Study Guide

Casablanca Summary

Casablanca Summary

We're in northern Africa, and World War II is looming. The Nazis have invaded much of Europe and are looking to invade the rest. So…happy times. This is sure to be an enormous upper.

People from all over Europe are doing whatever they can to get to America, because they've heard about Shake Shack (and also to get away from the Nazis). Casablanca, Morocco, has become a crowded way station, filled with refugees hopeful of getting the visas that will get them out and corrupt officials looking to make a buck off their desperation. In Casablanca, a man named Rick owns a hugely popular club and gambling establishment (named Rick's, appropriately enough). Rick is a handsome guy, but looks like he's been kicked in the face by life. 

Just not in the handsome part of his face.

Rick has to deal with some unsavory characters on a daily basis, including Captain Renault, a corrupt local official who enjoys Rick's company because he supposes that he's as crooked as he is. Then there's Major Strasser, a high-ranking member of the Gestapo, who's out to find the man who murdered two German couriers for a two letters of transit that will allow one lucky couple to get out of town. Strasser captures his man, but not before the letters are given to Rick for safekeeping.

Matters are complicated when two people show up at Rick's—Victor Laszlo, a leader of the Czech resistance against the Nazis, and his wife Ilsa. Turns out Ilsa was Rick's great love, who deserted him years ago just when he thought they were about to start their life together. Ilsa left after finding out that her husband was still alive and decided to stick it out with him instead. 

  

Some people will find any excuse to stay married.

Victor pleads with Rick to sell him the letters of transit, but because of his history with Ilsa, Rick stubbornly refuses to help them. Ilsa tries her own approach by turning a gun on Rick, but we come to find out that was just her way of saying, "I love you." She agrees to stay in Casablanca with Rick if he'll use one of the letters of transit to help Victor escape.

But Rick, after giving the matter some serious thought, arrives at a different plan of action. He holds Renault at gunpoint, and forces the Captain to command officials at the local airport to allow Victor and Ilsa to leave together. Ilsa puts up a small fight, but in the end, being alive without Rick sounds more appealing that being dead with Rick. 

So off they go.

Rick is forced to kill Strasser in order to let the getaway proceed as planned, and it seems that Renault is going to turn him in. But the Captain's heart grows three sizes at just the right time, and Rick is saved. This sets up one of the most famous last scenes in the history of the movies. As they walk across the tarmac through the mist, Rick says, "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."