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Seventy Years Later: Casablanca and Rick's Cafe

Buzz Poole
11/27/2012 - 05:40
via SFGate

I still remember the first time I saw Casablanca. It's one of my dad's favorite films and one afternoon he sat me down, loaded up the VCR, and shared with me the reason why he so enjoyed singing "As Time Goes By." Of course, back then, I had no clue as to the film's larger significance in terms of film history, but I really liked it. I'd yet to have encountered romance and the nuances of the World War II politics were way over my head, but I appreciated the story and the characters intrigued me, like a language I wanted to learn.

Over the years I've seen the film countless times, on big screens and in academic settings, and I've never grown tired of it. But I had no idea that the film was released seventy years ago, at least not until I read this National Geographic Intelligent Travel post. It's been a couple of years since I've watched Casablanca but just thinking of it fills me with a warm and fuzzy sentimentality confused by noir sensibilities.

It just so happens that there is a new book out, Rick's Cafe: Bringing the Film Legend to Life in Casablanca. Doubtless, author Kathy Kriger was very much aware of the film's anniversary as the book launch approached, though from the sounds of it there is no such thing as a sure thing in Casablanca. Life really does imitate art! Back in 2004, Kriger opened up Rick's Cafe as an homage to the fictional setting that is so ingrained in popular culture that many people assume it was an actual refuge during World War II. As the Intelligent Travel post points out, not only was Rick's nothing more than a set on a Warner Brothers soundstage, but the "letters of transit" that propel the entire plot were fictional as well.

What isn't fictional is Kriger's love for Casablanca, both the city and the Hollywood classic. Her book, according to Intelligent Travel, "recounts the challenges of navigating Moroccan bureaucracy in an ever-shifting political climate." Not only does it relate directly to the film but it also reflects how the real city is working actively to attract travelers eager to sample authentic Moroccan culture, as well as Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman fans.

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