Quote 1

“You must remember this
A kiss is just 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
As time goes by.

“Moonlight and love songs
Never out of date.
Hearts full of passion
Jealousy and hate.
Woman needs man
And man must have his mate
That no one can deny.

“It's still the same old story
A fight for love and glory
A case of do or die.
The world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by."

The tune of "As Time Goes By" is one of Casablanca's most important themes, but the words are sung only on two occasions. Sam sings the first two verses at Ilsa's request on the night of her arrival with Laszlo in Casablanca. Rick, who has forbidden the song in his bar, reacts angrily, but he catches sight of Ilsa just as he begins to reprimand Sam. The song becomes the occasion of their re-acquaintance. Later, Sam sings the last two verses during Rick's Paris flashback. As the song plays, Ilsa and Rick stand beside the piano and Rick fills glasses with champagne. Ilsa is noticeably distracted, and presumably she has already learned that Laszlo is still alive. Rick casts a glance at Ilsa that suggests he knows something is bothering her, but he doesn't mention it in the dialogue that follows. In this case, the song marks a missed opportunity to tell the truth and prevent years of resentment.

The actual lyrics of "As Time Goes By" are also significant, since the message of the song suggests that the world is a complicated place full of continuous change, but that one thing remains constant: timeless, enduring romantic love. Casablanca does not accept these words at face value but puts them to the test. The passing of time is one of the film's main themes, and the question of whether love endures is one of its central questions. Before Ilsa shows up in Casablanca, Rick seems to have given up on the possibility of a pure, timeless love. Ilsa's confession of love in his apartment complicates the picture, but at the movie's finale, time, not love, triumphs. Time and history, in the form of the war, dominate the present and steer the future. If the love between Rick and Ilsa does survive, it will do so only as memory. The significance of the words of "As Time Goes By," therefore, is that they are ultimately false. The future canand does bring situations that interrupt love, and the fundamental things don't always apply.