No. 12: Casablanca
Hollywood at the service of the people who invented it
1942, dir. Michael Curtiz. Casablanca was produced by Jack L. Warner; directed by Michael Curtiz; written by two twins named Epstein and the soon-to-be-blacklisted Howard Koch; and in its supporting roles is dominated by Jewish European character actors Peter Lorre and S.Z. Sakall. Viewed today, Casablanca’s overt, strong moralizing of World War II is so brain-dead obvious as to go completely unnoticed. But the movie was released in 1942 and made before that, when it was by no means the consensus that the Nazis were the worst group of people ever to threaten the face of the earth, and a film that depicted them as such—without the clarifying Manicheanism of, say, an actual battlefield—was actually taking a distinct polemical stand. Every villain needs a victim, and in Casablanca, the explicit victims are France and the French. But take a look again at the people who actually made the movie, and you won’t see any French names. Which isn’t to say that the victims of Casablanca, or of the Nazis, were exclusively the Jews; it’s that it took American Jews working in maybe their greatest creation—Hollywood—to show the world that the Nazis’ victims were the same people who come to Rick’s: everybody.
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