From the Archives: ‘Casablanca,’ premiered 80 years ago

Following on the heels of the Allied landing in North Africa during World War II, the classic film, “Casablanca,” premiered in New York theaters 80 years ago, on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, 1942.

A nationwide general release followed early in 1943, even as the the city of Casablanca, Morocco, was in the headlines. Casablanca was the site of a meeting between U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill from January 14–24, 1943. On the final day of the Conference, President Roosevelt announced that he and Churchill had decided that the only way to ensure postwar peace was to adopt a policy of unconditional surrender.

The motion picture “Casablanca,” opened in San Diego on Feb. 3, 1943, at the Spreckels theater downtown. Here is the Union’s first review of the movie.

From The San Diego Union, Thursday, Feb. 4, 1943:

‘Casablanca’ Proves Timely At Spreckels

By Don Short

While “Casablanca” as a film has nothing to do with the recent conference of great men, nevertheless it comes at a time when the public wants to learn more about he North African situation. The entire film story takes place in the African city. Its primary concern is love, which, in the setting laid out months ago by the writers, makes the love angle all the more interesting and decidedly popular with movie patrons.

The picture can be seen at the New Spreckels theater.


An exiled American, known as Rick, owns a gaming place in Casablanca. He is cynical and hard-boiled, yet he is madly in love with Ilsa Lund, wife of a Czech spy. The latter is sought by the Nazis who at that time, through the Vichyites, controlled the skullduggery afloat in the French African town.

Rick’s love for the woman causes him to vacillate between love and duty. Throughout the action he debates whether or not to turn the spy over to the Nazis or help him and his wife leave the country. Because of his love he chose the latter.


However, getting out of the country is not easy. The crooked Nazi and French officials openly sell to the best bidder visas and other favors. The spy and his wife are at their mercy. Meanwhile Rick is torn at heart over the situation. He succeeds in providing means for the couple’s safe departure, which is the climax.

Humphrey Bogart gives one of the his finest performances of his long screen career. He plays Rick with every bit of the Bogart finesse.


Ingrid Bergman plays Ilsa and it would seem impossible for another person to do as well as she does. Paul Henreid is seen as her Czech husband. His acting justifies all that has been said of his ability by critics.

The principal support of the stars is carried by Claude Rains as the corrupt prefect of police; Sydney Greenstreet as the crooked dealer in visas, and Peter Lorre as the sinister dealer in phony official documents and papers. Dooley Wilson, Negro, is Rick’s piano player, singing “As Time goes By,” along with “blues” songs.

The film runs 102 minutes and should not be overlooked by anybody. Freddie Bartholomew in “Junior Army,” is the co-feature.

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