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Casablanca (1942)

What I like most about this poster is its simplicity.  It tells you as little as possible.  There’s the three main stars, the name of the film company, the title, the supporting players, the director, and the producer.  From this, the potential viewer doesn’t have a clue as to what the movie’s about, or where it’s set, or if it’s a period piece, or more contemporary, or if it’s a drama – though with that cast it’s unlikely to be a comedy – or if it’s even the latest “screen sensation!”

Even the main image, of Bogart and Bergman huddled together, doesn’t give anyone a clue.  He looks pensive and sad, but as to why, well, it could be anything.  And she is looking off into the distance, apprehensive, worried perhaps, at what she sees.  Together they’re a couple who could be facing any number of problems, but until you see the movie you’ll never know what they are, or how much those problems will affect them.

In many ways, the poster is a bit of a gamble, using the stars’ brand-name recognition to entice an audience into seeing a movie that they don’t know anything about.  And the title could mean anything: the place where the movie is set, a character’s name perhaps, or even a code name (that’s a bit of stretch, admittedly, but from the perspective of ignorance, it could even be the name of a company or a product).  And back in the days when there was generally one poster created per movie, the deceptive brilliance of this particular poster has got to be admired.  It’s lack of artifice seems to be saying, “Bogart, Bergman, Henreid, Casablanca – what else do you need to know?”  (Well, nothing – obviously.)  And to cap it all off, it’s clear that, in this instance, the movie’s title is also it’s tag line.  Just genius, sheer genius.

Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know.