A-List: Top Five Quotes From Casablanca
By J. Don Birnam
September 17, 2015
The wise (and creative) powers that be that run this website have long advised me to branch out in making lists for this column into the quirkier - away from my staid lists of movies or actors, into more acrobatic feats like “top movie kisses” or “best fights.” Today, I finally listen to their sage advice, as I explore the best quotes in one of the all-time classics, Casablanca. (Necessarily, this entry will spoil the entire movie from start to finish, so reader beware).
The easiest way to go about this would be to simply type up the script for the entire movie. It is difficult to believe that it was penned by three individuals (the brothers Julius and Philip Epstein, and Howard Koch), who are basically unknown to history. These are no Aaron Sorkins writing, “You can’t handle the truth!”, or Paddy Chayesfkys penning, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” Yet, Casablanca has more entries in the AFI Top 100 movies quotes of all times than any movie, by miles (with six - the next highest is three for Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz). And rightly so.
Perhaps helped by Bogart’s quick-witted, cynical delivery, and Ingrid Bergman’s steely, gorgeous melodrama, the script simply fires on all cylinders. In an age when movies delved and basked in their deliberateness, Casablanca moves along at quick, fiery paces, most sure of itself. One most also throw a shout-out to Claude Raines, who plays the self-serving Captain Renault. He delivers many of the cynical but comical lines with obvious satisfaction and efficacy.
It is rare that one can write that the Academy got one right, but in 1943 when they anointed Casablanca the Best Picture of the year and gave it the all-important Best Screenplay award, they were on to something. Casablanca has lived on to be one of the most-quoted movies of all time. What’s even more amazing is that, having re-watched the movie moments ago, the lines work even though you know they’re coming, even though you know they’ve been parodied, and even though listening to them in isolation simply does not do them any justice.
I’ll start with the honorable mentions. Lowest on the AFI list (but still 67th all time) is a quote that is recognizable the world over: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” Like most quotes from movies or popular culture (think Sally Field’s “you like me” Oscar speech), this one is often misquoted (as “of all the gin joints in the world, she had to walk into mine”). The line is a classic, but I have it lower on my list because at the moment in which it is uttered by Bogie (who plays Rick), you still don’t know exactly what the relationship between Rick and Ilsa (Bergman’s character) is, and so the emotional force of the quote is not there until a second viewing.