P.O.V. No.28 - Good Guy / Bad Guy

A note on a source of the Marseillaise scene
in Casablanca

Jonathan Chubb

NB. On October 21, 2009, I received an email from Dr. Jonathan Chubb which sheds new light on the origins of the Marseillaise scene in Casablanca. Since this issue was in final proofread at the time, I thought it best simply to publish the email. The articles to which Jonathan Chubb presumably refers are: "Bogart's nod in the Marseillaise scene: A physical gesture in Casablanca. " p.o.v. no. 14 (December 2002), pp. 136-142; and "Two Marseillaise scenes: from Casablanca to West Beirut. " Canadian Journal of Film Studies, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Fall 2007), pp. 112-118. The passage cited from Dostoevsky's The Possessed (1872), can be accessed at http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext05/8devl10h.htm#1_3_3. Some of the French in the quote is incorrect.

Richard Raskin, editor.

Dear Dr Raskin,

Forgive the intrusion, I am contacting you (from Scotland) to query you about the famous "Marseillaise" scene from Casablanca, as you have written academic articles on this.

I have been struck how there is no published source that the derivation of this scene is unquestionably a scene from Part Two, Chapter 5 of "The Devils", by Dostoevsky. The novel is also known as "The Possessed" or "The Demons" depending upon translation. I include the Constance Garnett translation (Russian-English) below my signature. Another translation (not the one available online) changes the 4th last sentence to "But already it was forced to sing in time with Mein Lieber Augustin". There are additional peripheral sentences which may also be relevant.

I would like to stimulate some discussion about this- just for the sakeof interest. After all, it is one of the most dramatic scenes of one ofthe most iconic movies of any age......

Jonathan Chubb
Division of Cell and Developmental Biology
School of Life Sciences
University of Dundee
Dow Street

The Possessed by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Translated from the Russian by Constance Garnett, first published 1914. London: Heinemann, 1914; pp. 291-292 (1965 reprint).

It began with the menacing strains of the "Marseillaise ": "Qu'un sang impur abreuve nos sillons." There is heard the pompous challenge, the intoxication of future victories. But suddenly mingling with the masterly variations on the national hymn, somewhere from some corner quite close, on one side come the vulgar strains of "Mein lieber Augustin." The "Marseillaise" goes on unconscious of them. The "Marseillaise" is at the climax of its intoxication with its own grandeur; but Augustin gains strength; Augustin grows more and more insolent, and suddenly the melody of Augustin begins to blend with the melody of the "Marseillaise." The latter begins, as it were, to get angry; becoming aware of Augustin at last she tries to fling him off, to brush him aside like a tiresome insignificant fly. But "Mein lieber Augustin" holds his ground firmly, he is cheerful and self-confident, he is gleeful and impudent, and the "Marseillaise" seems suddenly to become terribly stupid. She can no longer conceal her anger and mortification; it is a wail of indignation, tears, and curses, with hands outstretched to Providence.

"Pas un police de noire, terrain; pas une de nos forteresses."

But she is forced to sing in time with "Mein lieber Augustin." Her melody passes in a sort of foolish way into Augustin; she yields and dies away. And only by snatches there is heard again:

"Qu'un sang impur ..."

But at once it passes very offensively into the vulgar waltz. []

to the top of the page