Why is this line from the 1942 classic "Casablanca" considered to be one of the greatest film dialogues of all time? Humphrey Bogart, who plays Rick Blaine, apparently improvised the line. It worked so well that he used it multiple times during the movie. In fact, in the final cut of the movie, it is said four times.
"Casablanca" is about a nightclub owner in French-occupied Morocco during WWII who helps an old love and her rebel husband escape the Germans.
On trying to trace the origins of the famous line, Ken Miyamoto, film blogger and screen writer, claims, "On March 9, 1932- 10 years before Casablanca- Eddie Cantor signed his name in cement at Grauman's Chinese Theater and wrote, "Here's looking at you, Sid" (referring to Sid Grauman, owner of the theater). Cantor certainly meant it as a take-off on 'Here's looking at you, kid,' which evidently was a line in circulation at the time."
Declan Cochran, writer for "Vulture Hound Magazine" writes that in this final scene, when character Ilsa Allison (played by Ingrid Bergman) leaves Rick by getting on the plane with her husband Victor Lazlo (played by Paul Henreid), Rick essentially "falls on his sword." He becomes the hero of the story, because he is the one left in the dust.
Cochran also says that the line also, "means that Rick will forever look after Ilsa, even if they never see each other again."
He also describes in his blog that perhaps what makes Casablanca so famous and accessible to the audience is the plot's sincerity. Surely, this can be found in the famous line, "Here's looking at you, kid." The acknowledgement that Rick is helping her and yet perhaps the acknowledgment of his failure to keep her. "Here's looking at you, kid" is all he has left of their passionate relationship.
Personally, I believe that this scene of the film impacts us so much because Rick will forever be in the distance, looking at his memories. He can only search in dreams, but reality, what are the chances he will ever see her again? It also signifies the eternity of their love with the word "kid." Rick is saying she was a young kid in love, and in his memories, always will be the naive, young love who left him for her own safety in Casablanca.
Rick is definitely the loser here, left to wither away into oblivion in his small nightclub, but he is the epic hero. Even though he tells Ilsa to leave, we as the audience hate her for getting on that plane. On some level, we know she still had a choice.
Rick returns to his "Casablanca," (which in Spanish means, "white house"). Certainly, like Dante leaving Beatrice, his "holy love," at the gates of Heaven, Rick is the only one whose true love remains sanctified. In "Casablanca" love is not however Platonic. There is a winner and there is a loser.
For whatever reason, the line "Here's looking at you, kid" leaves Rick as stuck in a moment as the scene's hanging fog.