By Aljean Harmetz | Thompson on Hollywood March 9, 2012 at 4:55PM
World War II has been over for nearly seven decades, but “Casablanca” is still with us. With its story of love renounced for the good of the world, the Oscar winning Best Picture of 1943 has more than once been voted the most romantic American movie. Members of the American Film Institute chose it as the 3rd best American film. In 1983, the British Film Institute went further and called “Casablanca” the best film ever made.
On Wednesday, March 21, movie audiences can see for themselves when Turner Classic Movies Presents Casablanca 70th Anniversary Event at special matinees at almost 500 movies theaters. The film will be broadcast through NCM Fathom Events’s Digital Broadcast Network.
A week later, on March 27, Warner Home Video will release a 70th anniversary edition of the movie on both Blu-Ray and DVD. The 14 hours of bonus material on the limited and numbered gift set include three documentaries, a book with never-before-seen on-set photography and a set of drink coasters.
In “Casablanca,” love and politics are intertwined like a double strand of pearls. Successful saloonkeeper Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) has fled there from a doomed love affair. He will stick his neck out for nobody, particularly the heroic Resistance fighter Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) who has been chased to Casablanca by the Nazis. The woman Rick loved and whom he toasted with the now iconic “Here’s looking at you, kid,” is Laszlo’s wife (Ingrid Bergman.)
What is most amazing 69 years later is not that the mixture of love and politics still works but that the funny moments are still funny. When police captain Renault (Claude Rains) needs a pretext to close Rick’s saloon, he says he is “Shocked, shocked” to find out that gambling is going on as the croupier hands him his roulette winnings. When a capable thief passes by, Rick’s waiter quickly checks his pockets.
“This is the most wonderful claptrap that was ever put on the screen,” director Billy Wilder once told me. “Claptrap that you can’t get out of your mind. But it worked. It worked absolutely divinely.”
Tickets for the March 21 screenings are available at participating theater box offices and online at www.FathomEvents.com. The website has a list of theater locations and prices.
The screening of “Casablanca” is Turner’s third Anniversary Event. Previously TCM/NCM Fathom teamed for the 70th anniversary of the “Wizard of Oz” and the 50th anniversary of “West Side Story.”
Ex-New York Times Hollywood correspondent Aljean Harmetz is the author of "Round Up the Usual Suspects: The Making of Casablanca,Bogart, Bergman and World War II."