Hollywood, Film & Politics
Chapter 2. In Search of the Political Film
In a scene from the film Casablanca, Claude Rains, who plays the corrupt Vichy French police chief, Captain Renault, warns Humphrey Bogart, the cynical American owner of Rick’s Café:
Does this scene at the beginning of Casablanca set up the audience to expect an anti-Nazi, pro-Allies political film? Released to theaters in 1942 to take advantage of the Allied invasion of North Africa, this classic film has earned high praise from screen critics and film buffs alike. Once considered by Warner Brothers to be a B-list production, with a script crafted by four different writers, often on the day of filming, Casablanca has become a Hollywood legend. Ranked second only to Citizen Kane on the American Film Institute’s (AFI) best 100 films list, Casablanca has inspired numerous books and articles over the past 70 years.1 Yet no consensus exists on the question of whether Casablanca is essentially a romantic drama, a political film, or both.
What elements are required to make a film political? There is no empirical answer despite many attempts to develop a definition of the genre that appeals to most film scholars. The Library of Congress (LOC), for instance, describes political film as “Fictional work centering on the political milieu, often of candidates, elections, and elective or appointive office. Some of the protagonists may be corrupt or dictatorial.”2 That description may be ← 23 | 24 → satisfactory for a library catalogue but it is much too narrow for our...
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