Thursday, February 5, 2009

Cool Sacrifice

Humphrey Bogart was the perfect actor for the role of Rick Blaine in Casablanca (1942). He was able to represent American politics of early World War II through his isolationist personality. From the beginning of the movie, Rick does not seem to have emotional attachments to anyone. He sits back and watches the people that come to his café in Casablanca, Morocco. This portrayal of Humphrey Bogart matches the other tough guy roles that he had played. There is a certain mystery about Rick that plays into his coolness. It is mentioned that he was forced to leave America, but no one knows what happened in his past.

The introduction of Rick’s past with Ilsa Lund reveals his heartache, which is the reason for his current attitude. From the moment Ilsa arrives, it is obvious that there is something different about her. The lighting around her face makes her appear flawless and almost angelic. It is ironic that such a perfect character has caused Rick so much pain. It is this pain that triggered Rick put off the tough guy attitude that makes him so cool. Through his staff, especially Sam, it slowly becomes clear that he still cares about other people. Rick’s sentimental side becomes obvious to Captain Renault when he helps the young Bulgarian couple win enough money to purchase letters of transit to make it to America. Rick’s attitude changes rapidly, and he no longer represents isolationism, but the complete opposite.

I think that Rick decision in the end was one of self-sacrifice for the cause. In a few places it was mentioned that Rick had fought against the Fascists in France; he was supportive of the cause. Victor Laszlo dedicated his whole life to bringing down Germany, after he escaped from a concentration camp. Rick realized that Laszlo truly loved Ilsa, possibly as much as he did, and knew that in order for Laszlo to keep the fight alive he would need the support of his wife. Given this opportunity Rick’s idealistic side could not give up the chance to help bring Germany’s expansion to an end. Although he would be forced to let Ilsa go, he felt better now that he knew that she still loved him and always would. I believe that the choice Rick made was a selfless act for what he cared about most all along, not Ilsa, but the anti-fascist cause.


  1. Why do you prefer to think that he did something for a cause rather than for himself?

  2. Rick's awesome, but do you think that his cool is diminished when we think of him as an allegory? You don't really mention it, which is just fine, but as a possible interpretation of who Rick really is, it's important to consider. Is Rick cool because we see him as a rare fish in the strange sea that was Casablanca, or do we see him as cool because he represents us?