chapter  8
18 Pages

Black Cupids, White Desires: Reading the Representation of Racial Difference in Casablanca and Ghost

What can be said about the representation of racial difference in Casablanca? Some fifty years after the film's release, the standard answer to this question is that Casablanca marks a defining moment in the history of Hollywood's representation of black characters. Thomas Cripps, for example, writes that "of all the films following the Gone with the Wind thaw in racial depictions Casablanca (Howard Koch, 1942) reached the widest audience and probably had the strong·est impact within the limits of liberal faith." 1 For Cripps, the gist of Casablanca's racial liberalism was its representation of Sam (Dooley Wilson) as Rick's friend and equal, and its related repudiation of traditional racial stereotypes. More recently, Aljean Harmetz has written that the "role of Sam in Casablanca was one of a handful in the early 1940s in which an African-American was allowed some dignity."2 For both Cripps and Harmetz, Casablanca belongs to a moment in the history of Hollywood film in which demeaning depictions of blacks have begun to give way to representations that, since they do not mock and insult black characters, can be said to recognize in blacks a human worth on par with that of whites.