Here is my personal list, one at a time, of the top ten movie characters ever. However, feel free to agree or offer better choices and argument. SPOILER CAUTION! The content below may give away some of the plot of the film(s) concerned.
#7 RICK BLAINE
“Louis, this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”
Rick Blaine, played by craggy-faced Humphrey Bogart, in the legendry 1942 film Casablanca, is one cool and cynical customer, who seemingly doesn’t care about anything except himself. Set in the dangerous town of Casablanca in French Morocco during WW2, his bar, Rick’s Café Américain, is the coolest gin joint in town and Rick is most definitely the boss. Rick has the respect of the major players in town, both the official ones and the less than official ones, as well as having his fair share of fleeting female liaisons, but he has no attachments, except his bar and Sam (Dooley Wilson), his piano player.
Yvonne: Where were you last night?
Rick: That’s so long ago, I don’t remember.
Yvonne: Will I see you tonight?
Rick: I never make plans that far ahead.
In a place full of people with causes, Rick makes it clear “‘I’m’ the only ‘cause’ I’m interested in” and “I stick my neck out for ‘nobody’!”. He confronts all challenges with a dry and icy cool.
Major Strasser: What is your nationality?
Rick: I’m a drunkard.
Captain Renault: That makes Rick a citizen of the world.
Major Strasser: We have a complete dossier on you: Richard Blaine, American, age 37. Cannot return to his country. The reason is a little vague. We also know what you did in Paris, Mr. Blaine, and also we know why you left Paris.
[hands the dossier to Rick]
Major Strasser: Don’t worry, we are not going to broadcast it.
Rick: [reading] Are my eyes really brown?
Rick has an odd relationship with Captain Louis Renault (the fabulous Claude Rains), head of the local police, and they both are world-weary men who know how the game is played and how to bend the rules when they need to.
Captain Renault: I’ve often speculated why you don’t return to America. Did you abscond with the church funds? Run off with a senator’s wife? I like to think you killed a man. It’s the Romantic in me.
Rick: It was a combination of all three.
Rick seems quite settled and contented with the loner life he’s created for himself. The arrival of Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) and her husband, the renowned resistance leader Victor Lazlo (played by the often-overlooked Paul Henreid), turns his life upside down and we begin to understand why Rick is the way he is. The first time he shows he has feelings and has emotional pain is when Ilsa arrives at his bar and he is unaware of her presence. Ilsa recognises Sam at the piano.
Ilsa: Play it once, Sam. For old times’ sake.
Sam: [lying] I don’t know what you mean, Miss Ilsa.
Ilsa: Play it, Sam. Play “As Time Goes By.”
Sam: [lying] Oh, I can’t remember it, Miss Ilsa. I’m a little rusty on it.
Ilsa: I’ll hum it for you. Da-dy-da-dy-da-dum, da-dy-da-dee-da-dum…
[Sam begins playing]
Ilsa: Sing it, Sam.
Sam: [singing] You must remember this … A kiss is still a kiss … A sigh is just a sigh … The fundamental things apply … As time goes by. … And when two lovers woo … They still say, “I love you” … On that you can rely … No matter what the future brings-…
Rick: [rushing up] Sam, I thought I told you never to play-…
This is when we learn that Rick cannot bear to hear that song, ‘their’ song as it is too painful and he sees Ilsa for the first time since she walked out on him in Paris. He tries to retain his cool, but you can tell it is a struggle.
“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.”
Ilsa: I wasn’t sure you were the same. Let’s see, the last time we met…
Rick: Was La Belle Aurore.
Ilsa: How nice, you remembered. But of course, that was the day the Germans marched into Paris.
Rick: Not an easy day to forget.
Rick: I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue
Ilsa explains why she abandoned Rick in Paris, that she had found out her husband was still alive and thought it would be easier for him if she just disappeared. Rick also has respect and a growing admiration for the work of Victor Lazlo who does not quite believe Rick likes being the loner who doesn’t take a side in all that’s going on in the war.
Rick: Don’t you sometimes wonder if it’s worth all this? I mean what you’re fighting for.
Victor Laszlo: You might as well question why we breathe. If we stop breathing, we’ll die. If we stop fighting our enemies, the world will die.
Rick: Well, what of it? It’ll be out of its misery.
Victor Laszlo: You know how you sound, Mr. Blaine? Like a man who’s trying to convince himself of something he doesn’t believe in his heart.
Rick is still in love with Ilsa and he holds the key to Lazlo and Ilsa’s safety, 2 exit visas from Casablanca. Ilsa comes to him one evening and tells him that she still loves Rick and wants to be with him instead of Victor. Rick then has to make a big decision of what to do. He can escape with Ilsa or he can save Lazlo, someone he knows will make a massive difference in the fight against the Germans.
Rick makes the noble choice and has to explain Ilsa why she can’t stay with him.
Ilsa: You’re saying this only to make me go.
Rick: I’m saying it because it’s true. Inside of us, we both know you belong with Victor. You’re part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.
Ilsa: But what about us?
Rick: We’ll always have Paris. We didn’t have, we, we lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.
Ilsa: When I said I would never leave you.
Rick: And you never will. But I’ve got a job to do, too. Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that. Now, now… Here’s looking at you kid.
Rick is the cool cat tough guy that has been made tougher through a broken heart and in a tense situation makes a noble selfless act that will better the world. He loses the one he loves, but at least he’ll always have Louis.