All the continuity errors in Casablanca we never noticed before — and why it's still essential viewing
You must remember this — as long as time goes by, Casablanca will remain a classic.
It's a perennial favorite on Turner Classic Movies and will run again as part of their ongoing series The Essentials on Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET. But as with any film, Casablanca isn't without its faults — namely, a wide array of continuity errors. Director Brad Bird, who hosts this season alongside TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, points to the numerous errors in Casablanca while breaking down why the film is still an absolute classic in spite of such flubs.
Casablanca follows the story of American Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), who has opened a gin joint in Casablanca, Morocco, and now faces the specter of Nazi occupation during World War II. When his old flame, Isla Lund (Ingrid Bergman), shows up one night with a leader of the Resistance in tow, allegiances are tested while Rick tries to choose between love and what is right. The film bursts with memorable lines and sequences, frequently landing on lists of iconic cinema.
"My family was a movie family. We went to the theater as a family and saw a lot of different kind of films growing up," Bird tells EW. "[But] I ran into Casablanca the first time on television. I was taken by its momentum, and the fact that was it romantic, but it had so much witty cynicism, that it made all the romantic stuff go down really easily. It didn’t seem as sentimental as it actually is because it is wise to its own romanticism, and it always puts a little bit of vinegar or salt on it. That’s why it’s aged so incredibly well."
On The Essentials, Bird discusses that all in depth, while also pointing out some of the errors, as seen in the clip above. While talking to EW, he elaborates on the mistakes, saying, "If we were sitting down and watching it together, you would notice that Rick’s office/bedroom is in different places in the club depending on which part of the movie you’re watching it from. It seems to be somewhere away from the main room and slightly upstairs, but where it is exactly in the club seems to shift throughout the movie."
Bird also points out bigger questions in the plot, asking, "The Nazis are going to obey some letters of transit? It’s something you don’t question when you’re watching the movie."
This got us wondering what other errors we might have missed over the years, and we compiled a small list upon a re-watch. They include everything from music not matching instrumentation on screen to a mysteriously quick-drying raincoat.
Mistakes we spotted include:
- The music in the famous "La Marseillaise" scene begins before the trumpet and trombone players in the cafe start playing
- Throughout the film, Sam's (Dooley Wilson) hand movements do not match the music when he plays "As Time Goes By"
- It's pouring rain on Sam and Rick at the train station in Paris, but when they board the train, they are mysteriously dry as a bone
- In the opening sequence, the piano changes whether it is facing away from or toward the band
- When Ugarte (Peter Lorre) leaves his table, his cigarettes disappear from his ashtray
- In the final airport scene, the epaulets on Major Strasser's coat disappear and reappear throughout
- Rick puts the letters of transit in one side of his jacket breast pocket and removes them from the other
- Similarly, when he stores the letters of transit under sheet music on the piano, they jump sides of the piano
- When Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) is injured, he gets blood on his sleeve, but the towel he holds to the wound comes away clean
- During a meeting with Rick at the Blue Parrot, Ferrari (Sydney Greenstreet) recorks a bottle and the cork is gone in the next shot
- As Carl (S.Z. Sakall) reviews the books, his glasses jump from his forehead to his nose when it moves from a long shot to a medium close-up
- The blinds in Ilsa and Victor's hotel room switch from a roll-up shade to Venetian blinds
While watching Casablanca during The Essentials, you can keep your eyes peeled for these errors, but ultimately, we'll always have Casablanca as an enduring classic. We'll let Bird tell you why.
"Humphrey Bogart is not a classically handsome guy. He’s got that weird little lisp, and he’s got the wet lower lip, and he’s probably not that tall. To see him get swept up in Ingrid Bergman, who is one of the most glorious actresses to ever be on the screen. That particular combination, you throw a little Max Steiner behind it, and some Michael Curtiz momentum with a script that has got to be one of the most quote-worthy scripts ever done. I can’t think of a movie that has more great lines in it than Casablanca," he reflects.
"It’s this perfect, gleaming Hollywood project. Everybody is so damn good at their jobs. Let’s not skimp on praise for the most amazing cast of supporting characters; every single character in that movie is memorable. It could be somebody that comes in and asks for a drink and they’re indelible in your memory because they’re a who’s who of character actors. A lot of them were actors who were fleeing Europe because of naziism. A lot of the supporting actors in Casablanca were lead actors from Germany and Austria. The fact that it’s populated with all these recent emigres from Europe, gives the whole vibe of Casablanca a real genuine feeling. It’s like a cheesecake of fun – it’s that thick and creamy and it’s really one of those movies that is purely entertaining."
The Essentials airs Saturdays at 8 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies.