Victor Laszlo is a central character in the 1942 Warner Bros. film Casablanca. He's the leader of a rebellion group who supports the Resistance movement and wants to fight back against the Nazis.
He was portrayed by Paul Henreid.
Before the film
During some point before the events of the movie, he got married to Ilsa Lund and the two hung out, Victor was a Czechoslovakian Resistance leader and freedom fighter. During some point, he got captured by Nazis and ended up in a German concentration camp. He was assumed to be dead and Ilsa believed the rumor and started hanging out with Rick in the mean time. For some unexplained reason, he managed to escape the camp and revealed himself to be alive. Ilsa started hanging out with Victor again, and the two of them ran off to Casablanca, Morocco unintentionally abandoning Rick at a train station where he meet Sam and the two of them went on the train to Casablanca.
Victor is introduced into the film with his spouse Ilsa Lund entering Rick's afe and gambling house. He announces that he reserved a table for him and Ilsa and the couple are led to their table. When seated, Laszlo mentions in a hushed voice that he is looking for Ugarte. Ilsa is visibly nervous, and her first words convey fear of both her past and their present danger. Victor remains courteous, but the seasoned Resistance leader has a small two-inch scar over his right eye, the result of his recent escape and flight across Europe.
A Norwegian Underground ally and contact named Berger identifies himself to Laszlo with his ring bearing the Cross of Lorraine. Ilsa cuts short Laszlo's illicit conversation and he quickly diverts their conversation when Renault approaches and welcomes the visitor to Casablanca - and then flatters Ilsa.
Renault orders champagne and caviar. Laszlo objects, but Renault explains that it was a game he played. Ilsa asks Renault about the piano player's background. She learns that Sam came from Paris with Rick, the owner of the cafe - and she is also informed that Renault has repressed homosexual feelings for Rick himself. Major Strasser shows up and Laszlo refuses to let Strasser sit at his table, because he thought it would cost him his freedom.
After exchanging a few bitter, offensive and hostile words to each other, Strasser demands a discussion of the issues arising from his presence on French soil, and orders Laszlo to be questioned at the Prefet's office the next morning at ten with Ilsa. Victor and Ilsa were both fearful of the situation. Laszlo is dismayed when told by Berger that the source of their exit visas, Ugarte, has already been taken into police custody, after his arrest for murder earlier that evening in the cafe. Berger invites Laszlo to the next evening's Underground resistance meeting, and he walks away.
Rick meets Ilsa
After a brief disscusion where Sam plays "As Time Goes By", and Rick meets Ilsa for the first time for in several years, they are interrupted by the presence of Capt. Renault and Laszlo coming from the bar. Rick suppresses his feelings in his formal introduction to the Ilsa treating her like a stranger. Ilsa interrupts Renault's formal courtesies and personally introduces Victor to Rick. To Renault's surprise, Rick joins them for a drink, departing from his normal solitary style. Although taken aback by Ilsa's appearance, Rick generously compliments Laszlo on his freedom-fighting efforts - he is notably impressed by the Czech's exceptional accomplishments.
The Underground Resistance meeting
The next morning, Laszlo and Ilsa met up with Strasser at the Prefet's de Police's office for the meeting. Strasser tells Victor he wouldn't get an exit visa to leave Casablanca. Strasser tries to intimidate Laszlo, but he wasn't scared of Strasser's threats.
Strasser offers them another option that would allow the two of them to leave for Lisbon the next day -- Victor would have to sell the Resistance leaders throughout Europe out to the Nazis. Amused, Renault contemptuously utters his next line." Laszlo persuasively rejects the Major offer, and is generally not afraid of the Nazi's threats.
Threateningly, Strasser informs Laszlo that no one could take his place if anything bad were to happen to him. Strasser adds that Ugarte is dead, and Renault admits that there was foul play involved. After the two have left (possibly to the black market to get a visa), another "visa problem" is presented to Renault - the police chief straightens his tie and tells Strasser to let her in.
Planning an exit from Casablanca
Ilsa revealed to Rick that Victor was her husband all this time, even when Rick was back in Paris.
Victor and Ilsa helplessly ask for assistance from Senor Ferrari in leaving Casablanca. With wide and innocent eyes this time, he tells them that Ilsa will be the only one able to leave and he may be able to help smuggle her out.
Victor's goal changes to one of acquiring an exit visa for Ilsa, not for himself, and Ilsa responds that she is uncertain about abandoning him. Word has gotten around that it is too risky to find an exit visa for Victor, because in Ferrari's words, "it would take a miracle to get (her) out of Casablanca, and the Germans (had) outlawed miracles." They decide that Ilsa will not go alone ahead of Victor to America (because he never abandoned her in the past), and that they will continue searching for two exit visas.
Night Two in Casablanca
Ilsa and Victor return to Rick's café once again. Rick greets them courteously and observes that Sam's playing must bring memories of Paris in "happier days" to Ilsa. She confirms that it does, and requests a table close to Sam's piano but away from Major Strasser. Rick takes care of seating arrangements even though it was difficult to arrange. He asks that Sam play As Time Goes By. for Ilsa.
Laszlo is worried about his prospects for escape, and confidentially talks to Rick in his cafe office, offering him a fortune in francs (200,000) for the exit visas. Rick is also unmoved and disinterested by Laszlo's plea to continue his crusading work - he claims that his a-political stance and his soured opinion, support and dedication to the Cause forbids him from yielding up the exit visas.
Just then, he and Rick overhear the sound of German soldiers singing a Nazi song downstairs in the café. When Rick and Laszlo notice this from their end, Laszlo walks over to the orchestra and tells them to play the French anthem La Marseillaise. The uncertain conductor leads them in playing a rousing, triumphant rendition of the French national anthem.
The Germans are drowned out by the Free French audience as the accelerated rhythmic editing increases the scene's intensity. Everyone at the cafe pours their hearts into the singing of the song, except Rick and Ilsa. Ilsa he gazes at Victor in a state of awe, fear and prideful admiration, forgetting to sing. Yvonne, who has been sitting at the bar with her German officer shouts the Germans are drowned out by the Free French audience as the accelerated rhythmic editing increases the scene's intensity as it builds toward its climax. Everyone at the cafe pours their hearts into the singing of the song, except for two individuals - Rick and Ilsa. In two closeups, she gazes at Victor in a state of awe, fear and prideful admiration, forgetting to sing. Yvonne, who has been sitting at the bar with her German officer, shouts: "Vive la France!" at its stirring conclusion amidst wild applause.
With the inspiration of Laszlo's bold, patriotic, revolutionary act and Rick's consenting order, Major Strasser is thoroughly embarrassed and considers both a dangerous threat. Outrages, he promptly instructs Renault to punish the cafe's patrons and close down Rick's place before storming out, on the convenient grounds that people are having a good time on. Rick protests to French gendarmes, but to no effect. Reluctantly, Renault closes the saloon, hypocritically blaming it on illegal gambling.
Confronting Ilsa without Laszlo at her side, Major Strasser (with a lascivious and sinister look) intimidates Ilsa and threatens her with Laszlo's death unless the resistance leader returns to occupied France "under safe conduct" from himself. Bravely and steadfastly, she questions the validity or safety of his guarantee. As he parts, the stern Major offers two alternatives for Victor Laszlo placement in a "concentration camp" by French authorities, or death.
Laszlo's Hotel Room
Back in their hotel room, Laszlo boldly prepares to carry on and leave for an Underground resistance meeting. His behavior indicates that he has deduced that Ilsa's and Rick's past relationship in Paris affects Rick's decision to give them the visas. Ilsa learns that an intransigent Rick cannot be convinced to sell the exit visas with sentiment or money.
After she evades giving an answer to Victor's previous question, he empathizes with Ilsa and asks her about her time in Paris with Rick when he was detained in a concentration camp.
Then with sparkling glimmers of tears in her eyes, Ilsa decides to take matters into her own hands and go see Rick to obtain the letters. Her sentence is interrupted as Laszlo expresses his faith in her. As he departs for the meeting, he gives her a pair of passion-less kisses on her right cheek.
After Ilsa had another discussion with Rick about why she abandoned Rick and tried to get the visas, Laszlo is engaged in a conversation and a drink to stall for time and hears again of the Czech's firm belief in the "good" of the Cause.
Laszlo knows that both of them are in love with Ilsa - a love for which no one is to blame. Without a need to seek vindictive revenge or find an explanation, he suggests, in his own self-sacrificial offer, that Rick use the letters of transit to take Ilsa away from Casablanca to a safe location - as a favor to him. He would remain in Casablanca and take his chances. Incredulous, Rick is impressed by Laszlo's self-less caring, virtuous trust and devoted love for her.
Moments later, French gendarmes, presumably at Major Strasser's instigation, burst in through the cafe doors and arrest Laszlo on a "petty charge," as Rick intones.
In the Police Capitaine's office the next morning, Rick tries to convince Renault to let Laszlo go, now that he knows that Ilsa loves him. He then reveals that he has the letters of transit - and - that he plans to leave Casablanca and run off to Lisbon with her - without Gestapo or police interference.
The normally unflappable Capitaine chain-smokes relentlessly throughout the scene, highlighting the tension. In addition to stealing away unimpeded with Laszlo's wife, Rick further wants to put Laszlo away for good in another German death camp. He schemes and orchestrates a deal with Renault to promote good will with Strasser. The deal would be to frame Laszlo on a bigger charge (of possessing the letters of transit) that would betray the Resistance leader to the police and keep him in a concentration camp for years. Renault catches himself while agreeing Germany would be very grateful.
Rick plots to have Renault release Laszlo from jail a half an hour before the Lisbon-bound plane departs. Then, Laszlo could be lured to Rick's cafe and arrested there as he is presented with the stolen letters of transit. The charge would be as an accessory to the couriers' deaths Although Renault has misgivings, he agrees to the scheme - one that would bring him Strasser's approval and gambling gain. Obviously, the scheme benefits Renault's standing. He recovers the letters of transit, he is praised by Strasser for arresting Laszlo, and he wins the 10,000 franc wager with Rick.
Rick is studying the letters of transit. Renault arrives with a loud set of knocks on the door. The sound of a car pulling up alerts them to Laszlo and Ilsa arriving by taxi. Renault hides concealed out of sight in Rick's office. As Victor pays the cab driver, Ilsa rushes in ahead of her husband, and speaks privately to Rick. She is worried that Victor hasn't been told, Victor thought she was leaving with him.
Laszlo enters the cafe and thanks Rick profusely for his efforts to help. He also gratefully offers to pay Rick for the letters, but Rick refuses his payment.
The Plane Scene
Renault arrests Laszlo after Rick gives him the letters to fill in the names. At first, Rick's standing between Ilsa and Victor. After Renault's threat, Ilsa moves instinctively to her Laszlo's side, crossing behind Rick and leaving him on the outside. Painfully, Rick realizes that Ilsa belongs to Victor and that she should leave with him or she would regret her decision. Renault informs them of Rick's betrayal, but then Rick switches sides again and points a gun towards Renault forcing Rick to cancel the arrest.
Renault informs airport officials to expect and grant safe passage for two passengers with letters of transit from Casablanca to Lisbon. What Rick didn't know was that he had managed to dial Major Strasser's number and alerted him to the escape. Strasser receives the call in his German Commission of Justice office and orders Heinze to get his car, and then phones the office of the Prefet of Police and orders a squad of police to meet him at the airport.
The plane was going to take off in ten minutes in the misty fog. Rick, Renault, Laszlo, and Ilsa drive up in a government vehicle. Wearing a hat and trenchcoat, Rick orders Renault to have an orderly get Laszlo's luggage and load it on the plane. As Laszlo walks away to make luggage arrangements, Rick orders Renault to write the names of the married couple - the names are Mr. and Mrs. Victor Laszlo - on the letters of transit.
Bewildered, Ilsa protests Rick's change in plans and the two have a chat about going on the plane. Rick betrays Ilsa with the same reasoning she had used to betray him earlier in Paris at the train station - the greater Cause represented by Laszlo. In a supreme moment of romantic self-sacrifice and nobility while maintaining his dignity and self-esteem, he affirms his love for her - by urging her to leave Casablanca with her husband and the precious letters of transit that Renault is counter-signing. For Rick, no sacrifice is too noble or great for their idealized Parisian love - and where he must go she can't go with him.
When Laszlo returns and explains that everything is in order, he insists that Rick not explain anything. Rick overrules Victor and tells him that Ilsa had visited him the night before - but only to beg for the letters. He claims that she pretended to be in love with him and he allowed her to believe it.
Rick vindicates Victor's faith in him - Laszlo responds sympathetically that he accepts and understands Rick's explanation regarding his wife's faithfulness. He is presented with the exit visas, and then shakes Rick's hand as a new member of the committed and collective Pan-European underground movement. Rick still held his gun until the plane took off, Strasser took off and tried to halt the take off and Rick holds him back and plane takes off.