Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"Casablanca" and the Last "Good" Germans?

There is an older German couple in "Casablanca" who are given a brief scene.  Karl, the German (or Austrian - it's never made clear, but he speaks German), brings the couple a bottle of good brandy to share a drink.  The couple is heading to America, but in the film they never say why they are leaving or how they got out of Germany.  

This older couple, who appear to be in their early sixties, are stereotypically cute.  They attempt to speak English and say "what watch" when they mean to ask the time.  (In German, "Uhr" means "clock," but it also means "time" and "o'clock.")  They call each other by very sweet nicknames in a mish-mosh of German and English.

What's interesting is that they have no interaction, at all, with the German soldiers in the film, particularly Major Strasser.  I think what the filmmakers are doing is reminding the audience that America wasn't at war with Germans like this older couple, who certainly had counterparts in America.  They could be any German-American's Oma und Opa.   We were at war with Nazis like Strasser.

Finally, much of the theme of "Casablanca," which came out in 1942, is about the need of the free people of the good Western nations to show unity against the Nazis and fascism.  "Good" Germans might still be included in that group, especially in 1942 America.  By 1943 I don't think there are any examples of any "good" Germans in any American film, and none would appear until well after the war.