Or How Your Weltanschauung Morphs
In my previous article, I mentioned seeing Invaders from Mars in 1953 when I was 10-years old. Another favorite film of mine was Casablanca.
In fact, when I was in Morocco, I went to Casablanca, the city from which the film got its name. I loved the film and could go on for a long time recounting what I liked about it. Aside from the creative genius of the movie, Casablanca was released on January 23, 1943...three days after my birth. At the time, I had no idea about the film nor its release date being so close to my birthday.
After extensive research, I discovered that the proximity to my birth had nothing to do with me being born in Camden, NJ on January 20, 1943. The true reason for Casablanca's rush to theaters had to do with Operation Torch. Operation Torch was the Allied Invasion of French North Africa that had started just two months prior. The American government wanted it out quickly for propaganda reasons, and Hollywood could capitalize on America's war effort in North Africa. Hollywood spent about a million dollars on the film and made 4-times that in the box office.
From November 8-10, 1942, American and British forces freed Casablanca from the Nazis. Two months later, at the same time of the release and my birth, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt met to discuss the Allied war efforts in Europe from January 14-24, 1943. The day before the end of the Casablanca Conference, Casablanca was released on the 23rd. At the conference, the Casablanca Declaration stated that the Germans would have to accept an "unconditional surrender" to end the war in Europe. The use of that term was due to FDR. He intentionally used that term, because that was the term used by General Grant during a battle early during the Civil War at three Southern forts: Fort Donelson, Heiman, and Henry.
This next item is merely conjecture on my part. The unconditional surrender ultimatum demand by Grant had to do with the surrender of three Southern forts only a year into the Civil War. The parallel between the Civil War and America's involvement in WWII was also a year old. I would love to know if that were the reason for FDR's choice of that term. In addition, the issue of unconditional surrender was only FDR's demand not that of Churchill and he merely went along with it. In part, he had really no other choice.
Casablanca became the staging area for the US Air Force and a major airbase for the remainder of the war in Europe. However, the movie and the city told the same story about refugees desirous to get out of harm's way. An interesting parallel today are the many Syrians in Turkey avoiding the effects of their civil war and wanting safe passage to somewhere safe. That was one of the major concerns for both the city and the film.
In the film at the end of 1941, Rick Blaine owned and operated Rick's Café Américain in Casablanca. Rick is an expatriate from the States who does not seem to care about much of anything of any real importance. Rick's is a place for drinks at one level. However, it was also a place for getting something other than drinks. One could also purchase letters of transit. Rick obtains two letters and ultimately gives them to Victor Laszlo and Ilsa Lund. Rick and Ilsa were lovers in Paris before the Germans invaded France. At the time, Ilsa and Laszlo were married, but Ilsa thought that he had been killed as a result of the war. At the end of the film, Rick says to Ilsa to leave with her husband, because as time goes by she will regret leaving Laszlo. Rick tells her to get onto the plane with Laszlo or she will regret it: "Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life."
Ilsa blesses Rick due to having to leave with her husband. Then Captain Renault deals with Rick for killing of Major Strasser. Having tied up all the loose ends, Rick and Captain Renault exit in the misty and foggy night in the film and city and go off help the Free French at Brazzaville, which is in the French Congo. Interestingly, when I left Casablanca in the misty and foggy night also. Having written all my glowing and nostalgic remembrances of Casablanca, it was a pro Allied and anti-Nazi film with dissing of the Nazis and the Vichy French.
Aside from my personal and nostalgic journey to American filmmaking in 1943, there were others...namely Joseph Goebbels who was the Nazi Propaganda Minister during WWII.
The Titanic was an anti-British propaganda movie about their desire to make money on the stock markets. While the Titanic steams its journey in the North Atlantic unknowingly rushing to disaster with an iceberg, a German first officer, Herr Peterson, attempts to warn the captain about the impending disaster. The ship and starts to sink when he saves a little girl from drowning along with many others. At the inquiry, Peterson recounts how no one listened to him causing all the death. The film ends with this moral postscript: "the deaths of 1,500 people remain un-atoned, forever a testament of Britain's endless quest for profit."
The film's premiere was to be early in 1943, which was close to that of Casablanca and my birthday. Nonetheless, the Royal Air Force inadvertently bombed the theater the day before the showing. The premiere had to wait until November of 1943.
It is interesting to see life more fully as time goes by.