Casablanca: A study guide

1. In Images of Women in Film, Joyce Baker suggests that Ilsa is a complex woman, concerned with human relationships and her part in them. She also has an intellectual comprehension of war issues. In short, she has poise and dignity, mystery and uniqueness; she is a woman of substance. In The Women, Peter Keough offers us a brief blurb on Ilsa, referring to her character as resembling an invidious cliché. What is your perspective on Ilsa? Explain using details form the film.

2. Ilsa functions as what female archetype(s)? Explain.

3. Mythology, particularly in the epic genre, often narrates the opposition between individual desire and communal obligation. Casablanca offers an American reconciliation to this ancient opposition. What is particularly American about the film's outcome?

4. In Our Age of Reason, Franz Alexander states that the widespread acceptance of American versions of myth (especially in western films which widen the gap between myth and reality) in the '40s and '50s was conducive to criminal behavior in the United States. What does the film Casablanca say about "criminal" behavior? Explain. What purpose does crime serve in shaping or attitudes and opionions about the American hero? Is America's romance with rugged individulism still conducive to criminal behavior?

5. In a remarkably short time, the conditions of the Frontier in this country changed to those of an organized and standardized industrial structure. Yet a great majority of us are still reared with the ideals of individualism, endurance, self-reliance--the bravado of the pioneer. What may be some less-than-desirable outcomes to this reality? What happens when we discover that the opportunities for individual initiative are extremely limited?

6. This film was released over a decade before the Civil Rights movement in America. Look at the character Sam, played by Dooley Wilson. What is the attitude toward African-Americans in this film? Give examples. Explain.

7. Explain how the Roman hero differs from his Greek counterpart. Discuss Casablanca as an epic story which includes themes found in the Aeneid and the Odyssey. Does Rick Blaine, as an American hero, have the heroic qualities described in the Greek and Roman stories? Explain. Is he more Greek than Roman? Or does the American hero add "something more" to these ancient definitions of the hero? Explain.

8. War films are mythological in that the genre itself brings together moral, political, and ideological confrontations that are a remake of ancient prototypes. Given the context of our studies this semester, discuss Casablanca (1942) as propaganda. Compare the film with other "Combat Films" in different eras of American film-making history.

Create your own question on the film Casablanca.