Book Review: We’ll Always Have Casablanca, by Noah Isenberg

Film historian Noah Isenberg takes a journey into the cinematic masterpiece, Casablanca, from the things it inspired to the screenwriters who shaped it and why it remains an enduring classic.


Like many people, I came across the cinematic classic, Casablanca, by chance – not on TV, or at a film festival – but through my early forays into theatre. Thanks to Glam Adelaide editor, Rod Lewis, I was introduced to the reality via a parody – and it is one of my all-time favourite movies. Last year, for Volunteers Week, I hosted a screening for a number of volunteers I supervise in my day job, most of whom had not seen it, and they fell in love with it too. So, thank you, Rod!

In his recently released book, We’ll Always Have Casablanca, Noah Isenberg gives us an educated tome wrapped in a cinephile’s language of love. Noah Isenberg is a film historian and professor of Culture and Media at Eugene Lang College in New York City, where he is the director of the Screen Studies program. He is also a lover of Casablanca.

Over seven chapters, Isenberg takes us on the journey of this cinematic masterpiece. From being the inspiration for the stage play, Everybody Comes to Rick’s; to Warner Brothers’ record purchase price for the rights and the subsequent network of screenwriters who shaped it; the casting rumours and final reality, including a number of genuine refugees, playing both main parts and fictional refugees.

He delves into the timeless classic’s longevity ( 75 years young in 2017) and still a beloved classic for audiences, young and mature. It foreshadowed Warner Brothers’ movies, over the sepia-toned visual of the backlot – the Dooley Wilson version of As Time Goes By. We then venture into its influence, from Woody Allen’s Play It Again, Sam! to The Simpsons. It is often recorded that Citizen Kane is the greatest American movie, but Casablanca is the most beloved. Or, as the late author, Umberto Eco, said: “It is not one movie. It is movies.”

If, like me, you love Casablanca, then We’ll Always Have Casablanca will enhance that love and inspire you to watch it again for the first time (for isn’t there always something new to discover, with each viewing?). If you’ve not seen it yet – to quote Molly Meldrum – “do yourself a favour…” and read Isenberg’s book and watch it.

Reviewed by Glen Christie

Rating out of 10:  9

Distributed by: Allen & Unwin
Released: December 2011
RRP: $49.99


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