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Friday, May 1, 2009

Great Last Scenes: Casablanca

Year: 1942
Director: Michael Curtiz
Great Because...: Legend has it that the ending was up in the air right up until it was filmed. Whether that’s actually true or an exaggeration for the sake of enhancing the film’s behind-the-scenes story, it’s hard to argue against the ending they ultimately settled on. The bittersweet finale is inarguably classic and filled with great lines, most courtesy of Rick’s farewell speech to Ilsa.

After trying his damndest to prove that he won’t stick his neck out for anyone, Rick proves just how selfless he really is. After securing the papers needed for his rival, Victor Laszlo, to escape the Nazis he surprises Ilsa by insisting that she go with her husband, rather than stay behind in Casablanca with Rick as she had intended. The resistance needs Victor and Victor needs Ilsa – it’s the needs of the many over the needs of the few. But, hey, they’ll always have Paris.

It’s not just Rick who winds up playing the nobility card in the end. Captain Renault risks everything to back Rick up, putting himself on the Nazi’s “Most Wanted” list in the process. It is, indeed, the beginning of a beautiful friendship and even though Rick and Ilsa are in love, there’s something so right about seeing her fly off with Laszlo while Rick walks into the mist with Renault.

The ending has been much imitated and parodied but that hasn’t detracted at all from the original product. No matter how many times I see this movie, the ending still gets me.

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