I wrote two blog posts yesterday that grew out of the same comment: something Walt wrote:

And yet: those photos in the (msm) newspapers of the cool kids smoking at the Met, and a series like MadMen likely did more to help us than almost anything I can think of. They have an unbeatable subtext: Sexy. Normal. Fun. Relaxed. And, more recently, Defiant.

It’s always been unbeatable. It was unbeatable back in WW2- which was in some profound senses a war between smokers (Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin) and antismokers (Hitler). At least one of the participants was well aware of it.

Hitler frequently pointed out that he had quit smoking in 1919, and that fellow fascists Mussolini and Franco were also non-smokers, unlike Allied enemies Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt.

NOVEMBER 23, 2012: The American romantic movie drama Casablanca celebrated its world premiere on November 26, 1942. Starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman the film was a solid success in its initial run, winning three Academy Awards, and its characters, dialogue, and music have become iconic. It now consistently ranks near the top of lists of the greatest films of all time.

Famously smoky movies like Casablanca were probably as a big a part of the war effort as 1000-bomber raids. Back then they told you what you were fighting for. And they tell us today what we’re still fighting for. Because we’re always fighting for the same things. And we’re still fighting against the same enemies.

For no doubt when you came out of the cinema in 1943, and rejoined your unit on its way to Sicily or Salerno, you knew you were fighting for Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), for music and romance, and for drinking and smoking and gambling. You were, in short, powerfully reminded that you were fighting for freedom.

Originally planned to be released in the spring of 1943, the movie had its rushed world premiere on November 26, 1942, in New York City, shortly after the successful Allied landings in North Africa:

Operation Torch, the Algeria-Morocco military campaign, began on November 8, 1942, and ended on November 11, 1942.

US and British forces, commanded by American General Dwight D. Eisenhower, carried out this campaign. Three task forces landed on the beaches near Casablanca on the Moroccan Atlantic Coast; near Oran in western Algeria; and near Algiers, more than 250 miles to the east in Algeria.

Casablanca was released on January 23, 1943, at a pivotal point in the war.

At the Casablanca Conference, from January 14 to 24, 1943, Roosevelt, Churchill, and de Gaulle, had just announced the demand for the “unconditional surrender” of the Axis.

And on January 22, 1943, General Friedrich Paulus had asked Hitler for permission to surrender his surrounded Sixth Army in Stalingrad to the Soviets. When it eventually did surrender, on  2 February 1943, it marked the most significant defeat for the Axis, and perhaps the turning point of the entire war. Thereafter, the Allies would begin to believe that they were winning.

Casablanca – Behind the scenes photo of Humphrey Bogart & Madeleine Lebeau

The status of Casablanca as a movie seems to have been something that has only ever been rising. By the 1960s Humphrey Bogart had become an iconic figure, principally for his role in Casablanca.

It was something that emerged in Woody Allen’s 1972 tribute, Play It Again, Sam.

And the Pink Floyd’s 1987 Yet Another Movie has fragments of Casablanca dialogue playing at back.

Because Casablanca is as relevant today as it was in 1943, perhaps even more. Probably, back in 1943, nobody noticed how smoky the film was. For it simply reflected real life as it was lived back then: people smoked everywhere. But over 70 years on, with antismoking nazis again in ascendance, much as they were in 1941 or 1942, Casablanca is a smokers’ movie, which may as well have been made by smokers for smokers. And most likely actually was. And it’s still unbeatable.

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17 Responses to Casablanca

  1. Vlad says:

    Captain Louis Renault: And what in heaven’s name brought you to Casablanca?
    Rick: My health. l came to Casablanca for the waters.
    Captain Louis Renault: The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert.
    Rick: l was misinformed.
    Yvonne: Where were you last night?
    Rick: That’s so long ago, l don’t remember.
    Yvonne: Will l see you tonight?
    Rick: l never make plans that far ahead.

    • Rose says:

      The Cigarette Camps
      The U.S. Army Camps in the Le Havre Area

      Camp Old Gold
      Camp Herbert Tareyto
      Camp Home Run
      Camp Chesterfield
      Camp Philip Morris
      Camp Pall Mall
      Camp Lucky Strike
      Camp Twenty Grand
      Camp Wings

      “The wartime plan was for incoming units to first pass through staging camps on their way to the assembly areas, and then to the front. The staging-area camps were named after various brands of American cigarettes; the assembly area camps were named after American cities. The names of cigarettes and cities were chosen for two reasons: First, and primarily, for security. Referring to the camps without an indication of their geographical location went a long way to ensuring that the enemy would not know precisely where they were. Anybody eavesdropping or listening to radio traffic would think that cigarettes were being discussed or the camp was stateside, especially regarding the city camps. Secondly, there was a subtle psychological reason, the premise being that troops heading into battle wouldn’t mind staying at a place where cigarettes must be plentiful and troops about to depart for combat would be somehow comforted in places with familiar names of cities back home (Camp Atlanta, Camp Baltimore, Camp New York, and Camp Pittsburgh, among others).”
      Lots and lots of pictures and information on each camp

  2. nisakiman says:

    A great movie, and one which always seems fresh when I watch it again.

    Out of interest, I looked up the budget of the movie, and discovered it cost $878,000 to make (the site gives a complete breakdown, which is quite interesting)

    Which translates to approximately $25 million (depending on what comparisons you make) today,

    which by today’s standards is a pretty low budget movie.

    I think even the lunatic Glantz would have problems getting the smoking airbrushed out of ‘Casablanca’, not only because there’s so much of it, but also because it’s integral to the atmosphere of the movie.

    Mind you, having said that, they’ve managed to get Churchill’s cigar airbrushed out of some of the photographs, so I suppose there’s no limit to the vandalism these fanatics are prepared to perpetrate. They have the same mindset as the fanatics in ISIS who oversaw the desecration of Palmyra, or the Taleban who destroyed the centuries old giant Buddha statues in Bamiyan.

    • nisakiman says:

      Ah, that second link didn’t hold the calculation I’d made.

      In 2015, the relative value of $878,000.00 from 1943 ranges from $9,860,000.00 to $78,000,000.00.

      A simple Purchasing Power Calculator would say the relative value is $12,000,000.00. This answer is obtained by multiplying $878000 by the percentage increase in the CPI from 1943 to 2015.

      This may not be the best answer.

      The best measure of the relative value over time depends on if you are interested in comparing the cost or value of a Commodity , Income or Wealth , or a Project . For more discussion on how to pick the best measure, read the essay “Explaining the Measures of Worth.”

      If you want to compare the value of a $878,000.00 Commodity in 1943 there are four choices. In 2015 the relative:
      real price of that commodity is $12,000,000.00
      real value of that commodity is $23,700,000.00
      labor value of that commodity is $21,600,000.00 (using the unskilled wage) or $27,400,000.00 (using production worker compensation)
      income value of that commodity is $33,200,000.00

      If you want to compare the value of a $878,000.00 Income or Wealth , in 1943 there are five choices. In 2015 the relative:
      historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is $12,000,000.00
      contemporary standard of living value of that income or wealth is $23,700,000.00
      labor earnings of that commodity is $21,600,000.00 (using the unskilled wage) or $27,400,000.00 (using production worker compensation)
      economic status value of that income or wealth is $33,200,000.00
      economic power value of that income or wealth is $78,000,000.00

      If you want to compare the value of a $878,000.00 Project in 1943 there are four choices. In 2015 the relative:
      historic opportunity cost of that project is $9,860,000.00
      contemporary opportunity cost of that project is $23,700,000.00
      labor cost of that project is $21,600,000.00 (using the unskilled wage) or $27,400,000.00 (using production worker compensation)
      economy cost of that project is $78,000,000.00

    • Frank Davis says:

      That vincasa site you mentioned has the script of the original play on which Casablanca was based. I read it yesterday, and I was surprised how the movie stuck pretty closely to the play, with a few names changed – although the end is a bit different.

  3. John Watson says:

    Le Marseillaise from Casablanca, the one scene that makes freedom truly ring, what could be more free than standing against tyranny in front of tyrants?

  4. DP says:

    Dear Mr Davis

    I recently watched a (recorded) 2 part documentary on the Apollo 17 landing, the last one. The control room had plenty of smokers. The fun bit came towards the end: at splashdown the narrator said that the controllers would light up the traditional cigars, and many of them did.

    Airbrush that out, smoker control.


  5. Rose says:

    Cruel and deeply ungrateful, having faced bombs and bullets now they have to face Tobacco Control.

    House comittee moves bill to prohibit smoking at VA facilities
    17th May 2017

    “WASHINGTON — The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs voted unanimously by voice vote Wednesday to move forward with legislation that would immediately ban smoking inside Department of Veterans Affairs facilities and require the agency to eliminate outdoor smoking areas by 2022.

    No one on the committee spoke against the bill, despite a lukewarm response to the legislation from major veterans organizations.”

    “We believe veteran patients have a right to be protected from secondhand smoke exposure when seeking health care.”

    That is wrong on so many levels, Harley would have been livid.

    • beobrigitte says:

      “We believe veteran patients have a right to be protected from secondhand smoke exposure when seeking health care.”

      That is wrong on so many levels, Harley would have been livid.

      Bloody right he would be!! We are talking about people exposed to situations and chemicals none of us have encountered. And a lot of them suffered a great deal afterwards. Cigarettes being a health problem? Don’t make me laugh!!!

  6. beobrigitte says:

    I watched a youtube documentary about old people recently. I guess it’s been made BEFORE 2007 because the old lady smoked indoors.

    A mathematical question: how many old people do we have now in our society in comparison to 2007. Work out, HOW “smoking kills”, using the number of old people back in 1987 to the number of old people in 2017, including number of heart attacks suffered by that generation compared to number of heart attacks suffered by <60 year olds in 1987 to 2017.
    (Better diagnostics? Hardly, as the elevated s-t on a cardiogram is still a major give-away whereas e.g. an elevated Troponin T can have other causes.)

    You will find that the number of heart attacks has increased with increasing pressure on people's work/lives. Smoking a factor? REALLY????

    Tobacco control, get a life!! On another planet (preferably Neptune), please!!! And take your sock puppets with you.

  7. beobrigitte says:

    Famously smoky movies like Casablanca were probably as a big a part of the war effort as 1000-bomber raids. Back then they told you what you were fighting for.

    Back in 1945 the Allied soldiers entering Germany didn’t expect to see a starved population or that they would be greeted welcomely. The soldiers didn’t have food on them but they had cigarettes and gave them away.

    The cigarette became a symbol of freedom.

    Somehow we all ended up in the same mess since tobacco control successfully infiltrated every government on this planet. They worked hard and 50 years underhand to do that. A bunch of people who hated smoke and smokers thinks they’ve done it.
    Wait until something SERIOUS happens. There are enough disgruntled people (not necessarily about the smoking bans) who can bring systems down. Whatever they are disgruntled with I don’t know ; all I know that tobacco control’s whingeing and whining will interest NO-ONE because there are REAL problems to solve. (In that case, Labour, LibDems and Tories won’t know what to do, anyway, they have become USELESS. UKIP needs to speak up NOW!)

    That day I will light my FIRST cigarette in FREEDOM will be priceless. Sods law has it that I have to live that long to see it.

  8. Joe L. says:

    Here’s smoking with you, kids!

  9. gimper30 says:

    Round up the usual suspects.

    • Vlad says:

      The murder of the couriers. What has been done?
      My men are rounding up twice the usual number of suspects.

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