As time goes by, the appeal of Casablanca shows no sign of diminishing. Originally intended as a WWII propaganda movie, it remains a marvellous blend of bittersweet romance, wisecracking comedy and wartime intrigue. Wonderfully acted by its cast, it's the story of a laconic nightclub-owner Rick (Humphrey Bogart), whose life in Casablanca is shaken up by the arrival of old flame Elsa (Ingrid Bergman) with her Resistance leader husband.
Despite a famously troubled production (including a conveyor belt of scriptwriters and a failure to secure the likes of Ronald Reagan), the finished film, directed by Michael Curtiz, unfolds with effortless professionalism. Indeed, when re-watching Casablanca, one is reminded how many of its choice lines - "Round up the usual suspects!", "Here's looking at you kid" - have entered our collective cultural consciousness, together with the all too-familiar tones of that 'As Time Goes By' theme song.
"A WORK OF SKILFUL FANTASY"
Casablanca's durability can also be connected to its old-fashioned values: Duty must come before love, and making individual sacrifices for a just cause is a necessity, or as Rick would say, "The problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world". It's a work of skilful fantasy, allowing us to imagine that in a similarly perilous situation we too might act, dress and talk like the stoical Bogie and the luminous Bergman. The gaping plot hole - why would the Germans respect letters of transit signed by General de Gaulle? - is largely irrelevant. In fact, by the time the credits roll, you'll be too misty-eyed to notice.
Casablanca is released in UK cinemas on 14th February 2007.