Review: We’ll Always Have Casablanca: The Legend and Afterlife of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Film, by Noah Isenberg

This is the story of Casablanca — where the story came from, how the film was made, and its “afterlife” right up until a Facebook post by Elizabeth Warren on a recent New Year’s Eve, where she described watching the film at home.  It’s comprehensive, full of detail, and yet a somehow unsatisfying account.  For example, while much is made of the fact that virtually the entire cast of the film consisted of European refugees, many of them Jewish, the film skips over the issue of anti-semitism completely.  This is mentioned by Noah Isenberg, but not discussed in any detail.  And the author’s attempt to be fair-minded means that he sometimes gives equal weight to conflicting views which cannot both be right.  For example, most of the second half of the book is about the incredible importance of Casablanca in modern culture, and how it has been passed down from generation to generation.  And right in the middle of this discussion, he tosses in a few sentences by someone who says the exact opposite — that audiences today don’t get references to the film, and have never seen it.  It left me wondering if the author had a view on this at all.  But those are minor complaints.  It’s a well-written book that tells a fascinating story, and had me digging through my old pile of DVDs so that like Senator Warren, I could spend a quiet evening at home once again watching the goings-on at Rick’s.