Played by Humphrey BogartThe owner of Rick's Café Americain and the film's protagonist. When we first meet Rick, he is a jaded bar owner in Casablanca who wears a dour expression as he drinks and plays chess alone. He constantly proclaims his freedom from all bonds, be they political or personal. After Ilsa enters the picture, he undergoes a considerable change. In a flashback, we see Rick in Paris. He is in love with Ilsa and visibly happy, and he is devastated when she doesn't show up at the train station. Rick never turns back into the lighthearted lover he was in Paris, but he does overcome his cynicism and apathy to become a self-sacrificing idealist, committed to helping the Allied cause in World War II.
Played by Ingrid BergmanA Norwegian beauty who is Victor Laszlo's wife and Rick's former lover. A devoted wife, Ilsa refuses an exit visa when Laszlo is unable to obtain one as well, saying she prefers to wait with him and leave Casablanca together. In Paris, Ilsa had fallen in love with Rick, because at the time she had believed Laszlo was dead. When she learned her husband was still alive, she sent a note to Rick at the train station, saying she could never see him again. Despite her obvious commitment to her husband and her confessions of love to Rick both in Paris and later in Casablanca, she rarely displays much passion. Ultimately, the letter may be the best insight into her personality. She can be so cold and distant that reading her true thoughts or feelings can be almost impossible.
Read an in-depth analysis of Ilsa Lund.
Played by Paul HenreidA Czech nationalist writer and anti-Nazi partisan. Laszlo is a committed political leader who sees defeating the Nazis as his raison d'ètre. He endured time in a concentration camp, but he remains enthusiastic, courageous, and outspoken. Victor is a devoted husband to Ilsa and is willing to sacrifice himself to ensure her safety.
Played by Claude RainsVichy France's prefect of police in Casablanca. If Laszlo represents pure political idealism, Louis represents the very opposite—unscrupulous cynicism. Louis, like the Vichy government he serves and represents, has given up caring about right and wrong, and his only loyalty is to the winning side. (The Vichy government cooperated with the Germans during World War II.) Louis is a hypocrite, castigating Rick for allowing gambling in his bar just as he pockets his earnings for the evening. Despite his self-serving behavior and seeming amorality, Louis is always a good friend to Rick and shows signs of being a decent person at heart. At the end of the movie, this seed of decency blooms into genuine political action, as he refuses to arrest Rick and decides to join his friend in exile from Casablanca. Louis approaches everything with wit, and many of the film's best lines are his.
Played by Conrad VeidtA Nazi commander sent to Casablanca to capture Laszlo. Strasser is a stereotypical Nazi villain, ruthlessly cruel and robotically efficient. From the moment of his arrival in Casablanca, he is all business, immediately inquiring about the murderers of the German couriers. He is willing to resort to cruelty in punishing his enemies and is determined to prevent Laszlo from leaving Casablanca at all costs. Unlike Nazis depicted in other films, Strasser is never overtly sadistic. Despite his unpleasant demeanor, he is always civil and polite.
Played by Sydney GreenstreetThe owner of the Blue Parrot. Like Rick's Café Americain, the Blue Parrot is a Casablanca bar, though it is noticeably less popular. At the beginning of the film, Ferrari offers to buy Rick's Café and the services of the pianist Sam. Rick initially refuses both offers, but when he decides to leave Casablanca, he does sell out to Ferrari. In addition to running the Blue Parrot, Ferrari is involved in the Casablanca black market and sells, among other things, exit visas. Although Ferrari is mostly concerned with making money, he is at heart a good person, which he demonstrates when he suggests that Laszlo approach Rick about the letters of transit.
Played by Peter LorreA member of Casablanca's criminal underworld. Ugarte's business is selling letters of transit to refugees. He may be helping them escape to Lisbon, but his aim is profit, not charity. Ugarte murders the German couriers to obtain the valuable letters of transit, which he plans to sell to Laszlo for a considerable fee. He is arrested before he can complete the sale.
Played by Madeleine LeBeauA French woman who hangs out at Rick's. At the beginning of the movie, Yvonne is Rick's neglected, miserable lover. After being ignored by Rick one night, she shows up at the bar with a German soldier the very next evening. Her one redeeming moment comes during the singing of "La Marseillaise," when she shows herself to be a loyal patriot.
Played by Dooley WilsonThe pianist at Rick's Café. Sam is a warm-hearted, agreeable musician and a fiercely loyal friend to Rick. In Casablanca, he is Rick's only link to the past, since the two were together in Paris as well. When Rick drinks himself into a depressive stupor, he generally wants to be alone, but he doesn't seem to mind Sam's presence. At times, Sam seems like Rick's older brother or guardian. He looks out for Rick by trying to deny Ilsa's request that he play "As Time Goes By," and he cautions Rick about drinking too much. While Sam is a vivid presence in the scenes in which he is featured, his character is never fully developed.
Played by Joy PageA young Bulgarian newlywed who desperately wants to escape to America. Mrs. Brandel comes to Rick to ask about Louis's reliability. Louis has offered to give her and her husband exit visas to leave Casablanca in exchange for sexual favors, and she fears that this is their only option. Her plight brings out the idealist in Rick, who arranges for Mr. Brandel to win big at the roulette table, scoring enough money to purchase the exit visas. In this way, Rick allows the Brandels to leave Casablanca with their marriage uncorrupted.
Played by Helmut DantineAnnina's husband, who wants to escape to America with his wife. Unaware that Louis has made Annina a proposal, Mr. Brandel believes that the only hope of escaping Casablanca is by winning big at the roulette table. Because of Rick's generosity, this is exactly what happens.
Played by S. Z. SakallA waiter at Rick's Café. Carl is an amiable staff member who also participates in the Casablanca anti-Nazi underground. He sees through Rick's cynicism and considers him a decent, generous man.
Played by Leonid KinskeyThe bartender at Rick's Café. Sacha is more playful, nosy, and cynical than Carl, but like his coworker, he is a member of the underground and can see Rick's essential generosity and goodness.
Played by Curt BoisA Casablanca street criminal. The pickpocket reveals the seedy, street-hustling, outlaw nature of Casablanca. He warns people to be careful and alert, then leaves with their wallets.
Played by Corinna MuraA guitarist and singer at Rick's. The singer's performances entertain customers, and they also give them cover to make black market purchases and obtain illegal exit visas. Laszlo and Berger are able to discuss such a sale during her performance.
Played by Charles La TorreAn officer who strives unsuccessfully to catch Major Strasser's attention. Tonelli comes across as hapless and buffoonish.
Recently I learned there are three verses to "As Time Goes By," omitted from the film music to Casablanca, sung by Dooley Wilson, and now accepted as standard. Rather than retype them here, readers can go to Wikipedia articles, (i) "As Time Goes By" and (ii) read also about the composer, Herman Hupfeld, NOT Max Steiner, who, purportedly did not like the song/verses in the first place. The complete lyrics make more sense for me now than previously, as lovely as they were/now are.
3 out of 3 people found this helpful
I guess I've tried to watch Casablanca several times, mostly in distracted situations. This summary really helped me understand the plot!
Best detailed synopsis I've ever seen!
One suggestion for something that's a little confusing in the synopsis: the police officer's name is Captain Louis Renault. He should be referred to as "Renault" - not "Louis," which is his first name. This was confusing to me - and required me to go back to figure out who this "Louis" was.
But all in all, a superb effort that clarified a lot of plot points.