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The Totally Fictional Letters Of Transit


Palmerin

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Learning that the so-called letters of transit that set in motion the plot of CASABLANCA are an invention of the scriptwriters totally ruins that movie for me. A movie about the very real WWII is turned into a particularly outlandish STAR TREK episode because of the contamination of a particularly outrageous piece of ill considered fiction.

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Learning that the so-called letters of transit that set in motion the plot of CASABLANCA are an invention of the scriptwriters totally ruins that movie for me. A movie about the very real WWII is turned into a particularly outlandish STAR TREK episode because of the contamination of a particularly outrageous piece of ill considered fiction.

 

There were different kinds of Letters of Transit, Permit to Travel, Temporary Passport, and other unique and unusual travel papers used during WW II. That's why officials at train stations, airports, and shipping docks asked European travelers to show the officials and inspectors their "papers". Different papers for different countries and for different types of travel.

 

The Letters of Transit in Casablanca were to be used by Free French and friends to travel to different areas of Free France and Free French Colonies, such as Casablanca. The Nazis wanted those letters so they could be used by their spies, so they could travel freely in Free French territory. Of course they were worthless in Nazi Occupied France.

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Learning that the so-called letters of transit that set in motion the plot of CASABLANCA are an invention of the scriptwriters totally ruins that movie for me. A movie about the very real WWII is turned into a particularly outlandish STAR TREK episode because of the contamination of a particularly outrageous piece of ill considered fiction.

 

What I find outrageous is that the knowledge of this McGuffin would impact ones enjoyment of the movie.   But if that really is the case I recommend only documentaries produced,  written and directed by historians.

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There were different kinds of Letters of Transit, Permit to Travel, Temporary Passport, and other unique and unusual travel papers used during WW II. That's why officials at train stations, airports, and shipping docks asked European travelers to show the officials and inspectors their "papers". Different papers for different countries and for different types of travel.

 

The Letters of Transit in Casablanca were to be used by Free French and friends to travel to different areas of Free France and Free French Colonies, such as Casablanca. The Nazis wanted those letters so they could be used by their spies, so they could travel freely in Free French territory. Of course they were worthless in Nazi Occupied France.

 

So you are saying they did exist? Do you swear on the good name and reputation of your family? World War II was a very real event, so including implausibilities in a WWII based story is both irresponsible and dishonest, and very likely to impact cynics such as my stepfather, who never quite believed that WWII really happened.

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So you are saying they did exist? Do you swear on the good name and reputation of your family? World War II was a very real event, so including implausibilities in a WWII based story is both irresponsible and dishonest, and very likely to impact cynics such as my stepfather, who never quite believed that WWII really happened.

Palmerin, has your stepfather been lifting under a rock?

 

Inglorious Basterds of course takes rewriting WWII events to its extreme with the heroes killing all of the major Nazis in a theatre ala The Dirty Dozen.  I was slapping my head going what the f ...?  And that one was done well after the fact.

 

At least Casablanca was made close to the actual events.

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Palmerin, has your stepfather been lifting under a rock?

 

Inglorious Basterds of course takes rewriting WWII events to its extreme with the heroes killing all of the major Nazis in a theatre ala The Dirty Dozen.  I was slapping my head going what the f ...?  And that one was done well after the fact.

 

At least Casablanca was made close to the actual events.

 

My stepfather--who died on 10 September 2012--was a man with no imagination, who could not visualize the world beyond the hillsides of his San Lorenzo, and who could not tell the difference between a newspaper report and SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES. The Korean War, on the other hand, was very real to him because he actually fought in it, earning the Purple Heart for a bayonet stab that nearly caught him in the heart.

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My stepfather--who died on 10 September 2012--was a man with no imagination, who could not visualize the world beyond the hillsides of his San Lorenzo, and who could not tell the difference between a newspaper report and SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES. The Korean War, on the other hand, was very real to him because he actually fought in it, earning the Purple Heart for a bayonet stab that nearly caught him in the heart.

 

Yikes!

 

But as Great Movie Buddha say:  'Don't get your history from movies.'  Movies is fun.  Movies is entertainment.  Excruciating comedy.  Delicious tragedy.  So watch for Bogie's ultimate coolness.  Watch for beautiful Ingrid.  If you want history, go to books.

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Learning that the so-called letters of transit that set in motion the plot of CASABLANCA are an invention of the scriptwriters totally ruins that movie for me. A movie about the very real WWII is turned into a particularly outlandish STAR TREK episode because of the contamination of a particularly outrageous piece of ill considered fiction.

Who cares wether the Letters of Transit were real or not in Casablanca..... No amount of arguing over the letters of transit, or wether Lazlo could survive a concentration camp and leave occupied or Vichy France......who cares?  Not I.   Casablanca is the one movie I never miss on TCM.  For any lovers of Casablanca out there I highly recommend "Round Up the Usual Suspects" by Aljean Harmetz, a great book on how the fates came about to make "Casablanca".   Enjoy and you will watch Casablanca with an increased amount of appreciation for how the fates worked in Hollywood to produce the great movie. 

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Just a trivia side note re, Casablanca.  In the Peter Lorre biography, The Lost One his character is listed as 'Guillermo' Ugarte.  His first name is never mentioned in the film.

Another piece of trivia related to Peter Lorre and Casablanca is he only spoke 400 words in the film but remains memorable and sets the plot of the whole movie.  

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Another piece of trivia related to Peter Lorre and Casablanca is he only spoke 400 words in the film but remains memorable and sets the plot of the whole movie.  

 

Yes,  what a great and memorable role for Peter Lorre (regardless of his time on the screen).   I just love that cut rate parasite.

 

(oh and 40 of those words were 'Rick!').     :)

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Who cares wether the Letters of Transit were real or not in Casablanca..... No amount of arguing over the letters of transit, or wether Lazlo could survive a concentration camp and leave occupied or Vichy France......who cares?  Not I.   Casablanca is the one movie I never miss on TCM.  For any lovers of Casablanca out there I highly recommend "Round Up the Usual Suspects" by Aljean Harmetz, a great book on how the fates came about to make "Casablanca".   Enjoy and you will watch Casablanca with an increased amount of appreciation for how the fates worked in Hollywood to produce the great movie. 

 

Yes, but ain't it a shame there's really no memorable dialogue in this movie at all, Emily?! 

 

(...though maybe I've just been "misinformed" about that)  ;)

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Yes, but ain't it a shame there's really no memorable dialogue in this movie at all, Emily?! 

 

(...though maybe I've just been "misinformed" about that)   ;)

Really Dargo...are you trying to get my goat????    I will include you in my effort to "Round up the usual suspects"

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Really Dargo...are you trying to get my goat????    I will include you in my effort to "Round up the usual suspects"

 

Hmmmmmm....sorry Emily, but of all the great and memorable dialogue that's in my fourth favorite movie of all time, I don't recall any character in it ever mentioning anything about a "goat"?!!!

 

(...and even though I ALWAYS love it whenever I see Victor Laszlo getting Major Strasser's goat after the former gets the band to play "La Marseillaise" and drowns out the latter's little German marching song in Rick's Cafe!!!)

 

;)  

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Who cares wether the Letters of Transit were real or not in Casablanca..... No amount of arguing over the letters of transit, or wether Lazlo could survive a concentration camp and leave occupied or Vichy France......who cares?  Not I.   Casablanca is the one movie I never miss on TCM.  For any lovers of Casablanca out there I highly recommend "Round Up the Usual Suspects" by Aljean Harmetz, a great book on how the fates came about to make "Casablanca".   Enjoy and you will watch Casablanca with an increased amount of appreciation for how the fates worked in Hollywood to produce the great movie. 

I care. The endless discussion about "letters of transit" almost ruined the film for me. They took one of Hitchcock's "maguffins", and let it dominate the movie.

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Yikes!

 

But as Great Movie Buddha say:  'Don't get your history from movies.'  Movies is fun.  Movies is entertainment.  Excruciating comedy.  Delicious tragedy.  So watch for Bogie's ultimate coolness.  Watch for beautiful Ingrid.  If you want history, go to books.

 

Books?

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Palmerin, has your stepfather been lifting under a rock?

 

Inglorious Basterds of course takes rewriting WWII events to its extreme with the heroes killing all of the major Nazis in a theatre ala The Dirty Dozen.  I was slapping my head going what the f ...?  And that one was done well after the fact.

 

At least Casablanca was made close to the actual events.

Under a rock? That's what I call heavy lifting.

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What I find outrageous is that the knowledge of this McGuffin would impact ones enjoyment of the movie.   But if that really is the case I recommend only documentaries produced,  written and directed by historians.

Exactly: it's a McGuffin, which Hitchcock defined as "The microfilm that the spies are after, but the audience don't care." Unfortunately, some do care about a gimmick that drives the plot but doesn't affect it at all.

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Exactly: it's a McGuffin, which Hitchcock defined as "The microfilm that the spies are after, but the audience don't care." Unfortunately, some do care about a gimmick that drives the plot but doesn't affect it at all.

I wouldn't care, but the "letters of transit" keeps being shoved in my face. I still maintain it's overdone. It's a maguffin on steroids.

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I care. The endless discussion about "letters of transit" almost ruined the film for me. They took one of Hitchcock's "maguffins", and let it dominate the movie.

Well it was an obvious McGuffin however, as for most emigres at the time it was an overriding concern.  So I think the fact that the letters took center stage is not too objectionable.  I read this glorious book called "Strangers in Paradise" about all the people that came to the country in the mid to late thirties....and if they were lucky the early forties and many of the Hollywood moguls and others in Hollywood provided financial support and guarantees to family members and others to get out of Germany, Austria and then finally Europe and to either Britain or America.  

 

If you look closely at the supporting staff (named) and the extras appearing in Casablanca most of them were emigres and in the book "Round up the Usual Suspects"  Aljean Harmetz devotes a whole chapter discussing their use in the picture.   I highly encourage the book for both lovers and dis-respectors of "Casablanca" as it explores all the nuances of making the movie, including its surprising success to both Michael Curtiz, Hal Wallis, and Jack Warner. 

 

Interestingly enough it was Jack Warner's exhuberance at intercepting and grabbing the Academy Award for "Casablanca" that finally did in the Hal Wallis and Warner relationship.  Hal Wallis went on to establish his own company.  However Wallis won his second "Irving Thalberg" award. 

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Well it was an obvious McGuffin however, as for most emigres at the time it was an overriding concern.  So I think the fact that the letters took center stage is not too objectionable.  I read this glorious book called "Strangers in Paradise" about all the people that came to the country in the mid to late thirties....and if they were lucky the early forties and many of the Hollywood moguls and others in Hollywood provided financial support and guarantees to family members and others to get out of Germany, Austria and then finally Europe and to either Britain or America.  

 

If you look closely at the supporting staff (named) and the extras appearing in Casablanca most of them were emigres and in the book "Round up the Usual Suspects"  Aljean Harmetz devotes a whole chapter discussing their use in the picture.   I highly encourage the book for both lovers and dis-respectors of "Casablanca" as it explores all the nuances of making the movie, including its surprising success to both Michael Curtiz, Hal Wallis, and Jack Warner. 

 

Interestingly enough it was Jack Warner's exhuberance at intercepting and grabbing the Academy Award for "Casablanca" that finally did in the Hal Wallis and Warner relationship.  Hal Wallis went on to establish his own company.  However Wallis won his second "Irving Thalberg" award. 

I was not an émigré. Nobody in my family was an émigré. So "letters of transit" is not a subject in which, for some reason, I could develop a gripping interest. I tried, but failed. The same way I failed to develop an interest in the details of the produce hauling industry while watching THIEVES HIGHWAY.

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Sorry, but have any of you out there who seem to possess all these "dire concerns" about the implausibility of these "Letters of Transit" ever considered the thought that THAT pretty much PALES in comparison to the thought that IF Major Strasser who could pretty much get away with anything he wanted in the Nazi puppet regime Vichy French-held territory of Morocco during that time, AND wanted to put an end to fugitive Victor Laszlo once and for all, then WHY did he even allow the escaped Czech partisan to walk freely among all the OTHER refugees seeking the aforementioned transit documents, let ALONE allow Laszlo to continue to stay alive, HUH?!

 

I mean HECK, if YOU were Strasser, wouldn't YOU just "get it over with" within the first day of Victor's arrival with your Wehrmacht issued Luger in, say, the back alley behind Rick's Cafe Americain, OR at least have one of your subordinates take care of "your little problem" right away, TOO???

 

I mean it's NOT like that freakin' Nazi would have been worried about the legalities of Habeas Corpus here ya know, and especially with that little cockhound French Captain in his back pocket!

 

Aaaah, but THEN we REALLY wouldn't have had much of a movie here, now would we, and certainly not NEARLY as good as what we've been enjoying for almost three-quarters of a century now...well, MOST of us, anyway.

 

(...and so in closing, THANK YOU Julius and Philip Epstein and Howard Koch for comin' up with one of THE greatest Hollywood scripts EVER to be typed out on a Remington...I SALUTE you gentlemen!!!)

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