"Casablanca" Opens

The film Casablanca opened in New York City on November 26, 1942, as Allied Expeditionary Forces (AEF) secured their hold on North Africa during World War II. Casablanca, Morocco's chief port city, was the setting of the film.

In the film, the hero Rick Blaine settles in Casablanca after fighting fascism in Spain. When his former lover, Ilsa, arrives at his café with her French Resistance-leader husband, Rick helps them escape. By film's end, Rick and Ilsa take leave of each other to serve a greater good—freedom from fascism.

During "Operation Torch"—the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942—Casablanca was bombarded under the command of General Dwight Eisenhower. The city served as the site of the Casablanca Conference from January 14-24, 1943. Attended by U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and French Resistance leaders Charles de Gaulle and Henri Giraud, the Allied leadership developed a unified military strategy and decided that Germany, Italy, and Japan must surrender unconditionally. Russian leader Joseph Stalin declined to attend the conference.

Just as the Allied invasion of Casablanca advanced box office sales of the film Casablanca, so did the movie reinforce the war effort by underscoring the value of freedom and the importance of personal sacrifice. As Variety noted on December 2, 1942, "Casablanca will take the b.o.'s [box offices] of America just as swiftly and certainly as the AEF took North Africa." Casablanca's national release was scheduled to coincide with the Casablanca Conference.

Casablanca is a 1942 American romantic drama film directed by Michael Curtiz, starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid and featuring Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre. Set during World War II, it focuses on a man torn between, in the words of one character, love and virtue. He must choose between his love for a woman and helping her and her Resistance leader husband escape from the Vichy-controlled Moroccan city of Casablanca to continue his fight against the Nazis.

Although it was an A-list movie, with established stars and first-rate writers—Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch received credit for the screenplay—no one involved with its production expected Casablanca to be anything out of the ordinary; it was just one of dozens of pictures being churned out by Hollywood every year. The film was a solid, if unspectacular, success in its initial run, rushed into release to take advantage of the publicity from the Allied invasion of North Africa a few weeks earlier. Yet, despite a changing assortment of screenwriters frantically adapting an unstaged play and barely keeping ahead of production, and Bogart attempting his first romantic lead role, Casablanca won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Its characters, dialogue, and music have become iconic, and Casablanca has grown in popularity to the point that it now consistently ranks near the top of lists of the greatest films of all time.