from an unproduced play. See it in the original black and white. 50th Anniversary Edition contains a restored and remastered print, the original 1942 theatrical trailer, a film documentary narrated by Lauren Bacall, and a booklet. 102m/B VHS, DVD , Blu-ray Disc, HD DVD . Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Conrad Veidt, S.Z. Sakall, Dooley Wilson, Marcel Dalio, John Qualen, Helmut Dantine, Madeleine LeBeau, Joy Page, Leonid Kinskey, Curt Bois, Oliver Blake, Monte Blue, Martin Garralaga, Ilka Gruning, Ludwig Stossel, Frank Puglia; D: Michael Curtiz; W: Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch; C: Arthur Edeson; M: Max Steiner. Oscars '43: Director (Curtiz), Picture, Screenplay; AFI '98: Top 100, Natl. Film Reg. '89.


views updated May 21 2018

Casablanca (Dar el-Beida) City in w Morocco, on Africa's Atlantic coast. Resettled in 1515 by the Portuguese after their destruction of the old town. An earthquake damaged the city (1755). Today, Casablanca is Morocco's largest city and a busy commercial centre, exporting phosphates and importing petroleum products. Industries: tourism, textiles. Pop. (2002 est.) 3,595,100.