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Author Topic: Casablanca (1942)  (Read 6601 times)
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« Reply #45 on: October 29, 2017, 12:20:46 AM »

There is a new book out called "Destination Casablanca," by Meredith Hindley, about what the city was like during the time period around which the movie was set.

Here are book reviews by:


Public Affairs: http://www.publicaffairsbooks.com/book/destination-casablanca/9781610394055

New Republic: https://newrepublic.com/article/145527/trail-casablanca

The Washington Post:

And here is one in  Wall Street Journal https://www.wsj.com/articles/review-destination-casablanca-rounds-up-the-usual-suspects-1507921635

I will paste the WSJ review here:

REVIEW: ‘Destination Casablanca’ Rounds Up the Usual Suspects
By Caroline Moorehead


Early in 1943, eager to capitalize on the recent Allied landings in North Africa, Warner Bros. rushed to release the motion picture “Casablanca.” Its tale of collaborators, spies, black marketeers and refugees soon won mass audiences, not least because of the memorable performances by Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart, and before long the film became one of the best-loved and most-watched of all time. As Meredith Hindley shows in “Destination Casablanca,” the image painted by the movie was not far from the truth. “The morality play that unfolds,” she writes, “perfectly captures the real choices that real people faced.”

Casablanca was indeed a hotbed of intrigue. But it would be a mistake to confuse Ms. Hindley’s book with the film. What she has produced is a detailed account of the war years in Morocco, the country’s feuds between pro- and anti-Vichy officials, its diplomatic deals and stand-offs, and the setbacks and successes of the Allied landings. This is a book for historians, not film buffs.

Morocco fended off colonial conquest until relatively late, but it succumbed to German, French and Spanish advances and was carved up for economic spoliation not long before World War I. Three-quarters of it went to France, which added to the bloc of countries across North Africa under French control. Morocco’s first French resident general, Hubert Lyautey, was not only an able administrator but deeply respectful of Islam. The French brought roads, trains, schools and power plants but left the benign sultan to run religious and cultural affairs. Casablanca, a picturesque but ramshackle little port, became an elegant and modern international city. By 1939, one-third of its 350,000 inhabitants were European.

Under the terms of the June 1940 armistice signed by Marshal Henri-Philippe Pétain, the Germans agreed to leave France’s colonies under Vichy control. But there was considerable disagreement among the senior French officials on the ground over the extent to which the North African colonies should toe the German line. Casablanca quickly attracted a disparate array of people: repatriated French and Moroccan soldiers, evacuees from Gibraltar, deserters from the Foreign Legion as well as spies from the Allied secret services masquerading as consular officials and eager to support a resistance army opposed to Vichy. Two hundred ships carrying Jews from across German-occupied Europe docked in the port, all of them desperate to obtain visas for the U.S. or South America, easy prey for predatory agents and touts. In the overcrammed, uneasy city, the Jews found help from a number of small, altruistic groups that helped them escape from internment.

Ms. Hindley is good at evoking these adventurers, schemers and idealists. Accounts of the progress in diplomatic horse-trading and in the war across Europe alternate with vignettes on the main players, as well as some of those caught up and buffeted by unfolding events. There is an engaging portrait of Josephine Baker, champion of the Free French, who arrived in Casablanca from Paris in January 1941 with a Great Dane, three monkeys (of varying degrees of viciousness), two white mice, 28 pieces of luggage—and secret messages for the Allies she had gathered from the resistance and while traveling around North Africa that she kept pinned inside her bra or written in invisible ink on the back of her sheet music.

In 1942, fearing a German takeover and needing Morocco as a base for the war in North Africa as well as a launchpad for the liberation of Europe, the Allies put together Operation Torch, and in November prepared to land at various spots along the coast. They needed 74 hours to take Casablanca, in what became World War II’s only full-scale naval battle in the European theater as the Americans and the French pounded each other from both sea and land. On mainland France, with the Americans now at war with the Axis powers, Vichy broke off relations with the U.S. while the Germans and Italians swept across France and overran the country. The last illusions of a free France were finally dispelled. But with Casablanca captured, the Allies now had airfields from which to launch attacks on occupied Europe. American troops poured into Morocco. Vichy France was allowed to hold on to much of the daily administration, but since it was steered by men of differing and often concealed loyalties—to Pétain, to Charles de Gaulle or to other French generals and factions—the situation on the ground remained as murky and ambiguous as ever.

Digging deep into military archives in Britain, France and the U.S., Ms. Hindley has produced a scholarly narrative, weaving her way deftly among a large cast of characters, both familiar and unfamiliar. Roosevelt and Churchill, arriving in Casablanca in January 1943 to discuss strategy, feature prominently, as does De Gaulle, whose stubbornness maddened both the Americans and the British and who, after a “stony” meeting with Churchill, stalked his way “out of the villa and down the little garden with his head high in the air.” The parts played by the French generals, Henri Giraud, Charles Noguès and Maxime Weygand, as well as Adm. Jean-François Darlan —who signed the armistice with the Allies and was assassinated on Christmas Eve, 1942—are all dissected, as are the roles of the American generals who took part in the landings and who would later go on to victories across France and Germany. Clark, Eisenhower and Patton were all present in Casablanca, as was Robert Murphy, Roosevelt’s secret envoy to North Africa. The many archives consulted, however, do not include German ones.

Though the Americans and the British never succeeded in brokering peace between the warring French generals, Casablanca was the place where the controversial demand of “unconditional surrender”—of the Germans, the Italians and the Japanese—was later first spelled out as the ultimate goal at war’s end. Another two and a half terrible years would pass before that was achieved.

By the late spring of 1943, the war moved on from Casablanca. The interned refugees were released and once again desperately seeking ways to reach the U.S. The American and British spies, for the most part, left to spy elsewhere. Plans were under way for the Sicily landings, the long war in Italy and the Normandy campaign. But, as Ms. Hindley shows in her authoritative and entertaining book, French Morocco remained, in the words of one journalist, a “confused, dizzy country.”

--- Ms. Moorehead is the author of “A Bold and Dangerous Family: The Remarkable Story of an Italian Mother, Her Two Sons, and Their Fight Against Fascism.”

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