Casablanca: A Gem of Americana

Long before the age of Netflix and Disney blockbusters ruling Hollywood, a film which has staked an unimaginably important place in American culture was released: Casablanca.

As the U.S. was in the thick of World War II  in 1943, Warner Brothers Pictures opened what most predicted to be just another film noir drama in theaters, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, today’s equivalent of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Just a few months later, the film took home the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay.

 The film starred Bogart as Rick Blaine, a bar owner reluctantly thrust into the resistance against the Nazis in Casablanca, Morocco, as he crosses paths with his ex-lover Ilsa Lund, played by Bergman, and her new husband.

While only a modest box-office success initially, it was an immediate critical hit and was hailed by The New York Times as “A picture which makes the spine tingle and heart leap”. Its true legendary status has been attained as it has aged, being re-released countless times and one of the most frequently listed films on “all-time greatest” lists, such as taking the #2 spot on AFI’s Top 100 Films of All Time list.

One of the film’s biggest attractions was its star-studded cast. Each glowing review immediately cited the masterful performances by Bogart (#1 on AFI’s Top Actors list) and Bergman (#4 on AFI’s Top Actresses list) and their chemistry as stealing the show. In addition to the talent, Casablanca had a plot which bordered on Hollywood taboo, as the Hollywood Production Code strongly frowned upon films which included unfaithful wives.

Aside from the content of the film, another reason it has had such a lasting legacy is because of the period it was released in. The early-40s were a hazy time for U.S. intervention in the fight against Adolf Hitler’s Germany, and many Americans were divided on the issue. This was mirrored by Bogart’s masterful performance as Rick, caught between wrong and right. In the end, he chooses to take action and stick his neck out for others against the Nazis, supporting the movement for the U.S. to deploy troops to assist Allied countries in Europe.

This theme influenced the undecided public of the time, and was one of the first examples of film getting involved in current politics.  Additionally, Casablanca has also been lawfully recognized for its importance. When the U.S. founded the National Film Registry in 1988, it was one of the first films added, being deemed as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

In part due to its legacy and also due to its near-century in age, original memorabilia from the film are some of the most sought-after and beloved pieces by film collectors. What few items wouldn’t be immediately inducted into the Smithsonian are hard to come by in this day and age, especially due to the generally-smaller rates of promotion production pre-1950s.

Perhaps no other item is more popular than Golden-Age Hollywood film posters.

Even in their own time, posters produced for this dynasty of American cinema were anything but common. Studios typically printed less in the 30s and 40s, due in part to less theaters and lower budgets for promotion. This has made them astronomically harder to come by than, say one of the millions of posters made for The Avengers. Another difference between posters then and now is the printing process. A cheapness in quality is found among today’s mass-produced, digital posters, as opposed to the higher-quality paper and overall vibrancy of color found on posters of yesteryear.

As the film’s most famous song says: “The fundamental things apply, as time goes by”, which must apply to poster condition as well. In the 75 years since they were manufactured, these beautiful and delicate pieces of art have become almost impossible to come by without some signs of wear or blemishes, and finding them in mint condition is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Heritage currently has 12 Casablanca posters for sale in the upcoming Movie Posters Auction on Nov. 18th.  Considering the rarity of these posters, this will be one of the best opportunities for collectors to add a poster for the timeless film to their collection.

Posted by Heritage Editorial

This article was written as a collaborative effort by multiple experts within the category at Heritage Auctions.

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