January 14, 1943 – Wartime Conference Begins in Casablanca

On this date in 1943, President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill opened a wartime conference in Casablanca. FDR became the first president to leave the U.S. during wartime.

Roosevelt and Churchill in Casablanca in 1943

Roosevelt and Churchill in Casablanca in 1943

In Casablanca, the parties did not have recourse to Rick’s Cafe, the fictional bar/restaurant in the 1942 American drama Casablanca. The film, set in World War II, starred Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, and Peter Lorre. The lead character Rick, played by Humphrey Bogart, must choose between his love for a woman and his love of democracy. It being 1942, the female lost out to patriotism. Casablanca won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Its lead character, memorable lines, and theme song (“As Time Goes By”) have all become iconic. The film has consistently ranked near the top of lists of the greatest films of all time.

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in the 1942 movie Casablanca

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in the 1942 movie Casablanca

FDR may not have been able to go to Rick’s, but he did get a taste of the exotic life in Casablanca nevertheless. On the evening of January 22, the Sultan of Morocco hosted Roosevelt and Churchill at a dinner. During the meal he presented gifts to the U.S. President, including a dagger fitted with a gold hilt and sheath, encased in a teakwood box inlaid with mother-of-pearl; a gold tiara encrusted with semi-precious stones from the Atlas Mountains; and a pair of gold bracelets from the Sultan’s collection of family jewels to be given to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

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You can read more about the Casablanca Conference here.

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