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Here’s looking at you, ‘Casablanca’: The most quoted movie turns 80

“Here’s looking at you, kid.” “We’ll always have Paris.” “Out of all the gin joints …” “Round up the usual suspects.”

While today’s movies would be lucky to have one or two memorable quotes that permeate pop culture, 1942’s “Casablanca” is bursting with dozens of great lines that are woven into our language. I will argue it's the most quoted movie of all time – with many people ignorant that they’re actually quoting the movie!

Not bad for a movie marking its 80th anniversary. 

“Casablanca” is a staple for classic film buffs, but I encourage any Old Hollywood novice or fan of modern movies to watch for the first time. (Or if it’s been a while since you’ve seen it, re-discover it). 

Don’t let the fact that it’s in black and white and decades-old deter you. The star power of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman will certainly pull you in, but the allure of “Casablanca” is also rooted in its screenplay, a masterclass of a movie script. 

Which goes to show us there is no formula or one-way path for creativity – because the script was in a constant state of change up to – and during! – actual filming. 

In the final version we see today, Bogart is Rick, a cynical American expatriate with a shadowy past running a bar in the French Moroccan city of Casablanca. Stepping into his bar one day and shattering his loner life: his former flame Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa, with her husband, a famous Resistance fighter trying to sidestep the Germans and escape to the U.S. Will they make it out of Casablanca with the Nazis on their trail? Will Ilsa leave her husband and reunite with Rick? It’s part war drama suspense, part love story, part satire, but it all works together to charm.

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The long and ever-changing road to a 'Casablanca' script

The dialogue is rapid-fire, full of quips that breeze by in a densely packed plot. 

Exchanges such as this are at every turn:

Yvonne: Where were you last night?
Rick: That’s so long ago, I don’t remember.
Yvonne: Will I see you tonight?
Rick: I never make plans that far ahead.

 But it was a patchwork quilt of a script, in ever-changing evolutions.

“When we began, we didn’t have a finished script,” screenwriter Howard Koch explained in a 1995 online conference interview, his last before his death. “Ingrid Bergman came to me and said, ‘Which man should I love more...?’ I said to her, ‘I don't know … play them both evenly.’....You see we didn't have an ending, so we didn't know what was going to happen!"

Based on an unstaged (at the time) play, “Everybody Comes To Rick’s,” an initial rough draft of the movie was written at the Warner Bros. studio and then handed to the Epsteins – twin screenwriting brothers, Julius and Philip, by early 1942. They rewrote the script and added some of the humor and satire throughout. 

Koch, the only other officially credited writer, was brought on in the spring to separately work on the script, beefing up the politics of the plot and strengthening some of the characters. Others were consulted at different points, and it remains unclear who wrote exactly what with some of the writers remaining uncredited. 

Even though the script wasn’t complete, filming started in May 1942 because of production schedules and stars’ other commitments, not to mention the tie-ins to World War II current events the studio wanted to take advantage of.

During the summer shoot, parts of the script were finalized on a week-by-week basis by director Michael Curtiz and producer Hal Wallis, according to author Frank Miller. As he explains in his 1992 book, “Casablanca: As Time Goes By”: “So Wallis and Curtiz gave up their Sundays for meetings with one or another of the writers. They would assemble at Curtiz’s ranch and go over ideas, trying to figure out what words they would be filming in the week ahead.”

This “creativity by committee” can often doom a project. But the ingredients in this masterful soup somehow defy disaster and all blend into one cohesive story.

Even the movie’s iconic final line – “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship” – was added weeks after filming had finished, with audio dubbed over the scene by Bogart. And it was written by the producer!

'Casablanca' quotes

But out of that chaos, a classic was created.

Consider these lines – how many have you heard in some form or used yourself?

  • Here’s looking at you, kid.
  • Round up the usual suspects.
  • I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
  • We’ll always have Paris.
  • Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine. 
  • If that plane leaves the ground and you're not with him, you'll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.
  • It doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. 
  • I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.
  • Kiss me as if it were the last time.
  • With the whole world crumbling, we pick this time to fall in love.
  • I'm shocked – shocked! – to find that gambling is going on in here.
  • Even more 

“'Play it again, Sam” is one of the most famous lines, but it’s actually a MISquote. What is said in the movie is: “Play it once, Sam. For old times’ sake. … Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By.’”

A hit with the public and critics

“Casablanca” was a hit with audiences from the start, despite the behind-the-scenes script shenanigans. Just a few short months after it finished filming, the movie premiered November 26, 1942, and was released widely in early 1943, becoming a top box office draw for the year. Hollywood liked it, too. “Casablanca” took home the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for the Epstein brothers and Koch, and snagged the Best Picture and Best Director Academy Awards as well.

Since its release “Casablanca” reigns on many “best of” lists. The Writers Guild of America named it to the top spot in its 101 greatest screenplays. In its list of greatest movie quotes of all time, The American Film Institute ranked six (six!) from “Casablanca” in the list of 100.

But ignore the critics and the analysis and the history and just discover (or rediscover) the movie for the excellent story that it is, even at 80 years old. Whether you realized it or not, you’ve had a relationship with the movie already as its quotes permeate our language. But I hope watching it marks for you the beginning (or rekindling) of a beautiful friendship with “Casablanca.”

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>> To watch "Casablanca," find it on Amazon Prime