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Rick’s Café – Bringing the Film Legend to Life in Casablanca

Kathy Kriger

Hardback - 978-0-7627-7289-6

I was introduced to this book by film historian Tony Sloman whilst I was researching Second World War propaganda films and their film makers.

In the 1942 film ‘Casablanca’, cinema audiences were introduced to the melting pot of the North African port where, in its network of streets and alleyways, pick pockets thrived and racketeers relieved European refugees of jewellery and cash in return for a promise of a passage to Lisbon and beyond. Situated in the old town was Rick’s Café, a popular watering hole owned by exiled American Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) whose tough exterior concealed a soft heart, not least when he was asked to provide a safe passage for an ex lover, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) and her Czech resistance husband, Victor Laslo played by Paul Henried.

The cliff hanger of a film has a twist in its tale and is peppered with music, humour, romance and patriotism, and to this day continues the capture the imagination of its audiences. Kathy Kriger was one such person.

Captivated by the story and determined to turn fantasy into reality this gutsy American lady set about finding the right location to recreate the famous Rick’s Café. Drawn to the Ancienne Medina area of Casablanca, Kathy found an old house overlooking the ocean. That is where her story begins.
For anyone who has ever purchased a property abroad, had to deal with local bureaucrats, secure bank loans, undertake building or refurbishment projects, source materials, hire and fire labour; then this book is for you.

Fired by her enthusiasm, Kathy faced delays, frustrations and often sheer indifference as she battled to meet deadlines, raise finance and secure licences in her endeavour to create a local café which would have word wide tourist appeal.

Highly descriptive and cleverly written with co-writer Cathie Gandel, the book literally sets the scenes and pulls no punches. As you turn the pages it is easy to believe that no one could have had to jump through so many hoops in order to achieve their goal. However, surrounded by her friends Kathy Kriger did just that.

In a side street off the main coastal road, Madam Rick, as she is often referred to, can be found sitting in her favourite place at Rick’s bar listening to the tunes played on the piano, and in the words of that song there can be no doubt that ‘the fundamental things [do] apply, as time goes by’.

Including local recipes and ingredients for cocktails, this highly informative and well illustrated book can appeal to a wide range of readers.

Combining a copy of the film is well worth consideration for that special Christmas Gift package.

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