Curious Commonalities Between Casablanca and Gone With the Wind

Gone With the Wind

A book that will delight any Gone With the Wind fan!

This year marks the 75th anniversary of Casablanca, my #2 all-time-favorite film. This 1942 Humphrey Bogart-Ingrid Bergman classic appears on many lists of the greatest films of all time, as does my #1 all-time-favorite film, 1939s Gone With the Wind.

Over the years, through countless viewings of these films, I’ve observed that Casablanca and Gone With the Wind have a curious number of commonalities. For example, both films:

  • Are set in times of war. World War II is the backdrop for Casablanca; the Civil War is the backdrop for Gone With the Wind.
  • Involve love triangles. In Casablanca, the love triangle involves Rick Blaine, Ilsa Lund and her husband Victor Lazlo. In Gone With the Wind, the love triangle involves Rhett Butler, Scarlett O’Hara and her unrequited love for Ashley Wilkes. (Also curious: the male lead characters in Casablanca and Gone With the Wind share the same initials: R.B.)
  • Contain unforgettable music. “As Time Goes By” is used to perfection in Casablanca; “Tara’s Theme” graces Gone With the Wind. (Here the commonalities are easy to connect: The music for both firms was scored by master composer Max Steiner, regarded in Hollywood as “the father of film music.” Steiner was in demand by many film studios, including Warner Bros., the studio that produced Casablanca and Selznick International Pictures, the studio that produced Gone With the Wind.)
  • Contain memorable movie quotes. Rick says to Ilsa: “Here’s looking at you, kid,” the line the American Film Institute ranked as #5 on “100 Years…100 Movie Quotes,” a list of “the most memorable movie quotations of all time.” Rhett says to Scarlett: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” the line ranked #1 on the same list.
  • Offer last lines that suggest starting over. Rick telling Captain Renault, “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Scarlett telling herself: “I’ll think of someway to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day!”
  • End with loss and separation. In Casablanca, Rick sends Ilsa away with Victor on the plane bound for Lisbon. Afterwards, Rick and Captain Renault leave Casablanca for the Free French garrison in Brazzaville. In Gone With the Wind, Rhett tells Scarlett that he’s leaving her to return to Charleston. Afterwards, Scarlett declares she’ll return home to Tara.

I’ve also observed that:

  • In Rick’s café, Major Strasser recites details from the dossier the Germans have compiled about Rick that show him to be persona non grata: “Richard Blaine, American…cannot return to his country…The reason is a little vague.” In the drawing room at Twelve Oaks over brandy and cigars, Confederate Charles Hamilton is angered over Rhett’s renegade talk about the North’s military superiority and highlights Rhett’s persona non grata status: “I hear that you were turned out of West Point, Mr. Rhett Butler, and that you aren’t received by any decent family in Charleston – not even your own.”
  • At the café La Belle Aurore, Ilsa – knowing that she can’t leave Paris with Rick – tells him “Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time.” At the turn to Tara on the McDonough Road, Rhett begs Scarlett: “You’re a woman sending a soldier to his death with a beautiful memory…Scarlett, kiss me…kiss me once.”
  • In his above-the-bar apartment, a drunken, jealous Rick waits for Ilsa to come and then verbally abuses her. In the dining room of their Atlanta home, a drunken, jealous Rhett waits for Scarlett to return from Ashley’s party and then physically threatens her.
  • In Rick’s office, Captain Renault reveals his knowledge that Rick “ran guns to Ethiopia…You fought in Spain on the Loyalist side.” At the Atlanta Bazaar, Dr. Meade introduces Rhett as “that most daring of all blockade runners, whose fleet of schooners, slipping past the Yankee guns, have brought to us here the very woolens and laces we wear tonight.”
  • In Rick’s apartment, after his refusal to hand over the letters of transit, Ilsa reminds Rick that Lazlo’s cause was at one time Rick’s cause, too. Rick declares: “I’m not fighting for anything anymore except myself. I’m the only Cause I’m interested in.” At the Atlanta Bazaar, after Scarlett praises his heroics in support of the Cause, Rhett disabuses her of those romantic notions: “I believe in Rhett Butler. He’s the only Cause I know. The rest doesn’t mean much to me.”
  • In her first visit to Rick’s apartment, Ilsa reveals to him her feelings about Lazlo: “[I] looked up to him, worshipped him with feelings [I] thought was love.” In her second visit to Rick’s apartment, Ilsa admits: “The day you left Paris. If you knew what I went through. If you knew how much I loved you. How much I still love you.” After Melanie dies, Scarlett realizes that Ashley loved Melanie – and not Scarlett – all along and admits to him: “And I’ve loved something that – that doesn’t really exist.” Later in Rhett’s bedroom as he packs, Scarlett confesses her love for him and admits: “I never really loved Ashley.”
  • Rick sets up Captain Renault, making him believe he’ll be able to arrest Lazlo on the serious charge of possession of the letters of transit. Rhett sets up Tom the Yankee captain, making him believe that Ashley and the others were with Rhett at Belle Watling’s establishment.

What accounts for these curious commonalities between Casablanca and Gone With the Wind?  Could these have emerged from the influence of war and the theme of love and sacrifice? Might these be the Hollywood ingredients for the hopeless-love romantic drama? Or could these be among the ubiquity of ideas that flow from the collective unconscious – the Universal Mind – the font from which all writers draw inspiration? Whatever explains these curious commonalities, I wonder this: Will any of today’s films withstand the test of time and be as beloved as Casablanca and Gone With the Wind 75 years from now?

Blog Bio: Pauline Bartel is the author of The Complete GONE WITH THE WIND Trivia Book (2nd edition) and an expert on the film and its history. Visit the website (www.paulinebartel.com/resources/books/books-available) for further information. Follow her on Twitter @PaulineBartel and “like” her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/TheCompleteGWTWTriviaBook).

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4 Responses to Curious Commonalities Between Casablanca and Gone With the Wind

  1. D. Rebecca Snow says:

    It must be the “universal mind”…. it is my understanding that Margaret Mitchell wrote GWTW for her own pleasure, never even contemplated having her manuscript published, much less the prospect that it would result in a Hollywood movie!
    Rebecca Snow – a fellow “Windie”

    • admin says:

      Rebecca, I lean toward the “universal mind” theory, too. You’re correct about Margaret Mitchell writing GWTW for her own pleasure. The Complete GWTW Trivia Book elves into that part of the story. I hope you get to catch GWTW on TCM this evening. The broadcast is part of the month-long tribute to Clark Gable as TCM’s Star of the Month. Happy viewing to a fellow Windie!

  2. Steve Lawrence Peterson says:

    Interesting comparisons Pauline- and I think the commonalities you’ve pointed out are well thought out- it makes me think of the lesson in writing, that no two characters are completely alike- but plots and settings etc. can almost be identical- so much like life- we ARE in spite of everything UNIQUE individuals- one would never mistake Scarlett for Ilsa or Rhett for Rick- but they ALL live in our memory in the test of time!

    • admin says:

      I appreciate your insights, Steve. I recall reading a book in my early writing days titled “36 Dramatic Situations.” The author argued that from this handful of plots all stories spring forth. So while plots and settings can be similar, the characters themselves distinguish the stories. I think that’s true, as you observe, with the characters in Casablanca and GWTW. They have survived the test of time. I doubt many films of today will be able to boast about the same thing.

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