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Casablanca(1942)

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Synopsis

In French occupied Morocco during World War II, "Rick's Cafe Americain", a bar and casino, serves as a way station for expatriates and political refugees. Rick (Humphrey Bogart), the cynical cafe owner, refuses to take sides with any nationality, but when a former lover (Ingrid Bergman) and her new husband (Paul Henried) arrive in Casablanca, desperate for visas, he is drawn into a volatile web of political and romantic espionage.

Producer: Hal B. Wallis
Director: Michael Curtiz
Screenplay: Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch, based on the play Everybody Comes to Rick's by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison
Art Direction: Carl Jules Weyl
Cinematography: Arthur Edeson
Costume Design: Orry-Kelly
Film Editing: Owen Marks
Original Music: Max Steiner
Cast: Humphrey Bogart (Richard "Rick" Blaine), Ingrid Bergman (Ilsa Lund Laszlo), Paul Henreid (Victor Laszlo), Claude Rains (Captain Louis Renault), Conrad Veidt (Maj. Heinrich Strasser), Sydney Greenstreet (Senor Ferrari), Peter Lorre (Ugarte).
BW-103m. Closed captioning. Descriptive video.

Why Casablanca is Essential

In the six decades since its 1942 release, Casablanca has grown into such a legend that it almost transcends mere cinema. Its lines of dialogue can be quoted by people who have not even seen the film: "Here's looking at you, kid," "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship," and the oft misquoted "Play it, Sam."

The production design of Casablanca has come to represent the aesthetics of romantic longing. Its smoky casino, fog-shrouded runway, trench coats, potted palms and gruff-voiced pianist repeatedly surface in contemporary films, commercials, television programs and even restaurant decor as respects are paid to this quintessential Hollywood classic.

If Citizen Kane (1941) represents the pinnacle of artistic derring-do and Gone With the Wind (1939) epitomizes the colorful bombast of the American epic, then Casablanca is surely the film that defines cinematic cool.

The ingredients that have made Casablanca such a timeless classic are not easy to pinpoint. Produced by Warner Bros. at the height of the Hollywood studio system, Casablanca embraced what is now known as "invisible style." Rather than dazzling the eye with eye-catching visuals and histrionic acting, it seduces the viewer by creating a seamless, lush universe that gradually envelops the audience. Hardly an effortless accomplishment, "invisible style" required an absolute mastery of the various cinematic elements by its collaborators, including Hungarian director Michael Curtiz (Mildred Pierce, 1945), director of photography Arthur Edeson (The Maltese Falcon, 1941), Art Director Carl Jules Weyl (The Big Sleep, 1946), composer Max Steiner (Gone With the Wind) and soon-to-be-director Don Siegel (Dirty Harry, 1972), whose dynamic opening montage invests the film with a sense of political urgency.

It took no less than six writers to transform Murray Burnett and Joan Alison's un-produced play Everybody Comes to Rick' into Casablanca, taking a conventional exotic romance (patterned after Algiers (1938) and Only Angels Have Wings, 1939) and investing it with a subtle, richly-textured brand of drama all its own.

Although George Raft and Ronald Reagan were rumored to have been considered for the starring role, only Humphrey Bogart could have endowed the character with such emotional depth in so few words. Tight-lipped and tough on the outside, while wounded and sentimental within, Bogart's performance as Rick Blaine is the capstone to this extraordinary cinematic achievement that shows no sign of succumbing to the frailties of age.

by Bret Wood

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Pop Culture 101 - CASABLANCA

Casablanca did not truly strike a resounding chord with American culture until about 20 years after its 1942 release. In the 1960s, a few years after Humphrey Bogart's death in 1957, a movie theater called The Brattle in Cambridge, Massachusetts started reviving Casablanca for three weeks every year, drawing enthusiastic and increasingly larger crowds. Eventually, fans started showing up wearing trench coats and snap-brim hats like Bogie. These fans would even recite dialogue with the film, a la The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).

As a bona fide cultural artifact and generational touchstone for millions of people, Casablanca has inspired countless spoofs and references in other films. Perhaps the most famous is Woody Allen's playful homage to the film and Bogart's persona in Play It Again, Sam (1972), directed by Herbert Ross. In this imaginative comedy, Allen plays an unlucky-in-love neurotic whose muse happens to be the ghost of Humphrey Bogart. Other references to Bogie and Casablanca can be seen in What's Up, Doc? (1972) and Murder By Death (1976).

Of course, not all references to this essential film classic are in good taste. Exhibit A for the prosecution: Caboblanco (1980), a murky rip-off of the Michael Curtiz classic starring Charles Bronson as a barkeeper in Peru and Jason Robards in Conrad Veidt's Nazi role. More recently, the plot was lifted for the Pamela Anderson Lee opus, Barb Wir (1996) with Lee in the Bogart role!

Another, more lighthearted spoof occurred in Bugs Bunny's return to animated shorts, "Carrotblanca" (1995) which saw many of our favorite Warner Bros. cartoon stars filling the shoes of Bogie and company: Bugs (in the Bogie role), Sylvester (as Slazlo), Daffy Duck (as Sam), Tweety (as Usmarte), Pepe le Pew (as Louie), and Yosemite Sam (as General Pandemonium).

And don't forget that our own Essentials host, director Rob Reiner, paid a loving tribute to Casablanca with his own 1989 comedy, When Harry Met Sally. The subject of the film first comes up during Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan's introductory journey to New York City at the beginning of the film. As their relationship continues, the film remains central to their maturing friendship and budding romance.

In 1999, The Oxford Dictionary of 20th Century Quotations added four quotes from famous movies. They are: "E.T. phone home." (E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, 1982); "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." (Gone With the Wind, 1939); "Go ahead, make my day." (Sudden Impact, 1984), and "Here's looking at you, kid." (Casablanca).

Millions of Casablanca fans were outraged in 1998 when the sequel, As Time Goes By, hit bookstores with an initial run of 1.1 million copies. The writer, Michael Walsh, wrote the book as a hired hand and admitted that he was never a huge fan of the film. The Boston Globe observed that the ending to his book "maintains the spirit of the film's finale."

by Scott McGee

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CASABLANCA - Trivia and Other Fun Stuff

"As Time Goes By" didn't win an Oscar® for Best Song in 1943. It wasn't even eligible to be nominated since it wasn't an original work. It was actually a much older song, written for a 1931 Broadway show called Everybody's Welcome.

Casablanca may have been a city of corruption, political intrigue, and pickpockets, but compared to an earlier film Michael Curtiz directed in his native Hungary, the North African city is positively puritan. Directed in a style that recalled D.W. Griffith's Intolerance, Curtiz's Sodom and Gomorrah (1922) was a biblical story that detailed the avarice, lust and greed that eventually brought ruin onto the twin cities. While Casablanca isn't quite that decadent, Curtiz did show an early knack for sinful cities.

Conrad Veidt and Paul Henreid, far from being murderous adversaries, were actually the best of friends. Veidt had intervened on Henreid's behalf to prevent the Austrian refugee from being interned in Britain near the beginning of World War II. Veidt appeared in another milestone of world cinema as the somnambulist Cesare in the silent German film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919). He was also an exotic presence as the mysterious prince in The Indian Tomb (1921). After escaping Nazi Germany, Veidt settled into a Hollywood career doing his best to portray the Nazis in the worst possible light. Sadly, Veidt, whose performance as the villainous Major Strasser was completely different from his own character, died in April 1944, one month after Casablanca swept the Academy Awards®.

Notice some familiar faces from other films? Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and Humphrey Bogart starred in The Maltese Falcon (1941). And Claude Rains and Paul Henreid had just completed Now, Voyager (1942) when they signed on for Casablanca.

How about that typo in the credits? Veteran character actor S.Z. Sakall, known to most people as "Cuddles" Sakall, is listed in the credits as "S.K. Sakall."

The opening montage sequence was created by Don Siegel, who went on to direct many important films himself, including Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and Dirty Harry (1971).

Yes, that's the great Marcel Dalio as the croupier. Dalio had been a great star in French cinema during the 1930s and appeared in two key films of the French poetic realism movement of the 1930s for director Jean Renoir, Grand Illusion (1937) and The Rules of the Game (1939).

The famous last line in the film is heard while Rick and Louis walk off into the fog. Since their backs were to the camera, the studio had more time to come up with a suitable closing line to their scene. Before producer Hal Wallis came up with the perfect line ("Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."), there were a few other possible lines considered:

"Louis, I begin to see a reason for your sudden attack of patriotism. While you defend your country, you also protect your investment."

"If you ever die a hero's death, Heaven protect the angels!"

"Louis, I might have known you'd mix your patriotism with a little larceny."

Another possible ending that was considered was to shoot a coda with Rick and Louis on a battleship taking the war to Hitler's front doorstep. Thankfully, the idea was scrapped when preview audiences responded enthusiastically to the airport-in-the-fog ending. Besides, a new ending would have required more time and money than their schedule allowed.

"Here's looking at you, kid," was originally written as "Here's good luck to you." Also, Bogart's line of resignation that he can't escape Ilsa was previously written as, "Of all the cafes in all the towns in the world, she walks into my cafe Both pieces of rephrasing are attributed to Bogart himself.

Bogart's final speech as he puts Ilsa on the airplane with Victor was allegedly written on the hood of a car at the studio. This legend is granted some merit by the fact that the Epsteins came up with Capt. Renault's famous line, "Round up the usual suspects," while driving to the studio to shoot the final scene.

There has been persistent confusion as to when Casablanca was actually released. The film premiered in New York City in November 1942, in what was called a pre-release engagement. This showing was rushed to theaters to capitalize on the recent events in North Africa, specifically the invasion of American troops into the real Casablanca. Because this kind of free publicity happens only once in a blue moon, Warner Bros. rushed Casablanca to just one theater in New York. But it was not seen by the rest of the country until early 1943, including Los Angeles. As luck would have it, the national release coincided with another Casablanca event, a summit meeting between President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin.

Casablanca was a big budget picture, produced at a final cost of $950,000. The initial $20,000 paid for the screen rights to an un-produced play called Everybody Comes to Rick's was a steal, especially when you consider that the picture turned in a tidy sum of $3,700,000 during the first year of release. However, the studio did not know before the national release what a gold mine they had on their hands. For the New York pre-release, Casablanc was advertised at the Hollywood Theater in Manhattan in a joint ad with Gentleman Jim (1942), an Errol Flynn movie about famed boxer Jim Corbett.

Famous Quotes from CASABLANCA

Captain Renault: What in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?
Rick: My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.
Captain Renault: The waters? What waters? We're in the desert.
Rick: I was misinformed.

Rick: Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.

Ilsa: Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time.

Rick: And remember, this gun is pointed right at your heart.
Captain Renault: That is my least vulnerable spot.

Captain Renault: I'm afraid Major Strasser would insist.
Ilsa: You're saying this only to make me go.
Rick: I'm saying it because it's true. Inside of us, we both know you belong with Victor. You're part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that plane leaves the ground and you're not with him, you'll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.
Ilsa: But what about us?
Rick: We'll always have Paris. We didn't have, we, we lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.
Ilsa: When I said I would never leave you.
Rick: And you never will. But I've got a job to do, too. Where I'm going, you can't follow. What I've got to do, you can't be any part of. Ilsa, I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that. Now, now... Here's looking at you kid.

Captain Renault: Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects.

Rick: Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Rick: Last night we said a great many things. You said I was to do the thinking for both of us. Well, I've done a lot of it since then, and it all adds up to one thing: you're getting on that plane with Victor where you belong.
Ilsa: But, Richard, no, I... I...
Rick: Now, you've got to listen to me! You have any idea what you'd have to look forward to if you stayed here? Nine chances out of ten, we'd both wind up in a concentration camp. Isn't that true, Louie/

Ilsa: I wasn't sure you were the same. Let's see, the last time we met...
Rick: Was La Belle Aurora.
Ilsa: How nice, you remembered. But of course, that was the day the Germans marched into Paris.
Rick: Not an easy day to forget?
Ilsa: No.
Rick: I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.

Rick: Don't you sometimes wonder if it's worth all this? I mean what you're fighting for.
Victor Laszlo: You might as well question why we breathe. If we stop breathing, we'll die. If we stop fighting our enemies, the world will die.
Rick: Well, what of it? It'll be out of its misery.
Victor Laszlo: You know how you sound, Mr. Blaine? Like a man who's trying to convince himself of something he doesn't believe in his heart.
vMajor Strasser: Are you one of those people who cannot imagine the Germans in their beloved Paris?
Rick: It's not particularly my beloved Paris.
Heinz: Can you imagine us in London?
Rick: When you get there, ask me!
Captain Renault: Hmmh! Diplomatist!
Major Strasser: How about New York?
Rick: Well there are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn't advise you to try to invade.

Captain Renault: Rick, there are many exit visas sold in this cafe, but we know that you've never sold one. That is the reason we permit you to remain open.
Rick: Oh? I thought it was because I let you win at roulette.
Captain Renault: That is another reason.

Ugarte: You despise me, don't you?
Rick: If I gave you any thought I probably would.

Captain Renault: Carl, see that Major Strasser gets a good table, one close to the ladies.
Carl: I have already given him the best, knowing he is German and would take it anyway.

Woman: What makes saloonkeepers so snobbish?
Banker: Perhaps if you told him I ran the second largest banking house in Amsterdam.
Carl: Second largest? That wouldn't impress Rick. The leading banker in Amsterdam is now the pastry chef in our kitchen.
Banker: We have something to look forward to.

Yvonne: Where were you last night?
Rick: That's so long ago, I don't remember.
Yvonne: Will I see you tonight?
Rick: I never make plans that far ahead.

by Scott McGee

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teaser Casablanca (1942)

The Big Idea Behind CASABLANCA

Casablanca is erroneously thought to be based on one of the biggest flops in Broadway history. This is not true, simply because the play, Everybody Comes to Rick's, never made it to the Big White Way in the first place. Producers Martin Gabel and Carly Wharton optioned the play in 1940, but the project fell through when they could not come up with a suitable script. The authors shopped the project around Hollywood, where Warner Bros. picked up the rights to the obscure play in late 1941. The property languished in the paper-crammed office of Jack Wilk, story editor for Warner East Coast operations in New York, until Irene Lee, the West Coast story editor, stopped in to rummage through the piles of manuscripts lining Wilk's office. She found only one interesting property: a dog-eared typed manuscript with the title "Everybody Comes to Rick's." Below the title were the address and phone numbers of the producers who had left the manuscript sitting for a year, presumably because they did not see any future in it. Once she got to Hollywood, Lee commissioned a written outline and submitted it to Hal Wallis in December 1941, four days after Pearl Harbor. Lee was a trusted advisor to Hal Wallis, so when she had the idea to turn this unwanted manuscript into a Warner Bros. film, he listened.

Not long after Hal Wallis decided to personally shepherd Casablanca from script to screen, he sat down with Philip G. and Julius J. Epstein, known in Hollywood as "The Boys." They were lanky identical twins who had earned a stellar reputation in the movie business for adapting plays, doctoring weak scripts, and adding memorable wisecracks and colorful dialogue to cliched stories. Mediocre scripts for films like Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) were energized after the Epsteins got finished with them and went on to become classics. Once Wallis approached them with the idea of adapting Everybody Comes to Rick's, the Epsteins were happy to do it, although they did not think the project was anything special. It was simply an assignment that put food on the table.

After working on Frank Capra's Why We Fight propaganda series, the brothers started working for Wallis, and right away, their distinctive personalities emerged in their work. It was particularly their irreverence for authority that gave the project power and a timeliness that resonated with World War II-era viewers who had loved ones fighting against totalitarian authorities in Europe and Asia. In fact, the Epsteins never took Jack Warner seriously; For example, Julius called Jack Warner, to his face, the "Butcher of Burbank," a dig at the Warner family's former line of work in Youngstown, Ohio.

The Epsteins were not the only wordsmiths hired to write Casablanca. Howard Koch's participation was secured in response to the demanding production schedule and evolving screenplay. Koch was a onetime radio writer whose "War of the Worlds" script for Orson Welles' broadcast on Halloween 1938 made much of the nation panic, thinking it was under attack by Martians. Koch's screenplays for The Sea Hawk (1940), The Letter (1940), and Sergeant York (1941) were evidence enough that he could strengthen the political and dramatic aspects of Casablanca. Wallis then asked Casey Robinson, the studio's most prolific writer of "women's pictures" (like Dark Victory, 1939, and Now, Voyager, 1942) to play up the passion in the love scenes that would compliment the plot and Bogart's tough but romantic persona.

For most of today's Hollywood producers, finding the right cast is half the battle. That little axiom was just as true in 1942 for Hal Wallis, who found that securing the right actress for Ilsa Lund was no less important. After having tried unsuccessfully in teaming Ingrid Bergman with Humphrey Bogart for a project called All Through the Night (1942), Wallis tried again for Casablanca. This time world politics helped Wallis sway producer David O. Selznick into loaning his contracted star out to a Warner Bros. production. Selznick had secretly been mortified by talk of Sweden, Bergman's native land, joining the Axis Alliance. Apparently, the folks at Warners weren't keeping up with their world politics, and Selznick was eager to strike a loan-out deal before they found out that Bergman might be damaged goods. The deal seemed imminent until Selznick started to worry that he might appear too eager to loan Bergman out to another studio. So, he requested to know more about the proposed project before he gave his official signoff. The Epstein brothers were brought in to give Selznick a clue of what the story was about. The only problem is that the Epsteins did not have a story to tell Selznick. No script had been written yet. Wallis suggested for them to "wing it" during their story conference with Selznick. As for what happened next, it is worth quoting at length the biography Bogart by Eric Lax and A.M. Sperber:

The twins were ushered into Selznick's office, where the producer sat..intent on his lunch. "He was slurping soup," Julius Epstein said. "Never looked up at us once. And I start to tell the story. 'Uh, it's about Casablanca, and the refugees are there, and they're trying to get out, and there's letters of transit, and a fella has them, and the cops come and get him' ---- And I realize I'm talking about twenty minutes and I haven't even mentioned the character of Bergman. So I say, 'Oh, what the hell! It's going to be a lot of s**t like Algiers (a film that Casablanca is often compared to).' "And Selznick looked up and nodded. And we had Bergman."

by Scott McGee

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teaser Casablanca (1942)

According to various sources, Ronald Reagan was the first choice to play Rick Blaine. Reagan was under contract at Warner Bros., and once Hal Wallis decided on the final title for his next film, the studio sent out press releases announcing that Reagan would indeed headline the release, along with Ann Sheridan and Dennis Morgan. The only problem was that according to internal memos regarding casting issues, producer Hal Wallis had Humphrey Bogart in mind from the start.

Another popular rumor has it that George Raft was offered the role first, but this is not entirely accurate. While at one time Raft lobbied to do the film, the film was never officially offered to Raft, whose star power was quickly fading. The story is also substantiated simply because Raft had a history of turning down important roles that later went to Bogart, namely High Sierra (1940) and The Maltese Falcon (1941).

Ever wonder why Dooley Wilson doesn't look quite right tickling those ivories? Arthur "Dooley" Wilson, a Broadway transplant in his first year at Paramount Studios, was actually a drummer. He could not play a lick on the piano and during his scenes the notes were played off-camera by studio pianist Elliot Carpenter.

It was common knowledge around the Warner Bros. lot that Humphrey Bogart found love scenes more embarrassing than pleasurable. He once told an interviewer, "I don't like them, maybe because I don't do them very well. It isn't possible to shoot a love scene without having a hairy-chested group of grips standing four feet away from you, chewing tobacco." Also, Bogart reportedly had to wear three-inch wooden blocks tied to the bottom of his shoes in order to measure up to Ingrid Bergman's height.

One question that has always troubled some Casablanca fanatics is this one: why are there not more shots of the airplane to Lisbon? Answer: the inserted shot of the airplane revving up was the only segment of the climax shot outside a soundstage. Because wartime security measures prohibited the use of high-powered lights outdoors, it took countless requests, meetings, and probably bribes to cut through the red tape in order to properly illuminate the plane for the camera. While inside the soundstage, a creatively lit and painted cardboard cutout, served as the plane to Lisbon. The small group of people seen in the distance, standing beside the plane, were actually a group of midgets from Central Casting, hired to provide the proper scale for the camera's eye.

Neither Ingrid Bergman nor Paul Henreid wanted to appear in Casablanca, the one film that would become their most popular. Bergman thought the material little more than fluff, whereas the role in For Whom the Bell Tolls, one she desperately wanted to do, would do wonders for her career. Once the wrap date for Casablanca approached, Bergman realized happily that she would be able to film the Hemingway story after all. For his part, Paul Henreid had just starred with Bette Davis in Now, Voyager, and the thought of playing second banana to Bogie and Bergman, not to mention Claude Rains, just didn't sound like a promising prospect. Fortunately, he reconsidered.

Rick Blaine's love interest was originally written as an American, and the studio thought that Ann Sheridan would be perfect in the role. But when the leading lady was changed into a European, Sheridan was out, and the part was offered to Hedy Lamarr. However, MGM kept her on a short leash and would not loan her out. French actress Michele Morgan was then offered the part, but her agents asked for too much money, $55,000 to be exact. Warner Bros. eventually got Ingrid Bergman for roughly half that - $25,000.

by Scott McGee

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teaser Casablanca (1942)

The Critics' Corner on CASABLANCA

"The love story that takes us from time to time into the past is horribly wooden and cliches everywhere lower the tension."---William Whitebait, New Stateman, January 16, 1943.

The New York World Telegram decided that Casablanca "is not the best of the recent Bogarts."

The New York Times chimed in by calling it "a picture which makes the spine tingle and the heart take a leap..they have so combined sentiment, humor, and pathos with taut melodrama and bristling intrigue that the result is a highly entertaining and even inspiring film."

"In truth and contrary to popular impression, Casablanca isn't representative of what pictures were like "back then" but is maybe the only picture which succeeded in meeting those old-time studio heads' requirements for what all "entertainment" movies were supposed to be like. It contains almost every element that would appear on an audience checklist: action, adventure, bravery, danger, espionage, exotic locale, friendship, gunplay, humor, intrigue, a love triangle, a masculine hero, a mysterious heroine, patriotism, politics (without being too political), romance, sentimentality, a theme song, a time factor, a venomous villain, and war...Casablanca is that rare lucky film where everything came together, clicked and there was perfection." - Danny Peary, Cult Movies.

"In terms of entertainment value, Casablanca marks a high point in Hollywood production, and has withstood the test of time and fashion more impressively than such ponderous classics of the period as Jane Eyre and Sergeant York...Casablanca takes neither itself nor the war very seriously; the movie has a pre-Pearl Harbor innocence that, fused with the swashbuckling ethic behind Michael Curtiz's direction, makes it ineffably nostalgic and deliciously soft-centered." - Peter Cowie, Eight Years of Cinema.

"An incisive, witty, and enchanting film that is certainly Curtiz's best. It represents the ultimate in the Bogart myth: his Rich Blaine is cynical and tough, hardened by life's misfortunes, yet still sentimental and idealistic." - Georges Sadoul, Dictionary of Films.

Perhaps the greatest praise came from London, where General Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French forces, requested a print of Casablanca for a special showing to his staff.

Awards & Honors

1943 belonged to Warner Brothers. With twenty-seven Academy Award® nominations, the studio led all the other studios in the Oscar%reg; race for the first time. Casablanca and Watch on the Rhine (1943) were both Best Picture nominees, and Humphrey Bogart and Paul Lukas, the star of Watch on the Rhine, were both up for Best Actor. Lukas eventually won the Best Actor Oscar®, beating out Bogart who was running for his performance in Casablanca.

When film producer Sidney Franklin announced Casablanca as the Best Picture winner, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner reported that the audience "gasped in amazement, then quickly regained composure and heartily applauded the unexpected results." The UPI labeled the Warner Bros. flick a dark horse winner and reported that studio head Jack Warner was "just as surprised as everyone else when the plaster Oscar® was thrust in his hand."

The actual producer of Casablanca, Hal B. Wallis, was surprised too. In fact, stunned might be a better word. When Jack Warner rushed the stage to accept the Oscar®, Wallis felt that he, not Warner, should have been on that stage receiving the Best Picture Oscar®. And rightly so. Wallis certainly earned it, not only for his superior production of Casablanca, but also for all his other 1943 productions: Watch on the Rhine, Air Force, Princess O'Rourke, and This is the Army, all of which had won at least one Academy Award®. When Wallis left to go to Paramount in 1944 after two decades at Warner Bros., insiders noted that his motivation was probably Jack Warner's selfish Oscar® night usurpation.

Michael Curtiz was also surprised that Casablanca walked off with Oscars® for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay at the March 2, 1944 Academy Award® ceremonies. The Hungarian-born Curtiz gave an unprepared speech at the ceremony in his best broken English. He said, "So many times I have a speech ready but no dice. Always a bridesmaid, never a mother."

According to Academy Award® rules, a film has to play in Los Angeles in order to be eligible for that year's Academy Awards®. Because Casablanca did not play in L.A. until 1943, it was ruled out of the 1942 competition. It's a good thing, too, since Mrs. Minivier (1942), another drama set during World War II, walked off with the Best Picture Oscar® for 1942. But the next year's Best Picture Oscar® was fated to be Casablanca. Due to the confusing release dates, Casablanca is often listed in reference books as being released in either 1942 (the correct date) or 1943, the year it went into general release.

Compiled by Scott McGee

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teaser Casablanca (1942)

In the six decades since its 1942 release, Casablanca has grown into such a legend that it almost transcends mere cinema. Its lines of dialogue can be quoted by people who have not even seen the film: "Here's looking at you, kid," "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship," and the oft-misquoted "Play it, Sam."

The production design of Casablanca has come to represent the aesthetics of romantic longing. Its smoky casino, fog-shrouded runway, trench coats, potted palms and gruff-voiced pianist repeatedly surface in contemporary films, commercials, television programs and even restaurant decor as respects are paid to this quintessential Hollywood classic.

If Citizen Kane (1941) represents the pinnacle of artistic derring-do and Gone With the Wind (1939) epitomizes the colorful bombast of the American epic, then Casablanca is surely the film that defines cinematic cool.

The plot revolves around "Rick's Cafe Americain", a bar and casino in Northern Africa which serves as a way station for expatriates and political refugees at the dawn of World War II. Rick (Humphrey Bogart) refuses to take sides with any nationality, but when a former lover (Ingrid Bergman) and her new husband (Paul Henried) arrive in Casablanca, desperate for visas, he is drawn into the volatile web of political and romantic espionage.

The ingredients that have made Casablanca such a timeless classic are not easy to pinpoint. Produced by Warner Bros. at the height of the Hollywood studio system, Casablanca embraced what is now known as "invisible style." Rather than dazzling the eye with eye-catching visuals and histrionic acting, it seduces the viewer by creating a seamless, lush universe that gradually envelops the audience. Hardly an effortless accomplishment, "invisible style" required an absolute mastery of the various cinematic elements by its collaborators, including Hungarian director Michael Curtiz (Mildred Pierce, 1945), director of photography Arthur Edeson (The Maltese Falcon, 1941), Art Director Carl Jules Weyl(The Big Sleep, 1946), composer Max Steiner (Gone With the Wind) and soon-to-be-director Don Siegel (Dirty Harry, 1972), whose dynamic opening montage invests the film with a sense of political urgency.

It took no less than six writers to transform Murray Burnett and Joan Alison's unproduced play Everybody Comes to Rick's into Casablanca, taking a conventional exotic romance (patterned after Algiers (1938) and Only Angels Have Wings, 1939) and investing it with a subtle, richly-textured brand of drama all its own.

Although George Raft and Ronald Reagan were rumored to have been considered for the starring role, only Humphrey Bogart could have endowed the character with such emotional depth in so few words. Tight-lipped and tough on the outside, while wounded and sentimental within, Bogart's nuanced performance as Rick Blaine is the capstone to this extraordinary cinematic achievement that shows no sign of succumbing to the frailties of age.

Producer: Hal B.Wallis
Director: Michael Curtiz
Screenplay: Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch, based on the play Everybody Comes to Rick's by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison
Art Direction: Carl Jules Weyl
Cinematography: Arthur Edeson
Costume Design: Orry-Kelly
Film Editing: Owen Marks
Original Music: Max Steiner
Principal Cast: Humphrey Bogart (Richard "Rick" Blaine), Ingrid Bergman (Ilsa Lund Laszlo), Paul Henreid (Victor Laszlo), Claude Rains (Captain Louis Renault), Conrad Veidt (Maj. Heinrich Strasser), Sydney Greenstreet (Senor Ferrari), Peter Lorre (Ugarte)
BW-103m. Closed captioning. Descriptive video.

by Bret Wood

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