Colloquium | Noah Isenberg

Wednesday, January 25, 2017 - 12:00pm

Noah Isenberg

“Such Much?” The Refugee Story and the Émigré Talent Behind Casablanca 

Although the legendary, award-winning Hollywood picture Casablanca (1942) has been dubbed “everyone’s favorite émigré film” and “the best refugee film of the war years,” rarely is it discussed in this vein. Drawing on extensive research undertaken for his new book We’ll Always Have Casablanca: The Life, Legend, and Afterlife of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Movie (W.W. Norton, 2017), Noah Isenberg sheds new light on this neglected aspect—refocusing attention on the dozens of émigrés at work on both sides of the camera; on the strangely evocative if also veiled commentary on real historical events; and on the furtive references to Jews and other targets of Nazi persecution. One of the all-time most cherished love stories and wartime dramas of the studio era may also be seen as one of the earliest and most successful feature films to address the menace of National Socialism, the flight of European refugees, and the personal stories embodied in even the most minor characters portrayed on screen.

Noah Isenberg is Professor of Culture and Media at the New School’s Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, in New York City, where he also directs the Screen Studies program. His books include Edgar G. Ulmer: A Filmmaker at the Margins (California, 2014), Detour (British Film Institute, 2008), Weimar Cinema: An Essential Guide to Classic Films of the Era (Columbia, 2009), and most recently, We’ll Always Have Casablanca: The Life, Legend, and Afterlife of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Movie (W.W. Norton, 2017). His writing has appeared in such diverse outlets as: The Nation, Bookforum, New York Review Daily, Film Comment, The Paris Review Daily, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Criterion Collection, Film Quarterly, New German Critique, Cinema Journal, the Wall Street Journal, The New Republic and the New York Times. He serves as book review editor of Film Quarterly, is a fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities, and was awarded a 2015-2016 NEH Public Scholar research grant.


Cinema Studies Program
209A Fisher-Bennett Hall ⋅ 3340 Walnut Street ⋅ Philadelphia, PA 19104 ⋅ (215) 898-8782