50 minutes | Apr 1, 2021

We’ll Always Have Casablanca

You must remember this, the song says. In fact, it’s hard to forget at Oscar time every April, that Casablanca, the Best Picture of 1942, was an all-time pinnacle of black-and-white Hollywood. To this day, it’s the whole world’s favorite American movie, for so many odd reasons — like the love triangle that ends unhappily, with Humphrey Bogart walking away with a French policeman and the incandescent Ingrid Bergman arm-in-arm with her tiresome hero, not her lover. See it again, and it’s better than you remember: music, acting, Hollywood at its most writerly, steeped in the life-and-death issues of its own day, fascism, refugees on the run, the political and social DNA of America. Leslie Epstein and A.S. Hamrah. The hope of every Oscar season is that a movie from somewhere can do what Casablanca did in winning best picture in 1942. It was a factory product, and war propaganda too. But the dialog has poetry with goosebump feeling in it, and the staying power of high art. It has more famous lines than Hamlet, delivered by bit players and big stars, with only three American citizens in a film by and about immigrants. It’s an astonishing work of screenwriting in a story that flies blind, without an ending until the last shot. Our guest, the novelist Leslie Epstein, is our inside authority on Casablanca. The film critic A.S. Hamrah is our Mr. Outside.
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